Initiative for Open Citations

The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) is a project launched publicly in April 2017,[1][2][3][4][5][6] that describes itself as:[7][8]

a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data and to make these data available.

It is intended to facilitate improved citation analysis.

Initiative for Open Citations
Legal statusActive
PurposeUnrestricted availability of scholarly citation data


The citations are stored in Crossref and are made available through the Crossref REST API. They are also available from the OpenCitations Corpus, a database that harvests citation data from Crossref and other sources.[9] The data are considered by the those involved in the Initiative to be in the public domain, and so a CC0 licence is used.[5]

The stated benefits of this approach are:[9]

  • discoverability of published content
  • the building of new services
  • creation of a public citation graph to explore connections between knowledge fields.


The initiative was established in response to a paper on citations in Wikidata, Citations needed for the sum of all human knowledge: Wikidata as the missing link between scholarly publishing and linked open data, given by Dario Taraborelli, head of research at the Wikimedia Foundation, at the eighth Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing, in September 2016.[5] At that time, only 1% of papers in Crossref had citations metadata that were freely available. By the time of the public launch, on 6 April 2017, that had risen to 40% as a result of setting up the initiative.[6]

The founding partners were:[10]

At the time of launch, 64 organisations, including the Wellcome Trust, the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,[5] had endorsed the project and as of May, 2017, Sloan Foundation confirmed it would be providing funding.[11] 29 of these organisations were publishers who had agreed to share their citation metadata openly.[2] These include Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley.[6]

On 11 July 2017, the Initiative announced that a further sixteen publishers had signed up.[12] On 8 August 2017, the Initiative released on open letter to stakeholders.[13] The same month, the British Library became a member organisation.[14]

Rejection by Elsevier

Elsevier, who contribute 30% of the citation metadata in Crossref,[6] did not join the initiative. In April 2017, Elsevier's vice-president of corporate relations, Tom Reller, said:[1]

We are aware of the initiative but want to learn more before making a decision on whether to participate.

In January 2019, the Editorial board of Elsevier's Journal of Informetrics resigned and launched the new journal Quantitative Science Studies, citing Elsevier's lack of support for the I4OC as one of the main reasons for the move.[15] In their response to the board, Elsevier stated why they did not join the initiative:[16]

Elsevier invests significantly in citation extraction technology. While these are made available to those who wish to license this data, Elsevier cannot make such a large corpus of data, to which it has added significant value, available for free.


  1. ^ a b Schiermeier, Quirin (6 April 2017). "Initiative aims to break science's citation paywall". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21800. ISSN 1476-4687.
  2. ^ a b Treanor, Kim (6 April 2017). "New Large-Scale Initiative Aims To Increase Open Access To Scholarly Research". Intellectual Property Watch. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  3. ^ Taraborelli, Dario; Dugan, Jonathan (6 April 2017). "How we know what we know: The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) helps unlock millions of connections between scholarly research". Wikimedia Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Global Coalition Pushes for Unrestricted Sharing of Scholarly Citation Data". Creative Commons. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Chawla, Dalmeet Singh (6 April 2017). "Now free: citation data from 14 million papers, and more might come". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aal1012.
  6. ^ a b c d Molteni, Megan (6 April 2017). "The Initiative for Open Citations Is Tearing Down Science's Citation Paywall, One Link At A Time". Wired. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  7. ^ "I4OC: Initiative for Open Citations". Initiative for Open Citations. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Opening Up Research Citations: A Q&A with Dario Taraborelli | Wiley". Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  9. ^ a b "FAQ". Initiative for Open Citations. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Press". Initiative for Open Citations. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  11. ^ Shotton, David (2017-05-15). "The Sloan Foundation funds OpenCitations". OpenCitations. Retrieved 2017-05-21.
  12. ^ "Availability of open reference data nears 50% as major societies and influential publishers endorse the Initiative for Open Citations". : Initiative for Open Citations. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  13. ^ I4OC. "I4OC: Initiative for Open Citations - Press". Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  14. ^ "I4OC: The British Library and open data - Science blog". British Library . Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Editorial board of Journal of Informetrics resigns and launches new journal". CWTS News. 14 January 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  16. ^ Reller, Tom (15 January 2019). "About the resignation of the Journal of Informetrics Editorial Board". Elsevier Connect. Retrieved 15 March 2019.

External links

Academic journal publishing reform

Academic journal publishing reform is the advocacy for changes in the way academic journals are created and distributed in the age of the Internet and the advent of electronic publishing. Since the rise of the Internet, people have organized campaigns to change the relationships among and between academic authors, their traditional distributors and their readership. Most of the discussion has centered on taking advantage of benefits offered by the Internet's capacity for widespread distribution of reading material.


Crossref (formerly styled CrossRef) is an official Digital Object Identifier (DOI) Registration Agency of the International DOI Foundation. It is run by the Publishers International Linking Association Inc. (PILA) and was launched in early 2000 as a cooperative effort among publishers to enable persistent cross-publisher citation linking in online academic journals.


DataCite is an international not-for-profit organization which aims to improve data citation in order to:

establish easier access to research data on the Internet

increase acceptance of research data as legitimate, citable contributions to the scholarly record

support data archiving that will permit results to be verified and re-purposed for future study.


eLife is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal for the biomedical and life sciences, It was established at the end of 2012 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Max Planck Society, and Wellcome Trust, following a workshop held in 2010 at the Janelia Farm Research Campus. Together, these organizations provided the initial funding to support the business and publishing operations, and in 2016 the organizations committed USD$26 million to continue publication of the journal.The current editor-in-chief is Michael Eisen (University of California, Berkeley), succeeding Randy Schekman who stepped down in January 2019. Editorial decisions are made largely by senior editors and members of the board of reviewing editors, all of whom are active scientists working in fields ranging from human genetics and neuroscience to biophysics and epidemiology.


Elsevier (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛlzəviːr]) is a Dutch information and analytics company and one of the world's major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information. It was established in 1880 as a publishing company. It is a part of the RELX Group, known until 2015 as Reed Elsevier. Its products include journals such as The Lancet and Cell, the ScienceDirect collection of electronic journals, the Trends and Current Opinion series of journals, the online citation database Scopus, and the ClinicalKey solution for clinicians. Elsevier's products and services include the entire academic research lifecycle, including software and data-management, instruction and assessment tools.Elsevier publishes more than 430,000 articles annually in 2,500 journals. Its archives contain over 13 million documents and 30,000 e-books. Total yearly downloads amount to more than 900 million.Elsevier's high operating profit margins (37% in 2017) and its copyright practices have subjected it to criticism by researchers.


OpenCitations (established in 2010) is a project aiming to publish open bibliographic citation information in RDF. It produces the "OpenCitations Corpus" database.


PLOS (for Public Library of Science) is a nonprofit open-access science, technology and medicine publisher, innovator and advocacy organization with a library of open-access journals and other scientific literature under an open-content license. It launched its first journal, PLOS Biology, in October 2003 and publishes seven journals, as of October 2015. The organization is based in San Francisco, California, and has a European editorial office in Cambridge, England. The publications are primarily funded by payments from the authors.

Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (WMF, or simply Wikimedia) is an American non-profit and charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. It is mostly known for participating in the Wikimedia movement. It owns the internet domain names of most movement projects and hosts sites like Wikipedia. The foundation was founded in 2003 by Jimmy Wales as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sibling projects through non-profit means.As of 2015, the foundation employs over 280 people, with annual revenues in excess of US$75 million. María Sefidari is chair of the board. Katherine Maher has been the executive director since March 2016.

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