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Setting our bibliographic references free: towards open citation data

Silvio Peroni (Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Alexander Dutton (IT Services, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Tanya Gray (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
David Shotton (Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




Citation data needs to be recognised as a part of the Commons – those works that are freely and legally available for sharing – and placed in an open repository. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


The Open Citation Corpus is a new open repository of scholarly citation data, made available under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 public domain dedication and encoded as Open Linked Data using the SPAR Ontologies.


The Open Citation Corpus presently provides open access (OA) to reference lists from 204,637 articles from the OA Subset of PubMed Central, containing 6,325,178 individual references to 3,373,961 unique papers.


Scholars, publishers and institutions may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the open citation data for any purpose, without restriction under copyright or database law.



This paper has been developed from the same textual source material from which was distilled a short Comment piece entitled “Open Citations” recently published by David Shotton in Nature (Shotton, 2013). It thus has substantial textual elements in common with that publication.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of Jisc, which provided two small grants to David Shotton that, in addition to enabling the creation of the OCC of which he is the Director, in part also made possible his development of the SPAR ontologies in collaboration with Silvio Peroni, and of the CiTO Reference Annotation Tools in collaboration with Tanya Gray. The software development of the first public prototype of OCC was primarily undertaken by Alexander Dutton during the first Jisc grant. Work currently in progress on revising the data model, infrastructure and ingest pipeline of the OCC was initiated during the second Jisc grant, in collaboration with Richard Jones, Mark Macgillivray and Martyn Whitwell of Cottage Labs, acting as development consultants, who are sincerely thanked for their excellent work.

Silvio Peroni would like to thank Angelo Di Iorio and Andrea Giovanni Nuzzolese, who co-authored CiTalO, and Paolo Ciancarini and Fabio Vitali for their help and for many fruitful and proactive discussions about citations, citation functions and citation metrics.


Peroni, S., Dutton, A., Gray, T. and Shotton, D. (2015), "Setting our bibliographic references free: towards open citation data", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 2, pp. 253-277.



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