Wednesday 10 August 2016

Spotlight on the Crossref Metadata API - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This is the third in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing shortlist. Ginny Hendricks from Crossref tells us more about their Metadata API.

Tell us a bit about your company.

Crossref is a not-for-profit membership organization for scholarly publishing working to make content easy to find, cite, link, assess, and re-use. We do it in five ways: rallying the community; tagging metadata; running a shared infrastructure; playing with new technology; and making tools and services to improve research communications.

We’ve been around for sixteen years primarily for storing and registering identifiers that enable persistent linking between research articles. We’ve since grown to almost 6000 publisher members. This makes us not so much a Start-up as a ‘Scale-up’. We are seeing over 150 new publishers joining every month, international in scope and location, and many of these are library publishers, scholar publishers, and organizations exploring new publishing models.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

It’s the Crossref Metadata API, which is becoming a significant focus for us. We always describe APIs as machine-to-machine interfaces, but as more of us, including researchers, grow our developer mind-set, more of the services that we and others build need a dynamic way to integrate and use the cross-publisher metadata registered by Crossref. Put simply, the API lets anyone search, filter, facet and sample Crossref metadata related to over 80 million content items with unique Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

We’re a small team of fewer than thirty people total, about a third in Oxford, UK and two thirds in Boston, USA. This, like most Crossref initiatives, started with the R&D team led by Geoffrey Bilder and has been extensively developed by Karl Ward.

The API was initially conceived to support funders who wanted to be able to find and report on the outputs of the research they funded. This was information publishers had started to provide Crossref, but to make best use of it, funders need to be able to access the most up-to-date information from publishers to be able to filter and facet their searches to look for specific subsets of information to report on the KPIs they were interested in.

Then it grew - with the introduction of funding data we started to see the API being used extensively. Coupled with that, the increased breadth of the metadata that publishers can provide Crossref with has also been growing - letting it be interrogated and used in lots of interesting ways. As such, the API has been developed to support the different information that users might ask of the metadata: asking for things like licence information, ORCID iDs, full-text links, clinical trial numbers and being able to filter on and combine these to get the specific sub-set of data they’re looking for.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

For its openness, its wide applicability, and it’s growing user base. Also because it’s used solely by developers who are looking to innovate themselves. As a communications person it’s been really interesting to see how the developer community has engaged with the API. The kind of use cases we’re seeing include text-mining, simple reporting and tracking, notification services, search interfaces (including our own) and integration in online editing and blogging tools.

What are your plans for the future?

Robustness! We have plans to scale up the technology to handle the growing usage the API is experiencing and make sure we can wholeheartedly support and grow the community that is using it. Of course, the API is only as valuable as the information that publishers provide Crossref with, and we’ll also be encouraging publishers to deposit the best, most complete metadata they can to improve the discoverability and usability of the research they publish.

Ginny Hendricks is Director of Member & Community Outreach at Crossref.

You can watch Crossref present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

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