Open letter to publishers

[The text of this post was updated on 27-09-2013 and 04-04-2017 to reflect a new CrossRef metadata best practice document and a change in their URI.]

Today I wrote an open letter to all scholarly journal publishers, available online here, entitled:

Open your article reference lists for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus.

In this letter, I request that publishers open the bibliographic citation data in their journal article reference lists.  There is a growing movement to make such bibliographic citation data open – for example, Nature Publishing Group’s open Linked Data Platform now includes citation metadata for all published article references.

Provided a publisher is already depositing article references with CrossRef as part of the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, all the publisher need to do is to inform CrossRef that it is willing for CrossRef to freely distribute these reference, for example in response to queries against the CrossRef XML API.  We will then harvest them from CrossRef and incorporate them as open linked data in the Open Citations Corpus.

Nature Publishing Group, Taylor & Francis, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (who publish Science) and Oxford University Press, as well as a number of open-access publishers, have already given their consent to CrossRef to do this for some or all of their journals.

If not already a subscriber to the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, a publisher can register for this useful service free of charge.  Having done so, there is nothing further the publisher needs to do to ‘open’ its reference data, other than to give its consent to CrossRef.  This can be done automatically, in the submitted article metadata, or (for back numbers) by informing CrossRef directly.

Even Open Access publishers, publishing articles under a CC-By open license, need to give this specific permission to CrossRef for this to occur, because CrossRef policy is that all publishers, including open access publishers, have to opt in to any distribution of references that CrossRef makes.

For new submissions, publishers should follow instructions detailed in the CrossRef blog at https://www.crossref.org/blog/distributing-references-via-crossref/, which contains the following key instruction:

“In order for publishers to distribute references along with standard bibliographic metadata, publishers need to set the <reference_distribution_opt> metadata element to “any" for each DOI deposit where they want to make references openly available.”

In this way, publishers can choose to open the reference lists for all their journals, or to do so on a journal-by-journal or on an article-by-article basis (useful for ‘hybrid’ subscription-access journals in which only some articles are open access).

To open reference lists for back numbers, publisher needs to e-mail CrossRef to express their intent,using the template shown at the foot of this post, as detailed in my Open Letter to Publishers.

I have copied this open letter to the CEOs of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), and of the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM), asking them to distribute it to their members, perhaps in association with their next Members News Letter, as CrossRef itself is planning to do later this month.

Please spread the word about this, particularly to publishers who may not be members of these professional associations.  Thanks.

= = =

Template for an e-mail to CrossRef expressing willingness to open reference lists in previously published and future journal articles.

To support@crossref.org

I am writing on behalf of *** [name of publisher] to confirm that *** [name of publisher] is willing for the bibliographic reference lists within the articles in [delete as necessary:] all our journals [or] the attached list of journals be made freely available by CrossRef, for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus. These journals are associated with the following DOI prefix(es): 10.**** [Please complete DOI prefix(es) – see footnote].
Yours sincerely [name, position, date]
= = =
Footnote: Publisher’s DOI prefixes are listed at http://www.crossref.org/06members/50go-live.html by name of publisher.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Open letter to publishers," in OpenCitations blog, 03/01/2013, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/465.

 

Taylor & Francis to open article reference lists

I am very pleased to announce that last year Ian Bannerman, Managing Director for Journals at Taylor & Francis, confirmed this publisher’s willingness to pilot the opening of the reference lists from articles in 29 of their subscription access journals, as well as from all of their current list of 15 Open Access journals, for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus.  The reference lists for these journals are already being supplied to CrossRef as part of the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, and will be made available publicly via the CrossRef XML query API.

Taylor & Francis is a major international publisher of over 1,000 academic journals and more than 1,800 books per year, incorporating well-known publishing names including Bios Scientific Publishing, CRC Press, Garland Science, Marcel Decker and Routledge.  It is the largest publisher of subscription access journals yet to agree to make reference lists available from its journal articles, and I welcome them warmly into the Open Citations fold.

Incorporation of new reference data from Taylor and Frances journals into the Open Citations Corpus will commence in the near future.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Taylor & Francis to open article reference lists," in OpenCitations blog, 03/01/2013, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/467.

Open Citations Extension Project

I am pleased to announce that the JISC have funded an extension to the Open Citations Project to run from 1st August 2012 until 31st January 2013, during which we will review and revise the technology used to create the Open Citations Corpus, will update the content provided by PubMed Central, and will improve its presentation.  We will also prototype value-added services over the open citations data, to demonstrate their usefulness and to justify further funding that will permit a major expansion of the corpus in 2013 to include reference lists from subscription-access journals, including those from Nature Publishing Group, Science and other AAAS publications, and Oxford University Press.  In preparation for this, we will collaborate with CrossRef to determine how best to ingest reference data into the Open Citations Corpus in an on-going manner.

Full details are given in the Case for Support.  Watch this space!

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Open Citations Extension Project," in OpenCitations blog, 16/07/2012, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/406.

Oxford University Press to support Open Citations

I am delighted to announce that Cathy Kennedy, OUP’s Senior Publisher for Journals, has just written to me as follows:

“Oxford University Press is delighted to support the Open Citation Corpus initiative in the interest of furthering and disseminating scholarship.  We are making the reference lists of articles in a number of journals we own available for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus, and will be consulting further with our partner societies on extending the initiative to include their journals in due course”.

OUP thus becomes the third publisher of subscription-access journals, and the first university press, to declare its willingness to make the reference lists in journal articles publicly available.  Congratulations, OUP!

Are we starting to see the beginning of a sea change in attitudes?  Watch this space.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Oxford University Press to support Open Citations," in OpenCitations blog, 22/06/2012, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/370.

Science joins Nature in opening reference citations

Hot on the heels of my announcement on Monday that Nature Publishing Group has agreed to open its articles’ reference lists, I am delighted to announce that Science Magazine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s premier global science weekly, together with the other AAAS journals Science Signalling and Science Translational Medicine, will also open their articles’ reference lists, and contribute the bibliographic citations contained within these lists as open linked data to an expanded Open Citations Corpus, where they will be freely available for everyone to use in whatever manner they choose.

Preparations to expand the corpus in this manner, by integration with the reference processing pipeline of the CrossRef Cited-By Linking service, will be undertaken over the last six months of this year, and incorporation of the references from the AAAS journals into the expanded Open Citations Corpus is planned to commence in the first half of 2013.

Now that the world’s two most presigeous scientific journals have declared their hands, it is time for other subscription-access publishers to step up and join them, for the reasons given in my earlier post.  I am presently in discussion with a small number of other major STM publishers, and hope to be able to make further announcements in the near future.  However, there are many other publishers with whom I have not yet been able to make personal contact.  Those who would also like to become ‘early adopters’ of the Open Citations publishing model should contact me at <david.shotton@zoo.ox.ac.uk>.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Science joins Nature in opening reference citations," in OpenCitations blog, 16/06/2012, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/360.

Nature to open its reference list data

Bibliographic references are the links that knit together independent scholarly endeavours.  I am thus delighted to announce that Nature Publishing Group, publisher of Nature, Nature Genetics and many other leading journals, has agreed to open its articles’ reference lists, initially for a selected number of NPG journals, and contribute the bibliographic citations contained in these lists as open linked data to an expanded Open Citations Corpus, where they will be freely available for everyone to use in whatever manner they choose.  Preparations to expand the corpus in this manner, by integration with the reference processing pipeline of the CrossRef Cited-By Linking service, will be undertaken over the next six months of this year, and incorporation of the references from the selected NPG journals into the expanded Open Citations Corpus is planned to commence in the first half of 2013.

As the first subscription-access publisher to opening its reference lists in this way, Nature Publishing Group is further demonstrating its commitment to ‘lead from the front’ in its embrace of new semantic publishing technologies.  Only two months ago, this publisher announced its decision to open up the bibliographic records of its journal articles as open linked data.  On 4th April, NPG’s Linked Data Platform press release read:

“Nature Publishing Group (NPG) today is pleased to join the linked data community by opening up access to its publication data via a linked data platform. NPG’s Linked Data Platform is available at http://data.nature.com.      The platform includes more than 20 million Resource Description Framework (RDF) statements, including primary metadata for more than 450,000 articles published by NPG since 1869. In this first release, the datasets include basic bibliographic information (title, author, publication date, etc) as well as NPG-specific ontology terms. These datasets are being released under an open metadata license, Creative Commons Zero (CC0), which permits maximal use/re-use of this data.      NPG’s platform allows for easy querying, exploration and extraction of data and relationships about articles, contributors, publications, and subjects. Users can run web-standard SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language (SPARQL) queries to obtain and manipulate data stored as RDF. The platform uses standard vocabularies such as Dublin Core, FOAF, PRISM, BIBO and OWL, and the data is integrated with existing public datasets including CrossRef and PubMed.      More information about NPG’s Linked Data Platform is available at http://developers.nature.com/docs. Sample queries can be found at http://data.nature.com/query. ”

We very much hope that NPG’s example will encourage other subscription-access publishers to open their own journal article reference lists, and become early adopters of Open Citations.  Reasons why subscription-access publishers should willingly join NPG and open their citation data are given in my previous blog post.  While at first coverage among subscription-access publishers will be incomplete, this expanded Open Citation Corpus will, I am sure, draw in increasing numbers of publishers, and in true Web 2.0 style will become more useful the more publishers participate, resulting in value-added bibliographic and bibliometic services being created over the open data. Other subscription-access publishers who would like to contribute their journal article references to the Open Citations Corpus should contact me at <david.shotton@zoo.ox.ac.uk>.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Nature to open its reference list data," in OpenCitations blog, 11/06/2012, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/353.

Why publishers should open their references

Why should the publishers of subscription-access journals, who presently generate income from the sale of access to peer-reviewed full text scholarly articles, be willingly open the reference lists of these articles, and contribute these to the Open Citations Corpus for publication as open linked data? I would like to suggest the following reasons:

1. There is a general move towards open data, which is widely regarded as a common good. This includes citation data, i.e. bibliographic references from one article to another (in RDF Turtle format: A cito:cites B . ).
2. The reference lists at the end of journal articles are works of scholarship by the authors, who have chosen to include certain references and exclude other potentially citable papers from the reference list. However, the references themselves are simply items of bibliographic data, formatted according to the journal style, and do not benefit from the author’s creative input.
3. The reference list, together with the front matter (including the bibliographic information about the article itself) and the abstract, has traditionally been included within the copyright protection enjoyed by the article as a whole. However, the bibliographic information about the article and the article’s abstract are commonly made freely available, for example through PubMed. This same openness should now be afforded to the reference list within each article.
4. There is a home for such reference citation data: the Open Citations Corpus has been specifically created to house and publish scholarly bibliographic citation data, and is now preparing to welcome article reference lists from subscription-access journals, to supplement those already contributed from open-access journals.
5. For those publishers who already contribute their reference information to CrossRef as part of its Cited-By Linking service, this can be accomplished without any change to the publisher’s own publishing workflows, just by giving permission for CrossRef to flag the articles of certain journals as having open references. Open Citations intends to collaborate with CrossRef by harvesting the reference lists from such flagged articles, parsing them into RDF, and adding them to the Open Citations Corpus. Provided that the references are already being submitted to CrossRef, no work will have to be done by the publisher, and no changes in publishing procedure will be involved.
6. Open Citations will publish each reference list as an independent RDF Named Graph, with a unique URI, thereby protecting the integrity of the article reference list as a unit of scholarship, the source of which will be explicitly acknowledged.
7. The open citations data will then be offered back to publishers to use as they wish, e.g. for visualization of citation networks, calculation of metrics, etc., providing easier and more usable access to their own citation data than is currently afforded by commercial providers, who do not provide such data in linked data format.
8. Publishers will also be free to host their own open citations data, should they wish to do so.
9. For the majority of publishers, who would still receive subscriptions on the full articles themselves, opening their article reference lists in this way will cost nothing in terms of lost revenue.
10. Indeed, participation in the Open Citation Corpus will bring the following benefits to subscription-access publishers:
– Access to services to be built over the aggregated open citations data, for example an automated reference correction service available to editors upon receipt of a manuscript, for the automated pre-publication correction of errors in reference lists prior to article publication.
– Increased exposure to users of the references to the publisher’s own journal articles – a form of advertising. While at first coverage among subscription-access publishers will be incomplete, this expanding Open Citation Corpus will, in true Web 2.0 style, become more useful the more publishers participate.
– Even while coverage is incomplete, the Open Citations Corpus by its very nature contains reference citations to all the key papers published in every field covered – currently to all the key papers published in every biomedical field, enabling readers more easily to identify and find the most highly cited papers of each contributing publisher.
– Opening citations data will result in white-listing and general good-will from funding agencies, government and other advocates of open data, who might otherwise mandate publication by grantees in alternative open-access journals.
– Opening citations data will lead to support from scholars and researchers themselves, who wil be more inclined to publish in that publisher’s journals, feeling that at last the publishers would be giving back to them some of their own data, rather than selling it back to them as at present.

As my next blog post shows, one leading subscription-access publisher is now willing to open its journal article references in the way I have suggested.  Others who would like to so the same should contact me at <david.shotton@zoo.ox.ac.uk>.

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