Friday, September 7, 2007

Forward Thinking

I previously criticized CrossRef for the implementation of new restrictive rules for use of its OpenURL service, but Ed Pentz, Executive Director of CrossRef, stopped by and reassured us that CrossRef exists to fill the gaps. The most restrictive rule has now been relaxed. Well done, Ed.

While browsing around new publications in Biodiversity and Conservation, I caught something called "Referenced by" out of the corner of my eye. This may be old hat to most of you and I now feel ashamed that I have not yet discovered it. Perhaps I have subconsciously dismissed boxes on web sites because Google AdWare panels have constrained my eyeball movements. Anyhow, CrossRef have used the power of DOIs to provide a hyperlinked list of more recent publications that have referenced the work you are currently examining. Ed Pentz has blogged about this new feature. Now, this is cool and is the stuff dreams are made of. For example, a paper by Matt Greenstone in '83 entitled, "Site-specificity and site tenacity in a wolf spider: A serological dietary analysis" (doi:10.1007/BF00378220) is referenced by at least 6 more recent works as exemplified in that panel including several by Matt himself. Besides the obvious way that this permits someone to peruse your life's work (provided you reference yourself and publish in journals that have bought into CrossRef), this is a slick way to keep abreast of current thinking. If your initial introduction to subject matter is via pre-1990 publications, you can quickly examine how and who has used previous works regardless of what journal that article has appeared. Hats off CrossRef!

Now, what we need are publishing firms still mired in the dark ages to wake-up to the power of DOIs. If you participate in the editorial procedures for a scientific society and your publisher has not yet stepped-up by providing you with DOIs, get on the phone and jump all over them! You would be doing your readers, authors, and society a disservice if you accepted anything less than full and rapid cooperation by your chosen publisher.

So Ed, will "Forward Linking" be a web service we can tap into?


Rod Page said...


This is indeed a cool feature, and has been one of the reasons I've been arguing that EoL should use DOIs for its species pages. This would get EoL into the published literature, plus any paper that cites an EoL page could be added to the EoL page as "referenced by". This is one way to ensure the EoL pages remain current -- they will always have links to the latest literature that cites that page.

This is also one reason I have been developing the reference parsing tools we've been collaborating. For all the taxonomic literature that won't ever get DOIs it would be possible to create the same functionality by parsing recently published papers, finding those older references, and storing the links. Hence, a paper in, say Psyche, or an old volume of J Arachnology could have a web page that tells us what papers refer to it. In a way this is replicating Google Scholar, but we could add additional functionality, such as GUIs, and taxonomic name indexing.

For all these reasons, EoL's inability/reluctance to address DOIs and the issue of literature harvesting is a major source of concern.

David Shorthouse said...

Rod: I had a recent discussion with the folks at EoL about the use of DOIs for species pages. What then should be done in the face of lumping and splitting? A DOI today may not point to the same species page tomorrow.

Edward said...


Thanks for the positive comments about Forward Linking and DOIs. At the moment retrieving the list of what cites a particular article via CrossRef Forward Linking is limited to the publisher of the article. We'll take it under consideration to open this up as a web service along the lines of the OpenURL interface but I can't make any promises.