Head-to-head with Ed Pentz from Crossref

We went head-to-head with Ed Pentz from Crossref, Executive Director of the ever-growing not-for-profit based at our Oxford Centre for Innovation (OCFI).

Crossref is a membership association of scholarly publishers that was set up to help make it easier to find, cite and link to academic content. “The company doesn’t hold the content”, says Ed, “but has a unique identifier for each piece that keeps track even if it moves publisher or website”. They also hold a vast store of metadata – aside from the identifier for each piece of academic content, they also hold other information such as the title, authors, publication dates and other vital info. They now have 110 million items registered – “that’s about 90 per cent of all journal content worldwide and over eight million academic books” says Ed. A large percentage of the metadata collection is automated but there is also a hands-on Crossref team to help members.

Founded in 2000, Crossref got started with the support of fifteen American and European publishers and societies, including OUP, and now has over 11,000 members globally. They wanted to simplify the process of linking between journal articles on different publisher platforms. Before Crossref was set up, publishers needed to make individual agreements to link to one another’s websites, something which was essential given the fact that a references section in any one academic article can contain links to a number of articles from different publishers. “Whilst manageable among a small group of publishers, it does not scale” explains Ed, “And so 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 DOI (Digital Object Identifier) System based on the Handle System created by CNRI (Corporation for National Research Initiatives) founded by Bob Kahn, (along with Vint Cerf he first proposed the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol at the heart of the Internet). The company has grown over the past twenty years from an employee of one – Ed – to forty based in Oxford, the US, Ireland and France. The Oxford branch was opened in 2004 and moved in to OCFI just over three years ago.

Crossref isn’t a one trick pony: the company has expanded its services over the years. Not only do they offer content registration and reference linking but they enable their members to screen content for plagiarism too. “We have our original reference linking mechanism to make cross referencing more efficient” says Ed. “We have also partnered with Turnitin to create a system for members to check their scholarly material before publication to ensure originality”.  They are also working on a research organisation registry – or ROR – to develop an identifier for universities, research organisations and funders.

Around 85 per cent of Crossref’s income derives from an annual membership fee and the one-off fee for registering each piece of content. The remaining fifteen per cent comes from other services. The business’s challenge for 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. They want to improve their service so that it is as easy for those that are technical as those that aren’t.

Great work, Crossref. It’s good to have you under our roof at OCFI.

To find out more about Crossref, see here.