Crossref is a membership association of scholarly publishers which makes it easier to find, cite and link to academic content.
“The company doesn’t hold the content but has a unique identifier for each piece that keeps track even if it moves publisher or website,” explains executive director Ed Pentz.
The not-for-profit Oxford-based company also holds a vast store of metadata – aside from the identifier for each piece of academic content, it stores other information such as title, authors and publication dates.
It has 110 million items registered –about 90 per cent of all journal content worldwide and more than eight million academic books.
Founded in 2000, Crossref started with the support of 15 American and European publishers and societies, including OUP and now has more than 11,000 members globally.
Its mission was to simplify the process of linking between journal articles on different publisher platforms.
Before Crossref, publishers needed to make individual agreements to link to one another’s websites, something which was essential given that a references section in an academic article can contain links to a number of other articles from different publishers.
Pentz explains: “Crossref, a not-for-profit, neutral, membership organisation was formed to make research outputs easier to find, cite and link for the scholarly community.”
One aspect of Crossref’s technology is the Digital Object Identifier system based on the Handle System created by Corporation for National Research Initiatives, founded by Bob Kahn.
Along with fellow American internet pioneer Vint Cerf, he first proposed the Transmission Control and Internet Protocols (TCP/IP) at the heart of the Internet.
Crossref has grown over the past 20 years from a staff of one – Pentz – to 40 based in Oxford, the US, Ireland and France.
The Oxford branch was opened in 2004, and Crossref moved to The Oxford Trust-run Oxford Centre for Innovation just over three years ago.
Crossref isn’t a one-trick pony – the company has expanded its services over the years. Not only does it offer content registration and reference linking, it also enables members to screen content for plagiarism.
Ed points out: “We have our original reference-linking mechanism to make cross-referencing more efficient. We have also partnered with Turnitin to create a system for members to check their scholarly material before publication, to ensure originality”.
The team is also working on a research organisation registry to develop an identifier for universities, research organisations and funders.
Around 85 per cent of its income comes from an annual membership fee and a one-off charge for registering each piece of content.
Pentz believes the main challenge for Crossref in 2020 is to balance out the needs of its huge membership, which consists of big global academic publishing houses, as well as small independent publishers around the world.
And the ultimate aim is to improve the service and make it as easy for those who are technical, as for those who aren’t.