An Open Letter to Stakeholders of the Initiative for Open Citations

Four months since the launch of I4OC, more organisations are encouraged to share and make their citation data public.
Inside eLife
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The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) was launched on April 6th, 2017 and is a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data. With more than 45% of references now openly available, this open letter, originally published on the I4OC website, encourages more organisations to collaborate and continue the conversation in order to unlock this data.

Dear I4OC Stakeholders,

It’s now four months since we publicly announced the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC). Since the beginning of this effort, almost half of indexed scholarly citation data have become freely accessible. We've also had some amazing initial press coverage and we continue to add new publishers and stakeholders.

Data unlocked by I4OC is already being used by a growing number of projects and platforms. OpenCitations imports citation data into a corpus which now includes more than 9 million citation links, a nearly 200% increase since the beginning of the year. Collaborative databases, such as Wikidata, are already using this data to connect and structure knowledge and to generate citation graphs. These examples provide just an early indication of the potential of open citation data and we would be delighted to hear about other efforts.

I4OC’s progress so far has been achieved thanks to helpful conversations with many of the larger publishers, and the majority have already decided to make their references freely available. But there are literally hundreds more publishers who are not currently making their reference data available even though this data is deposited with Crossref. We suspect this is largely because these organisations don’t realise that citation data is closed by default.

We therefore need your help to engage that long tail of organisations that the small group who established I4OC can’t contact ourselves. This means any publisher or learned society that is currently not listed as participating in I4OC. We feel that these discussions will be much more constructive and persuasive on a person-to-person level and in this way you can help us get closer to 100% open availability of citation data.

To help with your discussions, here are the some of the key points that we’ve used in communications with publishers:

  1. It’s really easy to make citation data public. Hundreds of publishers are already depositing this data to Crossref, but the data is closed by default. All that needs to be done to make the data public is to send a note to Crossref will implement the change in a day or two. Job done.
  2. Making the data more open is in the publisher's interests. With a more open dataset, there are a wealth of benefits that arise, including the establishment of a global public web of linked scholarly citation data to enhance the discoverability and use of their published content, both subscription access and open access.
  3. We already know that services such as the Web of Science and Scopus use publisher citation data to provide valuable ways to discover content and the links between content. Fully open citation data will allow the creation of new services that link to the publisher, for the benefit of publishers, researchers, funding agencies, academic institutions and the general public. Open data will also be valuable for existing services.
  4. More generally, given the fundamental importance of citation data, questions relating to the evolution of knowledge, ideas and scholarly disciplines will be open to exploration by a much broader community of interested stakeholders. If you find any other approaches useful, please share them with us, as well as any questions or concerns raised by publishers. As new publishers release their reference data, they will be added to the list of participating publishers, so please keep an eye on the list too!

Thank you for your help, and your support.


The I4OC Team

  • Jonathan Dugan
  • Martin Fenner
  • Jan Gerlach
  • Catriona MacCallum
  • Daniel Mietchen
  • Cameron Neylon
  • Mark Patterson
  • Silvio Peroni
  • David Shotton
  • Dario Taraborelli

We welcome comments/questions from researchers as well as other journals. You can contact us at staff [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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