The Initiative for Open Citations I4OC is a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data.
Citations are the links that knit together our scientific and cultural knowledge. They are primary data that provide both provenance and an explanation for how we know facts. They allow us to attribute and credit scientific contributions, and they enable the evaluation of research and its impacts. In sum, citations are the most important vehicle for the discovery, dissemination, and evaluation of all scholarly knowledge.
As the number of scholarly publications is estimated to double every nine years, citations – and the computational systems that track them – enable researchers and the public to keep abreast of significant developments in any given field. For this to be possible, it is essential to have unrestricted access to bibliographic and citation data in machine-readable form.
The present scholarly communication system inadequately exposes the knowledge networks that already exist within our literature. Citation data are not usually freely available to access, they are often subject to inconsistent, hard-to-parse licenses, and they are usually not machine-readable.
An initiative to open up citation data
The aim of this initiative is to promote the availability of data on citations that are structured, separable, and open.
Structured means the data representing each publication and each citation instance are expressed in common, machine-readable formats, and that these data can be accessed programmatically. Separable means the citation instances can be accessed and analyzed without the need to access the source bibliographic products (such as journal articles and books) in which the citations are created. Open means the data are freely accessible and reusable.
Key benefits of achieving this aim include:
The establishment of a global public web of linked scholarly citation data to enhance the discoverability of published content, both subscription access and open access. This will particularly benefit individuals who are not members of academic institutions with subscriptions to commercial citation databases.
The ability to build new services over the open citation data, for the benefit of publishers, researchers, funding agencies, academic institutions and the general public, as well as enhancing existing services.
The creation of a public citation graph to explore connections between knowledge fields, and to follow the evolution of ideas and scholarly disciplines.
Many publishers currently deposit reference lists from their journal articles to Crossref as part of their participation in Crossref’s Cited-by service. To open their references, along with the other bibliographic metadata that publishers send to Crossref, publishers need to turn on reference distribution for all of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) prefixes they manage. This step allows references within the Crossref members’ articles to be distributed without restriction through all of Crossref's Metadata Delivery services, including the REST API and bulk metadata dumps, to any interested party. See below for additional information on reference distribution and on how to participate in Crossref’s Cited-by service.
Before I4OC started, publishers releasing references in the open accounted for just 1% of citation metadata collected annually by Crossref. Following discussions over the past months, several subscription-access and open-access publishers have recently made the decision to release reference list metadata publicly. These include: American Geophysical Union, Association for Computing Machinery, BMJ, Cambridge University Press, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, EMBO Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, SAGE Publishing, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley. These publishers join other publishers who have been opening their references through Crossref for some time.
The following list includes the names of all the publishers who have chosen to deposit and open up citation data as of March 30, 2017. I4OC will keep this list updated.
American Geophysical Union
Association for Computing Machinery
Cambridge University Press
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Faculty of 1000, Ltd.
Frontiers Media SA
Geological Society of London
Hamad bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press)
International Union of Crystallography
Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information
Public Library of Science
Royal Society of Chemistry
Taylor & Francis Group
The Rockefeller University Press
The Royal Society
Ubiquity Press, Ltd.