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Knowledgespeak Exclusive -- An interview with Dr.Amy Brand, Director of Business Development, CrossRef. - 29 Nov 2005

Q

Comment on PILA's performance so far, for the fiscal 2005. What were the key challenges and how were these tackled?

A

CrossRef's performance in 2005, in both fiscal and operational terms, has surpassed our expectations. Whereas we are now able to predict membership growth from year to year fairly accurately, there is still significant uncertainty surrounding the number of current and legacy DOI registrations we can expect in given year. Our higher-than-projected revenues in 2005 stem in large part from an enormous number of backfile deposits, as the leading scholarly publishers all move to retrodigitize their journal content and make it available online. In terms of the CrossRef system, 2004-2005 saw a number of new service enhancements, including Forward Linking, stored query alerts, manual web-based deposit of DOIs, support for several new content types, our new journal browse interface, and the launch of a CrossRef OpenURL resolver for DOI retrieval and redirection. We had anticipated being somewhat further along than we are now in our support for multiple resolution, but even there we are very pleased with the pilots that have gone live, showing multiple links in association with real CrossRef DOIs. Perhaps our biggest challenge this year has been working out how to best support our members who would like their full-text to be indexed by major search engines such as Google. Some of these negotiations have been slower than we would have liked. At the same time, we have had to put our own ground-breaking CrossRef Search initiative on the back burner. We plan to offer both centralized metadata services and recommended terms and conditions that will help our members protect their copyrighted content in the search space -- a major announcement concerning these metadata and web services will be made in early 2006.


Q

Can you put in simple terms how OpenURL and CrossRef complement each other? What are the specific benefits for publishers and libraries and general users (of libraries)?

A

CrossRef linking is publisher controlled and OpenURL linking is library controlled. The DOI and the OpenURL work together in several ways. First, the DOI directory itself - where link resolution occurs in the CrossRef system - is OpenURL-enabled. This means that it can recognize a user with access to a local resolver. When such a user clicks on a DOI, the CrossRef system does two key things: (1) it redirects that DOI back to the user's local resolver, and (2) it allows the DOI to be used as a key to pull metadata out of the CrossRef database, metadata that is needed to create the OpenURL targeting the local link resolver. As a result, the institutional user clicking on a DOI is directed to appropriate resources. By using the CrossRef DOI system to identify their content, publishers in effect make their products OpenURL aware. Secondly, since DOIs greatly streamline linking and data management processes for publishers, more publishers are beginning to require that the DOI be used as the primary linking mechanism to full text. Link resolvers can easily use the CrossRef system to retrieve the DOI, if the DOI is not already available from the source (i.e., citing) document.


Q

What are the broader objectives of CrossRef, beyond being a citation linking service? How close are you to the mission of making CrossRef a collaborative framework for publishers?

A

CrossRef's formally stated mission is "To provide services that bring the scholar to authoritative primary content, focusing on services that are best achieved through collective agreement by publishers." Our Board of Directors interprets this mandate broadly, beyond simple citation linking. Other services which might benefit from publisher collaboration to help bring scholars to published content include search, authentication, licensing, and e-commerce systems. These are all areas where CrossRef may play an active role in future. I think the real measure of CrossRef's success in achieving its collaborative mission is that, when publishers want to come together on a particular initiative, CrossRef is usually the first thing that comes to mind -- as in, "Couldn't CrossRef do this?" We are trusted as an effective, representative, and independent cross-publisher body.


Q

What according to you are the broad functional changes that have been made in order to promote the use of DOI and to enhance the reach of CrossRef system? What are the major changes that are likely to unfold in the next one year, in terms of adding to the functionality of CrossRef system?

A

There are two truly significant developments in DOI/CrossRef functionality. One is Forward Linking, as in cited-by links. CrossRef now offers its members the ability to retrieve and display links to resources that cite their publications, on an extensive cross-publisher basis. This means that we are building up a vast citation map that extends both in and out of those content resources whose publishers opt to participate in forward linking. The other is Multiple Resolution, which is still being piloted but will be a production capable technology very shortly. The vast majority of existing DOIs employ single resolution, where a DOI is associated with only one URL which typically points to a 'landing-page' on a publisher website. CrossRef-MR (for "multiple resolution") makes links more intelligent by providing a standardized way of associating additional linking information -- initially URLs and meaningful labels for the URLs -- with a DOI and making that linking information available to a number of different services. In short, CrossRef-MR enables the management and dissemination of complex publisher-controlled linking information, information which can be pulled in and used by A&I databases, subscription agent, OpenURL resolvers, and other third parties.


Q

Comment on the objectives and activities of Registration Agency Working Group, of which CrossRef is chair? What is the current progress being made in ensuring advancements in DOI usage and interoperability?

A

CAL (Copyright Agency Ltd, Australia) recently took over as chair of the RAWG. There are now 7 RAs in addition to CrossRef covering everything from scientific data (TIB - http://www.tib-hannover.de/) to official publications of the European Union (OPOCE - http://www.publications.eu.int/). The goals of the RAWG are to be a forum for Registration Agencies to work together on the development and implementation of the DOI infrastructure (Application Profiles, DOI API, DOI metadata policy) and also on the development of the rules governing RA operations, especially in the area of persistence for the DOI. Persistence is not just about technical issues but about social ones. The RAWG also works to develop consensus opinions and make recommendations to the IDF board of directors on technical and policy priorities and to be directly involved in IDF governance. Some important recent developments include: 1) the creation of a IDF Patent Policy that all RAs have agreed to. The policy supports the DOI as an open standard and system available to all who want to use it on equal terms while encouraging Registration Agencies to develop added-value services and features on top of the Core DOI System; 2) the creation of formal policies and procedures for RA operations to guarantee persistence if an organization leaves the IDF or ceases operations; 3) the DOI is on track to be an ISO standard within TC46/SC9, the ISO body responsible for "information content identifiers" such as ISBN, ISSN, ISTC and ISRC; 4) the revised version of NISO Z39.84, Syntax for the Digital Object Identifier, has been approved by NISO and ANSI; 5) the IDF has successfully mirrored the DOI Proxy (http://dx.doi.org/) in multiple locations to ensure a robust, distributed and scalable system. There are currently on average over 10 million DOI resolutions every month; 6) The RAWG has reactivated the DOI Technical Working Group (DOI-TWG) to work on multiple resolution, proxy policies and other interoperability issues.


Q

What is the current subscriber base for CrossRef system (across participating and member publishers)? How do you plan to expand it in the coming years?

A

The number of dues-paying publisher members in CrossRef is currently 330. But this number vastly under-represents the number of participating publishers and societies, which we estimate at over 1500. That's because several of the larger publishers co-publish on behalf of hundreds of smaller publishers and societies, and because we now allow third-party platforms such as JSTOR, AIP, and Project Muse to "sponsor" the publishers on their platforms for membership -- so, in effect, those included publishers do not need to become independent members of CrossRef if all their content is hosted by a current "sponsoring" member. In addition, there are about 600 registered libraries and 40 contracted affiliates. That places the number of subscribed entities using CrossRef at well over 2000. We envision the major growth in membership in coming months coming from publishers of gray literature and other non-traditional content, such as dissertations, working papers, technical reports, data elements, standards, etc. Many of these organizations acting as publishers will be educational institutions, government agencies, and other non-profits. There is currently a very active Board committee devoted to establishing policies for including institutional repository content in CrossRef, to extend the citation linking network into gray content that interlinks with the published literature, and for the mutual benefit of repositories who wish to assign persistent identifiers to their housed content and the publishers that wish to link to that content.


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