Enriching Digital Citation Networks Using Web 2.0 Principles

James Williams

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The main themes for this paper focus upon the technological aspects of publishing using the Open Journal System (OJS) and leveraging Web 2.0-style features, in order to foster intelligent digital citation networks for online publications, increase the discoverability of significant research contributions, harness the footprints caused by active network behaviour to provide greater statistical detail, and most importantly, surface this information as much as possible for richer bibliometric reporting. A practical approach to achieve this is through plug-in development for OJS to enhance connectivity by surfacing the deeper network interactions that exist in an interlinked online environment. Digital citation of online journals or articles could be enriched from a Web 2.0 perspective by enabling online journals to autonomously maintain an awareness of its relevance to other information sources.

Passively, analysis could be performed on referrer information provided by visitors entering the site. Web citations would be collected by the journal system each time a journal visitor enters via another site or journal. In this way, these citations can be captured and surfaced on the journal as a way of developing the digital citation network. However, digital citations to online publications could also be “offline”, inside discrete digital objects. While digital citations within digital objects may be present, they may not be traversable, and even in cases where they are, referral information may not be available. This hurdle can be overcome by “active harvesting” as the popularity of a journal grows and the number of digital citations increases. A simple example to illustrate how one might manually harvest a set of digital citations to a particular journal is to enter the published URL of the journal in a search engine and count the number of results. A more active method of citation collection naturally requires greater quality control, which could be provided by a user interface for approval.

Regardless of the practical methods employed to gather and surface this information, the effect would essentially be the same – enrichment of online bibliographic citation networks, particularly those linking into or between OJS journals. Greater statistical analysis and more detailed reporting would be possible on visitors, over time, and by citation. By contributing these statistics to the study of bibliometrics and surfacing references back to relevant citations, not only would it lend credence to the significance of publications, but also increase their discoverability in the wild. It is commonly accepted that even in the secret algorithms used by search engines to provide relevant results to search queries, reverse links have a significant effect to increase or decrease the ranking of a search result. This fact is increasingly more relevant in the online academic environment where bibliographic citation networks are becoming ever more distributed Web 2.0-style environments. Enabling the technological footprints of systems like OJS using Web 2.0 features to become more aware of the environment in which they are used will provide them with interoperability that should allow them to contribute autonomously to the networks which they inhabit. With a constantly changing network identity, the digital citations of journals would allow them to become emergent islands of significant information, analogous to network node hotspots.


networks; digital citations; web 2.0; journals; reporting; statistics; bibliometrics