Presentation Open Access

Citations - how open do we want them?

Kramer, Bianca; Bosman, Jeroen

Panel discussion at FORCE2019, Edinburgh, Scotland - October 17, 2019


Citations are an important aspect of scholarly infrastructure. Citation databases play an important role in discovery and assessment; however, they currently lack community governance and often have restricted access. Over half of all articles referenced in Crossref now have openly available citations thanks to the I4OC initiative, enabling the citations to be used by anyone for any purpose. For example, OpenCitations have built the open citations index of DOI-to-DOI citations (COCI - https://opencitations.net/index/coci). Yet what about the other half? When publishers themselves cannot be convinced to make citations open, are there other sources that can be used instead? If so, what role do license restrictions play in the availability and reuse of citations from these sources?

This panel session covers two potential ways of sourcing open citation information and the dilemmas posed by their incompatible license requirements:

  • Crowdsourced Open Citations Index (CROCI - https://opencitations.net/index/croci) - begun by OpenCitations in 2019 as a project in which anyone can deposit citation information, as long as they have the legal right to do so. The information is deposited with a Creative Commons CC0 license in order to enable reuse without limitations.
  • Microsoft Academic (MA - https://academic.microsoft.com/home) and The Lens (https://www.lens.org) can provide a source of citations that are not openly available through Crossref. In both cases, the information is available for sharing and reuse under an Open Data Commons ODC BY license.

While citations crowdsourced through CROCI would be fully open for reuse, the approach is limited in scale. Meanwhile, sourcing information from Microsoft Academic or Lens means that more citations can be made publicly available, but also means that the citations cannot be reused without attribution - for example, they cannot be integrated with other open citations in COCI.

This raises interesting questions, which will also be discussed during this session:

  • What does openness mean for citations?
  • What are the potential uses cases for open citations?
  • Which is the best approach when sourcing citations that are currently not openly available?
  • Can citations really be subject to copyright and/or database licensing, when they are simply statements of fact about relationships between publications?

The panel for this session consisted of:

  • Dominika Tkaczyk, Crossref
  • Ivan Heibi, Open Citations
  • Shelley Stall, American Geophysical Union
  • Kathleen Shearer, Coalition of Open Access Repositories
  • Richard Jefferson, The LENS (via remote connection)


The panel was facilitated by:

  • Bianca Kramer, Utrecht University Library
  • Jeroen Bosman, Utrecht University Library

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