Nature brings the Semantic Web and enhanced citation, visibility to papers in EPrints

Steve Hitchcock, EPrints Community Manager, 25th April 2006

EPrints repositories can be part of the Semantic Web in a real and practical way thanks to Nature Publishing Group and its free Connotea online reference management service. This service enables users to publicly bookmark and tag articles from within EPrints repositories with remarkable potential to expand the visibility and findability of those articles.

You may have seen the press announcements for the new Connotea software that supports EPrints repositories. Here is how it works, and our take for those responsible for managing EPrints repositories.

"Check that Connotea knows about your EPrints repository, and take advantage of the free TaggingTool code to put your repository in position to benefit from the increase in visibility it could offer."

When journal readers, say, find an article they want to cite they have to record in a conventional reference format all the metadata necessary to identify and locate that item. If that article is online the user can create a bookmark, although that simply records the URL and some descriptive information from the html headers, not a formal reference. Further, that bookmark is stored in the user's browser and is not shared with other potential readers of the article.

Connotea formalises the bookmark as a reference and can share the data publicly. To do this it needs to identify information about the article - its author, title, etc. - and to identify the source data. The latter is the tricky part, and depends on the source site offering a documented way to extract the information automatically. Connotea can do this for a number of journals, and now it can do the same for any EPrints repository using its OAI-PMH interface. Connotea has discovered this information for some EPrints repositories. To learn more and see if your repository is included, and to find out what to do if it isn't, go to

This is all very good for management of reference data - data can be imported from Connotea into a user's local reference management software as well as shared and managed on the Connotea site. The potential for overlaying the Semantic Web on the cited content in repositories and improving the findability of this content arises from another feature of the service: tagging. As well as producing a citable reference, the user can supplement the reference with keywords that describe the referenced item. Librarians, indexers and cataloguers have long done this. So have authors of online pages, by virtue of Web links. The power of indexing is here massively extended by enabling all users to become indexers by tagging cited articles with keywords. It's more powerful than author-tagging, because there is just one author but there is a limitless number of users, and it's all preserved and summed, the same way links are in Google ranking. Supplied with this information the Connotea database can make all sorts of connections between articles and present these as links. Serendipity never had it so good!

The result -- for things like commercial products, entertainment and chat/opinions -- has proved successful in Connotea is now applying this anarchic/democratic tagging for the scholarly full-text literature.

"The potential for overlaying the Semantic Web on the cited content in repositories arises from another feature of the service: tagging."

Tagging and bookmarking can now be applied within EPrints. To use bookmarking and tagging, individual users create accounts with Connotea and can install a bookmarklet in their browser to access and add data to their account. That way they are using Connotea as the native interface. An EPrints repository can provide a separate and additional interface visible from within all records on its site. For example, scroll down to see the Tags And Related Items From Connotea interface for this paper in ECS EPrints at Southampton University From within any record like this registered Connotea users can login and discover tags and articles related to the one being viewed, or add a bookmark including tags to reveal related items. To provide this interface for your users all you have to do is download and install the TaggingTool code to your EPrints repository, which can be located from this description.

For the purposes of finding and retrieving papers in open access repositories, this looks like a service that will complement search such as Google and Google Scholar. We know that findability is enhanced by exposing data to Web search services, also that on average open access increases the citation impact of papers. Now we have a different type of citation service - Connotea bookmarking - allied to tagging. Repositories based on EPrints are uniquely able to take advantage of all three means of enhancing retrieval and citation of their papers.

Don't let anyone tell you that content in repositories is less easy to find than sources indexed in more formal current awareness services. For open access content in EPrints repositories the opposite is fast becoming the case.

Check that Connotea knows about your EPrints repository, and take advantage of this free code to put your repository in position to benefit from the increase in visibility it could offer.


New Connotea software supports institutional repositories, Press release from the Nature Publishing Group, March 10, 2006

Dictate: Distributed Content Tagging Tool for EPrints

Linking Up Research Papers Using Tags, You're It! Timo Hannay's blog posting, March 16, 2006

The effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact: a bibliography of studies