The fundamental importance of capturing cited-reference metadata in Institutional Repository deposits

On 22-Jan-09, at 5:18 AM, Francis Jayakanth wrote on the eprints-tech list:

“Till recently, we used to include references for all the uploads that are happening into our repository. While copying and pasting metadata content from the PDFs, we don’t directly paste the copied content onto the submission screen. Instead, we first copy the content onto an editor like notepad or wordpad and then copy the content from an editor on to the submission screen. This is specially true for the references.

“Our experience has been that when the references are copied and pasted on to an editor like notepad or wordpad from the PDF file, invariably non-ascii characters found in almost every reference. Correcting the non-ascii characters takes considerable amount of time. Also, as to be expected, the references from difference publishers are in different styles, which may not make reference linking straight forward. Both these factors forced us take a decision to do away with uploading of references, henceforth. I’ll appreciate if you could share your experiences on the said matter.”

The items in an article’s reference list are among the most important of metadata, second only to the equivalent information about the article itself. Indeed they are the canonical metadata: authors, year, title, journal. If each Institutional Repository (IR) has those canonical metadata for every one of its deposited articles as well as for every article cited by every one of its deposited articles, that creates the glue for distributed reference interlinking and metric analysis of the entire distributed OA corpus webwide, as well as a means of triangulating institutional affiliations and even name disambiguation.

Yes, there are some technical problems to be solved in order to capture all references, such as they are, filtering out noise, but those technical problems are well worth solving (and sharing the solution) for the great benefits they will bestow.

The same is true for handling the numerous (but finite) variant formats that references may take: Yes, there are many, including different permutations in the order of the key components, abbreviations, incomplete components etc., but those too are finite, can be solved once and for all to a very good approximation, and the solution can be shared and pooled across the distributed IRs and their softwares. And again, it is eminently worthwhile to make the relatively small effort to do this, because the dividends are so vast.

I hope the IR community in general — and the EPrint community in particular — will make the relatively small, distributed, collaborative effort it takes to ensure that this all-important OA glue unites all the IRs in one of their most fundamental functions.

(Roman Chyla has replied to eprints-tech with one potential solution: “The technical solution has been there for quite some time, look at citeseer where all the references are extracted automatically (the code of the citeseer, the old version, was available upon request – I dont know if that is the case now, but it was in the past). That would be the right way to go, imo. I think to remember one citeseer-based library for economics existed, so not only the computer-science texts with predictable reference styles are possible to process. With humanities it is yet another story.”)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum