We’re equally sad and proud to report that Rachael Lammey is moving on in her career to the very lucky team at 67Bricks. Her last day at Crossref is today, Friday 16th February. Which is too soon for us, but very exciting for her!
It’s hard to overstate Rachael’s impact on Crossref’s growth and success in her 12 years here. She started as a Product Manager where she developed that role into a broad and central function, and soon moved into the newly-formed community team as International Outreach Manager where she grew important programs such as Sponsors, Ambassadors, a series of ‘LIVE’ events around the world, and she went on to manage her own team and establish some of the most important strategic relationships that Crossref now feels fortunate to have.
Great news to share: our Executive Director, Ed Pentz, has been selected as the 2024 recipient of the Miles Conrad Award from the USA’s National Information Standards Organization (NISO). The award is testament to an individual’s lifetime contribution to the information community, and we couldn’t be more delighted that Ed was voted to be this year’s well-deserved recipient.
During the NISO Plus conference this week in Baltimore, USA, Ed accepted his award and delivered the 2024 Miles Conrad lecture, reflecting on how far open scholarly infrastructure has come, and the part he has played in this at Crossref and through numerous other collaborative initiatives.
Metadata about research objects and the relationships between them form the basis of the scholarly record: rich metadata has the potential to provide a richer context for scholarly output, and in particular, can provide trust signals to indicate integrity. Information on who authored a research work, who funded it, which other research works it cites, and whether it was updated, can act as signals of trustworthiness. Crossref provides foundational infrastructure to connect and preserve these records, but the creation of these records is an ongoing and complex community effort.
A few months ago we announced our plan to deprecate our support for the Open Funder Registry in favour of using the ROR Registry to support both affiliation and funder use cases. The feedback we’ve had from the community has been positive and supports our members, service providers and metadata users who are already starting to move in this direction.
We wanted to provide an update on work that’s underway to make this transition happen, and how you can get involved in working together with us on this.
Quality metadata is foundational to the research nexus and all Crossref services. When inaccuracies creep in, these create problems that get compounded down the line. No wonder that reports of metadata errors from authors, members, and other metadata users are some of the most common messages we receive into the technical support team (we encourage you to continue to report these metadata errors).
We make members’ metadata openly available via our APIs, which means people and machines can incorporate it into their research tools and services - thus, we all want it to be accurate. Manuscript tracking services, search services, bibliographic management software, library systems, author profiling tools, specialist subject databases, scholarly sharing networks - all of these (and more) incorporate scholarly metadata into their software and services. They use our APIs to help them get the most complete, up-to-date set of metadata from all of our publisher members. And of course, members themselves are able to use our free APIs too (and often do; our members account for the vast majority of overall metadata usage).
We know many organizations use Crossref metadata. We highlighted several different examples in our API case study blog series and user stories. Now, consider how errors could be (and often are) amplified throughout the whole research ecosystem.
While many inaccuracies in the metadata have clear consequences (e.g., if an author’s name is misspelled or their ORCID iD is registered with a typo, the ability to credit the author with their work can be compromised), there are others, like this example of typos in the publication date, that may seem subtle, but also have repercussions. When we receive reports of metadata quality inaccuracies, we review the claims and work to connect metadata users with our members to investigate and then correct those inaccuracies.
Thus, while Crossref does not update, edit, or correct publisher-provided metadata directly, we do work to enrich and improve the scholarly record, a goal we’re always striving for. Let’s look at a few common examples and how to avoid them.
Very little content begins and ends on page 1. Especially journal articles. But, many members may not know what the page range of the content will be when they register the content with us (perhaps the content in question is an ahead-of-print journal article and the member intends to update this page range later). The issue here is that page range is an important piece of the metadata that we use for citation matching. If the pagination registered with us is incorrect, and it differs from the pagination stated in the citation, our matching process is challenged. Thus, we might fail to establish a citation link between the two works. The page range beginning with page 1 is the most common pagination error that the technical support team sees.
Like first pages beginning with 1, few internal article numbers are 1. We see a disproportionate number of article number 1s in the metadata. Again, this can prevent citation matching. Mistakes happen in all aspects of life, including metadata entry. That said, if you, as a member, don’t use internal article numbers or other metadata elements that can be registered, a recommendation we’d make is: if you don’t know what the metadata element is, omit it. More metadata does not mean better metadata. If you’d like to know more about what the elements are, bookmark our schema documentation in Oxygen or review our sample XML files.
This content either begins on page 121, 122, or 123. It cannot start on all three pages. Ironically, registering a first page of 121-123 ensures that we will not match the article if it is included in a citation for another DOI with a first page of 121, 122, or 123.
Author naming lapses
Examples: Titles (Dr., Prof. etc.) in the given_name field; Suffixes (Jr., III, etc.) in the surname field; superscript number, asterisk, or dagger after author names (usually carried over from website formatting that references affiliations); full name in surname field
<contributors><person_namecontributor_role="author"sequence="first"><surname>Mahmoud Rizk</surname></person_name><person_namecontributor_role="author"sequence="additional"><surname>Asta L Andersen(</surname></person_name></contributors>
Neither Josiah nor Kathryn’s official given name includes ‘doctor,’ thus it should be omitted from the metadata. Including ‘doctor’ in the metadata and/or capping the authors’ names in the metadata does not result in additional accreditation or convey status. Instead, the result is to muddle the metadata record. As with page numbers in the metadata, accurate author names are crucial for citation matching.
Organizations as authors slip-ups
Examples: The contributor role for person names is for persons, not organizational contributors, but we see this violated from time to time. Unfortunately, no persons are being credited with contributing to content that have these errors present in the metadata record.
We love seeing inclusion of organizational contributors in the metadata, when that metadata is correct. Unfortunately, we do see mistakes where organizations are entered as people and people are inadvertently omitted from the metadata record (sometimes omission of people in the contributor list is intentional, but other times it is a mistake). In the XML above, the organization was entered as an organizational contributor - the organization itself is being credited with the work. This is sometimes confused with an author affiliation or even a ROR ID. Our schema library and XML samples are a great place to start, if you’re interested in learning more about organizational contributors versus author affiliations.
Examples: Too many times we see “N/A”, “null”, “none” in various fields
(pages, authors, volume/issue numbers, titles, etc.). If you don’t have or know the metadata, it’s better to omit it for optional metadata elements than to include inaccuracies in the metadata record.
Nulls and Not Availables, like many of the examples in this blog, are not simply agnostic when included in the metadata record. Including nulls in your metadata limits our ability to match references and establish connections between research works. These works do not expand and enrich the research nexus; quite the opposite. The incorrect metadata limits our ability to establish relationships between works.
Where to go from here?
One thing we’ve said throughout this blog that we’ll reiterate here is: accurate metadata is important. It’s important in itself, and the metadata registered with us is heavily used by many systems and services, so think Crossref and beyond. In addition to that expanding perspective, there are practical steps members and metadata users can take to help us:
As a member registering metadata with us:
make sure we have a current metadata quality contact for your account and update us if there’s a change
if you receive an email request from us to investigate a potential metadata error, help us
if you do not know what to enter into a metadata element or helper tool field, please leave it blank; perhaps some of the examples of errors within this blog were placeholders that the responsible members intended to come back to - to correct in time; that’s also a practice to avoid
if you find a record in need of an update, update it - updates to existing records are always free (we do this to encourage updates and the resulting accurate, rich metadata, so take advantage of it).
As a metadata user:
if you spot a metadata record that doesn’t seem right, let us know with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or report it to the member responsible for maintaining the metadata record (if you have a good contact there)
Making connections between research objects is critical, and inaccurate metadata complicates that process. We’re continually working to better understand this, too. That’s why we’re currently researching the reach and effects of metadata. Our technical support team is always eager to assist in correcting errors. We’re also keen on avoiding those mistakes altogether, so if you are uncertain about a metadata element or have questions about anything included in this blog post, please do contact us at email@example.com. Or, better yet, post your question in the community forum so all members and users can benefit from the exchange. If you have a question, chances are others do as well.