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CrossRef Search - Commentary

Bob Michaelson at Northwestern offers the following observations about CrossRef Search, as posted to CHMINF-L:

CrossRef Search
is a pilot initiative running in 2004 in collaboration with Google, and now includes the content of 29 publishers (out of the 650 CrossRef publishers and societies) -- it now covers approximately 3.4 million research articles.

"...this Pilot launches a typical Google search but filters the result set to the scholarly research content from participating publishers, with the intent of reducing the noise produced by general web searches." The searches need to be done from the individual publishers' web sites, e.g.
ACM http://portal.acm.org/xrs.cfm
IOP http://www.iop.org/EJ/search_crossref
Wiley http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/crossref.html

"The purpose of the Pilot, which will run during 2004, is to determine the value to the scholarly community of a free, federated, full-text, interdisciplinary, interpublisher search focused on the peer-reviewed scholarly literature."

I wonder whether a fully-integrated version of this search engine, on all 650 publishers and societies, will put out of business many of the existing bibliographic databases, other than the highly specialized ones, or ones that have such extensive backfiles that they cannot easily be superseded. Perhaps that depends in part on whether the integrated version will be freely available, as is the pilot program.

Bob Michaelson
Northwestern University Library
Evanston, Illinois 60208
rmichael AT northwestern DOT edu

Bob makes a good point - if all member publishers (now numbering 699) contribute to make CrossRef the ultimate search engine, leading searchers to scholary, peer-reviewed, full-text results, what might be the fallout? The CR website lists some of the 699 participating publishers and societies, and links to 303 CR member publishers are provided.

The sentence that intrigues me is this one: "The purpose of the Pilot, which will run during 2004, is to determine the value to the scholarly community of a free, federated, full-text, interdisciplinary, interpublisher search focussed on the peer-reviewed scholarly literature." Exactly what is "free" in this context? Some of the member publishers also publish large dbs: IEEE, Elsevier, American Chemical Society, American Mathematical Society, CABI Publishing, Institution of Electrical Engineers, and many others.

From the CrossRef FastFacts page:

What CrossRef is:
A not-for-profit network founded on publisher collaboration, with a mandate to make reference linking throughout online scholarly literature efficient and reliable. As such, it is an infrastructure for linking citations across publishers, and the only full-scale implementation of the Digital Object Identifier (or DOI) System to date.

What a DOI is:
A unique alphanumeric string assigned to a digital object in this case, an electronic journal article or a book chapter. In the CrossRef system, each DOI is associated with a set of basic metadata and a URL pointer to the full text, so that it uniquely identifies the content item and provides a persistent link to its location on the internet.

For more information on the DOI itself, which is a NISO standard syntax, please visit the International DOI Foundation website at www.doi.org. For details on use of the DOI within CrossRef, please see our DOI Guidelines.

What CrossRef is not:

  • A product for sale
  • An article database
  • A direct-to-end-user service
  • A search interface
  • A broker of full-text content
  • Made up of just big commercial publishers
CrossRef's mission:
To serve as the complete citation linking backbone for all scholarly literature online, as a means of lowering barriers to content discovery and access for the researcher. We are currently expanding our citation linking services beyond journal articles, to conference proceedings and books.
Much more information is on the page. Bob Michaelson wonders about "a fully integrated version of this search engine", yet CR describes itself as, among other things, not a search interface. It will be interesting to see how the pilot project unfolds, how CrossRef will determine said value of this search service to the scholarly community, and how it will appear in its final form, so to speak.


While I can't say that I know exactly how the Pilot was built, I really have not found it very useful. Therefore, I don't see much danger to the discipline-specific services.

Don't forget that one of the key reasons Google is so useful is that the results reflect link structure of the web. (Yes, naturally, this also accounts for difficulties in some cases.)

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