The problem Crossref is here to solve

Citations are the backbone of scholarly communication, allowing researchers to point to the evidence for their assertions, and to provide credit to the originators of ideas. As content has moved online, researchers have grown to expect to be able to simply click on citations and follow them to the cited content online. If these citations broke at the same rate and in the same way as normal web links, it would only be a matter of years before the scholarly citation record started to crumble. It would also mean that links to publisher content would break and adversely affect usage of publisher sites.

To solve this problem, we built a common infrastructure that can be used by all of our members. It allows citation linking between research organizations (without the need for individual agreements between them about how to identify and link articles), and ensures that citation links are persistent - that they work over long periods of time. However, this infrastructure is not magic. There is no purely technical solution to the problem of broken links on the web. You cannot just join Crossref and expect that your citation links will suddenly become persistent. In order for the Crossref system to work, Crossref members have to follow certain community standards and meet specific obligations. By joining Crossref, you are making a pact with the rest of the scholarly community to adhere to these standards and meet these obligations.

Although our first service was to provide a community-managed infrastructure for persistently linking citations, it wasn’t long before our members started to see other problems in scholarly communications that could also best be addressed through a community effort. As such, we’ve gradually added new infrastructure services to meet these needs as well. In the process, we’ve moved beyond infrastructure, and now increasingly provide tools and services to help our membership better meet the needs of other scholarly communications stakeholders such as funders, institutions, developers of third-party tools, and researchers.

This means that, even if you only joined Crossref a few years ago, we may have since introduced new services and tools that you are unaware of. Consequently, the baseline for making best use of Crossref is constantly changing, and best practice is adapting accordingly. To stay up to date with our latest tools and services, you can subscribe to receive our newsletter.

Play your part in solving this problem

One common element to all of Crossref’s services is metadata. All of our services are based on our persistent citation infrastructure, combined with different kinds of specialised, service-specific metadata. This means that:

Metadata provided by our members is the foundation of all Crossref services.

As a Crossref member, the more metadata you provide and the more care you take to ensure the metadata is correct, the better Crossref’s services become. Your metadata improves the system both for you, and for all of Crossref’s other members and stakeholders.

What does this mean in practice? In order to participate in Crossref’s services, our members deposit metadata with the Crossref system. The rest of this guide explains our various services, why they are important, and how you can best implement each one.

Please note that best practices are not the same as obligations. An obligation to describes something that a party has to do contractually in order to be a Crossref member - learn more about Crossref member obligations. A best practice is something that a member needs to do in order to make best use of Crossref’s infrastructure and services.

Page owner: Rachael Lammey   |   Last updated 2021-April-23