Citations play an incredibly important role in academia. To scientists, citations are currency. Citations establish credibility, and determine the impact of a given paper, researcher, and institution. However, the system of how citations work is crippled with a problem. Over the last few decades, only researchers with subscriptions to two proprietary databases, Web of Science and Scopus, have been able to track citation records and measure the influence of a given article or scientific idea. This isn’t just a problem for scientists trying to get their resumes noticed; a citation trail tells the general public how it knows what it knows, each link a breadcrumb back to a foundational idea about how the world works, reads an article on Wired. The article adds: On Thursday, a coalition of open data advocates, universities, and 29 journal publishers announced the Initiative for Open Citations with a commitment to make citation data easily available to anyone at no cost (alternative source). “This is the first time we have something at this scale open to the public with no copyright restrictions,” says Dario Taraborelli, head of research at the Wikimedia Foundation, a founding member of the initiative. “Our long-term vision is to create a clearinghouse of data that can be used by anyone, not just scientists, and not just institutions that can afford licenses.” Here’s how it works: When a researcher publishes a paper, the journal registers it with Crossref, a nonprofit you can think of as a database linking millions of articles. The journal also bundles those links with unique identifying metadata like author, title, page number of print edition, and who funded the research. All of the major publishers started doing this when Crossref launched in 2000. But most of them held the reference data — the information detailing who cited whom and where — under strict copyright restrictions. Accessing it meant paying tens of thousands of dollars in subscription fees to the companies that own Web of Science or Scopus. Historically, just 1 percent of publications using Crossref made references freely available. Six months after the Initiative for Open Citations started convincing publishers to open up their licensing agreements, that figure is approaching 40 percent, with around 14 million citation links already indexed and ready for anyone to use. The group hopes to maintain a similar trajectory through the year.
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