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The Open Citation Project: new momentum for open access

This final summary of the project was produced for JISC in December 2002 and was required to be “suitable for general publication aimed at lay readers and describing the achievements made”

Moves to establish open access for published, peer reviewed research papers have been re-invigorated in 2002. Open access means that all users can access the papers free of charge, any time, anywhere. Worldwide attention has been focussed on open access by the Budapest Open Access Initiative [1]. Open access "will help scholars find what is relevant to their research, what is worthy, and what is new".

Momentum has been growing because new services demonstrate that open access works: software that allows authors and their institutions to deposit and manage their peer reviewed journal papers in archives; services that allow others to find and access these papers through citation-ranked search, improving the visibility and impact of authors.

These services are the legacy of the Open Citation Project ( GNU EPrints archive-creating software (, and Citebase (, “Google for the refereed literature”.

In the UK there are signs the next Research Assessment Exercise, which has major implications for funding, will use citation analysis, a means of measuring the impact of published research. [2, 3] There is likely to be a direct correlation between open access and increased impact, [4] and the outcomes of research assessment exercises. [5] Citebase will expose this correlation.

Open access works because the costs of electronic storage and maintenance are lower than for print publishing, and can be borne in new ways, in particular by institutions who share with their researchers the benefits of greater visibility and impact. Institutional archives are the way forward for many researchers who do not enjoy the benefits of their colleagues in fields already served by large disciplinary open archives such as arXiv. [6]

Institutional archives can, like disciplinary archives, support unified, global coverage of fields because they are based on the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), which has been remarkably successful in motivating an - as the name would imply - open approach to advertising the availability of objects and documents in digital libraries. If digital libraries store records in a form that complies with an OAI metadata format, then independent services — search and indexing services like Citebase — can collect this data using a protocol defined by the OAI.

Now institutions can extend their digital libraries with archives of research papers that comply with the OAI protocol and metadata simply by using open source GNU EPrints software, which is designed specifically for open access. It works: 60 leading institutions worldwide have adopted GNU EPrints, and some have written about their experiences with EPrints. [7, 8, 9]

What these institutions most need to do next is attract authors to these archives. The incentive for authors is exemplified by Citebase, which currently indexes over 200,000 papers in OAI-compliant archives in physics, maths, computer science and biomedical science, but mostly it covers physics. That is simply the current implementation. The principle of citation-based navigation and ranking of papers in OAI-compliant open access archives has been proved [10] and can be expanded to other OAI archives. For authors and institutional archives, indexing, impact measurement and discovery come free with services such as Citebase.

The JISC Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) programme, which is just underway (, includes several projects that will use EPrints and Citebase. Innovations from the Open Citation Project will in this way continue to inform and motivate new and improved tools and services that demonstrate open access archives as a widely applicable and powerful mode of dissemination for all scholarly journal papers.


[1] Noble, I., Boost for research paper access, BBC Online News, 14 February 2002

[2] Jaffe, S., Citing UK Science Quality: The next Research Assessment Exercise will probably include citation analysis, The Scientist, Vol. 16, No. 22, Nov. 11, 2002

[3] Mandy Garbner, RAE review: Tired, hard-up RAE seeks saviour with light touch, Times Higher Education Supplement, Dec. 6, 2002

[4] Steve Lawrence, Free Online Availability Substantially Increases a Paper's Impact, Nature Web Debate on e-access, May 2001

[5] Harnad, S., Why I think research access, impact and assessment are linked, Times Higher Education Supplement, 18th May 2001
Longer version:

[6] Young, J. R., Superarchives' Could Hold All Scholarly Output, Chronicle of Higher Education, 5th July 2002

[7] Nixon, W., The evolution of an institutional e-prints archive at the University of Glasgow, Ariadne, July 2002

[8] Pinfield, S., et al., Setting up an institutional e-print archive, Ariadne, April 2002

[9] Sponsler, E. and Van de Velde, E. F., Software: A Review, SPARC E-News, Aug.-Sept. 2001

[10] Hitchcock, S., et al., Evaluating Citebase, an open access Web-based citation-ranked search and impact discovery service, November 2002


The Open Citation Project, which was funded from 1999 to 2002 by the Joint NSF —JISC International Digital Libraries Research Programme, was a collaboration between Southampton University's Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia (IAM) Group, the Digital Library Research Group at Cornell University, USA, and arXiv, now hosted at Cornell University.
Contact for the Open Citation Project is Steve Hitchcock
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