How Crossref can help medical publishing professionals

Katie Chase

A research project making its way to peer review has a long way to go before it hits the stand. It begins as a question or theory, turns into a hypothesis, continues on to testing and refinement, then write-up, editing, iteration and more editing. But before it can be published and indexed on platforms like Google Scholar or PubMed, the article is likely to make a stop in the Crossref registry. Crossref is a nonprofit who structures, processes and shares metadata about scholarly works in order to reveal relationships between research outputs and facilitate easier access to, and use of, metadata – and they might just become medical publishers’ new best friend.

Uniquely positioned as an exchange of sorts, Crossref’s mission is to assign each and every article its own DOI, or digital object identifier, and uniquely designate its web presence and citation info (authors, journal, publication date, publication type, and the list goes on) with something akin to a social security number. This permanent, unchanging identifier allows for continued and efficient tracking of articles wherever they wind up being stored or released.  Analysis centered around DOIs is essential for both accurate bibliometrics (citations primarily) and altmetrics (alternative metrics for non-scholarly outlets), which are already essential to the jobs of a wide range of pharmaceutical and life science professionals. Without DOIs, both humans and computers can easily lose track of everything from accurate authorial attribution to the distinction between revisions or similar sounding titles.

Crossref’s system therefore allows for the systemized, standardized collection and sharing of valuable information about research publications, such as number of citations and mentions. But just as important, they’ve implemented a universalizable back end data framework that can fuel countless tools and services that facilitate search, discovery and impact measurement. There’s a whole community of academics and professionals already building scripts and softwares around it.

Statistical analyses of publications and citations are how MSLs, publication planners, clinical developers, innovation sourcers, and now medical publishers in the pharma and biotech worlds can gauge how influential a given work is in the scientific community and their body of research. Alternative metrics (‘altmetrics’) are the supplement to these traditional measurements, capturing the life of an article when it moves beyond the scholarly community and into the public. Until recently, was the only source to measure mentions on platforms like Twitter, Reddit, Stack Exchange, or in the popular press–and it isn’t cheap. But now that Crossref has open citation counts and is developing Event Data, medical publishers and related professionals now have the opportunity to utilize these insights and better understand the readership, web presence and overall reach of a given publication.

The next wave of data-driven collaborations and cutting-edge medical publishing will rely heavily on analyzing these massive records of scholarly metadata and their digital lifecycles.  Whether it’s for predictive or descriptive analytics–around journals, media types, medical concepts, therapeutic areas, authors, or so many other variables registries like Crossref make measurable for the first time–it’s just the beginning of our understanding what goes into the best publication or the most captivating discovery.


About the author:

Katie Chase works at H1. which is a proud partner of Crossref, and shares its mission to better understand the world of research. We use data from Crossref, among others, to power our products and services geared to helping industry understand the world of medicine, from scholarly to applied, and make smarter decisions. Learn more about what we do here: