What is the Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA)?
The Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA) appeals to scientific publishers to make the abstracts of the works they publish freely available and to collect them in a central location, in Crossref’s metadata system. A group of people, in particular experts in science and bibliometrics, has gathered a long list of publishers who wish to respond to this call. Even if the biggest publishers are still missing: Many other organisations share support the initiative and share it’s objectives. The TIB is one of these stakeholders and, together with the I4OA, appeals to all science publishers to enrich their metadata accordingly and make it openly accessible. The success story of the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) can serve as a blueprint: In just a few years it has succeeded in persuading many hundreds of publishers to participate and make citation information for around 30 million scientific publications freely available.
What can freely available abstracts be used for?
Aaron Tay, Bianca Kramer and Ludo Waltman, who participated in the initiative, have summarised the essential advantages of freely available abstracts in the text „Why openly available abstracts are important – overview of the current state of affairs„. This includes the use of abstracts for literature searches and for the analysis of relationships between the associated texts (for example, based on the similarity of the abstracts). The extraction of meanings and terms from abstracts is also made possible if abstracts are freely available without hurdles. All these points are still relevant even if more and more publications are available in full text: Abstracts contain very compressed and focused information and can be more helpful in searches than full-text searches.
Abstracts can then be freely adopted by other services, for example repositories or research information systems. They can serve as a basis for (partially) automated subject indexing and can be used in other representations such as knowledge graphs.
Are there still many abstracts missing?
While commercial databases such as Web of Science represent only a small part of the scientific literature, the metadata of Crossref can cover a large part of the scientific literature published by publishing houses. The proportion of published articles for which abstracts are included in the metadata varies enormously. The graph taken from the above-mentioned Medium article shows how large publishers with a high volume of publications – such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, or even IEEE or ACS – do not make abstracts available. In addition, abstracts are also lacking in whole or in part for Open Access publishers and platforms such as PLOS or SciELO, while some publishers (both traditional and new Open Access publishers) manage to provide abstracts for the majority of their articles.
Who contributes to the success?
The initiative’s appeal is directed at scientific publishers to make not only their references (see I4OC) but also their abstracts available and distribute them via Crossref. The higher the pressure from all players in the publishing landscape, the better. The stakeholders who already support I4OA appeal to the publishers in this sense. The participation reports of Crossref (here examples of IEEE and Copernicus) show how high the share is at the respective publishing house.
However, there are further opportunities for libraries like the TIB to work towards this goal.
- In licensing negotiations with publishers, the issue of open abstracts can be addressed in the context of good metadata and included as a goal of negotiation. Even if it is considered a secondary goal in the respective institution compared to, for example, open access and costs, it is helpful that draft contracts are also examined with regard to this point and that publishers are confronted with this demand. This also applies to the support of new Open Access models and products.
- Libraries can lead by example with their own publication platforms. Open access publications on journal servers and other services connected to Crossref should of course make complete metadata including abstracts freely available.
- Libraries can actually use metadata. Without concrete use of high-quality metadata, potential remains unused. By integrating the abstracts made available via Crossref into their own services such as discovery tools, knowledge graphs, repositories, the usefulness of the data is proven and the incentive for publishers to join is increased.