Wednesday, September 5, 2007

CrossRef Takes a Step Back

UPDATE Sept. 8/2007: Please read the response to this post by Edward Pentz, Executive Director of CrossRef in the comments below.

Mission statement: "CrossRef is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to enable easy identification and use of trustworthy electronic content by promoting the cooperative development and application of a sustainable infrastructure."

Not-for-profilt, hunh? Money-grabbing in the professional publishing industry has once again proven to be more important than making scientific works readily accessible. As of September 7, 2007, CrossRef will roll out new rules for its OpenURL and DOI lookups. Unless you become a card carrying CrossRef "affiliate", there will be a daily cap of 100 lookups using their OpenURL service, which will require a username/password. If >100 lookups are performed, CrossRef will reserve the right to cancel the account and will force you to buy into their senseless pay-for-use system. Here are the new rules as described at
  1. Affiliates must sign and abide by the term of the CrossRef Affiliate Terms of Use
  2. Affiliates must pay the fees listed in the CrossRef Schedule of Fees
  3. The Annual Admininstrative Fee is based on the number of new records added to the Affiliates service(s) and/or product(s) available online
  4. There are no per-DOI retrieval fees. There are no fees based on the number of links created with the Digital Identifiers.
  5. Affiliates may "cache" retrieved DOIs (i.e. store them in their local systems)
  6. The copyright owner of a journal has the sole authority to designate, or authorize an agent to designate, the depositor and resolution URL for articles that appear in that journal
  7. A primary journal (whether it is hosted by the publisher or included in an aggregator or database service) must be deposited in the CrossRef system before a CrossRef Member or Affiliate can retrieve DOIs for references in that article. For example, an Affiliate that hosts full text articles can only lookup DOIs for references in an article if that journal's publisher is a PILA Member and is depositing metadata for that journal in the CrossRef System
  8. Real-time DOI look-up by affiliates is not permitted (that is, submitting queries to retrieve DOIs on-the-fly, at the time a user clicks a link). The system is designed for DOIs to be retrieved in batch mode.

So what's the big deal?
The issue has to do with scientific society back-issues like the kind served by JStore. Without some sort of real-time DOI look-up, it is near impossible to learn of newly scanned and hosted PDF reprints for older works. After September 7, the only solution available to developers and bioinformaticians is to periodically "batch upload" lookups. CrossRef sees Rod Page's bioGUID service and my simple, real-time gadget as a threat to their steady flow of income even though it clearly fits within their general purpose " promote the development and cooperative use of new and innovative technologies to speed and facilitate scholarly research."


Ed said...

Your post raises a number of issues I wanted to respond to. We should have made this clearer but we are not introducing the requirement for accounts for OpenURL queries to get more revenue - the intent is that non-commercial use by researchers will not incur any fees. This will bring OpenURL queries into line with our existing no-cost Library Affiliate accounts. Without accounts we can't verify that use is for non-commercial purposes. Also, we need to be able to see how queries are being done to better allocate system resources and to contact submitters if there are any problems - we have had a number of cases where (due to honest mistakes) the system has been inundated with queries from runaway scripts and we've had no way to contact the submitters. The 100 queries per day limit is somewhat arbitrary and we assumed this would be a high enough limit for non-commercial use, but apparently not in your case. Therefore, we are going to drop the 100 queries per day limit.

Your post also references the fees and terms and conditions for Affiliates - these have been in place for six years and have worked well - no changes are being made to Affiliate fees or terms and conditions. The terms for the OpenURL accounts are here - - and are based on existing terms for Library Affiliates (we'll take out the 100 query limit clause).

You reference CrossRef's mission statement and I wanted to make the point that charging fees is consistent with our mission to develop a "sustainable infrastructure" (CrossRef invests a lot in software, hardware and bandwidth) and it's quite common for non-profits to charge fees to cover costs and have funds to invest in new services. Over 90% of CrossRef revenue comes from annual membership fees and deposit fees paid by member publishers so Affiliate fees aren't a big source of revenue in any case.

Finally, you say "CrossRef sees Rod Page's bioGUID service and my simple, real-time gadgetas a threat to their steady flow of income...". This couldn't be farther from the truth! We think what you and Rod are doing is great and the type of thing we want to encourage more of and I will shortly be blogging about this on CrossTech -

Going forward we'd like to talk with you about improving our service and increasing the use of DOIs.

Ed Pentz, Executive Director, CrossRef

David Shorthouse said...

Thanks for stopping by and writing a very excellent response. Admittedly, I was being overly harsh in the hope that this might solicit a response. I do recognize that the kinds of services you are developing do cost a lot in terms of time and funds, so you are fully justified in recouping losses. I am very happy to hear that you have lifted the 100 queries per day limit. This will most certainly permit more creativity that ultimately benefits the scientific community.

Roderic Page said...

Ed Pentz's blog post is here

Anonymous said...

Wow! A very interesting article we have here. The responses to this have already seemed to clear up some of the issues pertaining to the Open URL queries. I will dig further to determine if i should try this company. Thanks again for the info.