Understand how science works thanks to open citations

Half a billion open citations – open access bibliographic references used in scientific publications – have been listed by the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC). As an I4OC partner, OpenEdition makes the references and citations of all the articles published on its platforms free to access. The aim? To encourage different approaches to study the dynamics of science with transparent, open and shared data, in a context in which France is contributing increasingly actively to the major project that is open science.

Half a billion: that is the number of open citations collected to date, according to the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), a consortium that brings together scientific publishers, researchers, and organizations whose aim is to promote the unrestricted availability of citations data between scientific publications.

A scientific article includes bibliographic references that signal other relevant articles related to the publication. Fifty years ago, the Science Citation Index was created to collect and identify all citations in order to produce tools (metrics). These made it possible to not only count the number of citations an article, and therefore a journal, received; they were also used for bibliometric studies in the field of Science and Technology Studies, so as to better understand how science is evolving.

Its successor, Web of Science, has been a genuine step forward for web interfaces. But the data collected have remained closed, in other words, retained by the owner of WOS and available upon payment of a fee. Furthermore, institutions are dependent on WOS’s selection of journals, as well as on WOS algorithms whose results and interpretation can vary greatly from one scientific discipline to another. Hence the need to study and scan these corpuses by using different approaches and by eliminating “black box”-type mechanisms.

Open citations should make it possible to produce corpuses of the same nature, containing the list of an article’s references, but in open access. This means being able to access these data without paying and to freely reuse them thanks to the adoption of a Creative Commons CC0 licence. The I4OC aims to encourage publishers to authorize this usage of their references1. To date, the open citations released by the I4OC’s partner publishers represent between 60% and 70% of the world’s bibliographic references, across some 100 million scientific articles, a coverage that far exceeds that of the WOS.

OpenEdition contains over 330,000 articles and book chapters, i.e. around 3 million open references. The issue of open citations is particularly crucial in the disciplines of the HSS. Historically excluded from the WOS for commercial reasons, the HSS are still underrepresented in it. Although the WOS contains a number of US journals, this is not the case of the vast majority of European journals.

By enabling open access to citations, OpenEdition is contributing to promoting an open environment in which bibliographic studies will be able to take into account the discipline of the HSS but also to diversify the approaches, as much as to contest or improve algorithms as to understand what the networks are, the connections between authors, or how an idea spreads.


1 The data on citations are deposited in the Crossref database by publishers, who authorize free access to their references and citations. The citations are available through the OpenCitations Corpus, a database that harvests data from Crossref and other sources.

Cite this blog post
OpenEdition team (2018, March 16). Understand how science works thanks to open citations. Open Electronic Publishing. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/si8u

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