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Metadata as a driver for usage: the case for open abstracts

Metadata as a driver for usage: the case for open abstracts

A common goal of authors and publishers has long been more readership for their publications. Traditionally, the abstract was a teaser to encourage the potential reader to buy or subscribe to read the full text. Even in an open access economy, a good abstract can trigger a coveted “download” and even more coveted citation. Why then do many publishers not make their abstracts and other metadata such as references or license information freely accessible in a machine-readable format?  

Usage statistics on ScienceOpen

Earlier this year, we investigated how the availability of rich metadata affects user engagement on ScienceOpen. Our findings showed that among a collection’s most viewed articles (those viewed more than 50 times), articles with abstracts had 25x more views than articles without. If we narrow our scope and look at solely Open Access articles, we find that 10% of OA articles do not have an available abstract in their metadata. This 10% that have no abstract account for less than 1% of total views of OA articles.  Overall, articles with richer metadata, i.e. with abstracts and open references, make up roughly 30% of ScienceOpen’s database but account for over 60% of article views.

For ScienceOpen, enhanced metadata improves the contextual search within the 65 million publication records in our discovery environment. An abstract gives more datapoints for our search engine to match and recommend content and makes articles more likely to come up in text searches.

Making abstracts open is therefore helpful for not only users of search engines like ScienceOpen, but also for publishers and authors because it increases the visibility and reach of their publications.   

The Initiative for Open Abstracts 

However, if we look at Crossref, only about 7% of the DOIs registered have an abstract included in the article’s metadata. A useful analysis of the landscape is provided by Aaron Tay, Bianca Cramer and Ludo Waltmann. ScienceOpen therefore enthusiastically supports the Initiative for Open Abstracts (I40A) to encourage academic publishers to commit to making their abstracts openly available via Crossref. The successful Initiative for Open References (I4OC) from 2017, in which ScienceOpen was also involved, resulted in a rise from 1% to 59 % of DOI records in Crossref containing references. ScienceOpen has also been active in the Metadata 2020 initiative for richer metadata. The message to publishers is by depositing richer metadata, you can get the most out of your DOI and the scientific community can get the most out of your research publications.  

How ScienceOpen serves as a technical partner 

Some major publishers actively decide against sharing abstract metadata via Crossref, but many more just do not have the technical capacity to create and distribute rich metadata. A publisher can do a metadata check with the “Participation Report” from Crossref and can visualize how computers “view” their metadata through ScienceOpen. Additionally, ScienceOpen is increasingly offering metadata services to publishers to help create, enrich and distribute metadata for both journals and books.  As your technical partner, we can deposit and update Crossref DOIs, deliver metadata to DOAJ, Dimensions, PubMed and more, improve Google Scholar indexing, provide open access hosting and long-term archiving. You will also receive consultation about how to improve, or even begin, providing journal article metadata in standardized formats. We have recently launched a metadata enhancement interface for books that will enable publishers to easily enrich their book metadata – by adding abstracts for example! This is especially handy for books since the formats of book data is less streamlined and can be more difficult to work with than article metadata.  

Providing technical support for all situations 

We are committed to working with publishers with all kinds of metadata and are continually developing new tools to help our customers put forth the best metadata possible, so that their publications are easily discoverable and readily accessible. And if you are an author and your publication is missing an abstract? Just register on ScienceOpen and add one yourself for greater visibility of your work. This is just one of the many services ScienceOpen provides publishers to increase the dissemination of their works. Get in touch with Stephanie Dawson and Stuart Cooper to learn more.   


Cover Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Metadata as a driver for usage: the case for open abstracts”

  1. Correction: While I4OC indeed encourages publishers to submit their references to Crossref, and to make them open there, its formal name is the Initiative for Open Citations, not the Initiative for Open References as stated above.

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