Joining the Initiative For Open Citations

Hypothesis is proud to show its support as a primary stakeholder for the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), an effort just announced to lead the scholarly industry towards opening the citation information in all publications.

The essence of the argument is that while the text of the article itself might be closed access, the bibliography and the citations within it arguably should not be since those citations form the structural crossmembers linking between articles, and as such stand conceptually outside the core content itself. Importantly, opening the citation information will dramatically improve the searchability and discovery of scientific articles, without harming the commercial value of the article to closed access publishers. In fact, though I4OC don’t explicitly make this argument, because opening citations is a way of increasing the discoverability of articles it should overall increase rather than decrease their commercial value.

To quote their website:

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.

At the moment, there are only a few services that know the relationships between all articles— products like The Web of Science, SCOPUS, Google Scholar and Meta which have through enormous effort negotiated access to that information– and they guard it tightly. Of those, only Meta is now operating in the public interest — but even that doesn’t mean that it would be able to make its data open. Opening all citations will mean that many more teams will be able to create innovative applications leveraging that graph.

In only six months the percentage of citations that are open has rocketed from 1% to over 40% with strong suggestions that the number will climb still higher sooner. This could be an effort which achieves its goals in a very short period of time.

At Hypothesis our entire focus is on providing deeper and more powerful connections between knowledge. We’re excited to see what’s possible when this critical next step becomes fully manifest.

The core partners behind the effort are Open Citations, Wikimedia, PLOS, DataCite, CCAT and eLife. Approximately thirty publishers, including closed access heavyweights like Wiley, Taylor and Francis and SAGE have joined. Another twenty stakeholders, like Hypothesis, have further lent their support to the effort.