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Using the ScienceDirect API to increase visibility and access to research articles

Free access to content feeds boosts the availability of research articles by University of Florida researchers in Elsevier journals

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As part of a pilot project between University of Florida Libraries and Elsevier, article links and metadata are automatically delivered to UF’s institutional repository through ScienceDirect APIs that are freely available to libraries.

Editor’s note: Elsevier Connect is exploring the theme of open science. Here, we look at how the University of Florida is using the ScienceDirect Article API to make its Elsevier-published research easily available in its institutional repository.


Judith RussellAs, Dean of Libraries at the University of Florida (UF), Judith Russell, confronted a problem faced by many in her position. She and her team wanted to find ways to better identify faculty authors and improve access to their own research, which is stored in the George A. Smathers Libraries’ institutional repository.

A successful pilot program between UF Libraries and Elsevier has accomplished just that, allowing the research community improved visibility and access to the “best possible” version of their own research.

The pilot, launched in 2016, integrated a freely available set of application programming interface (API) tools, advancing the services the libraries provide and enabling them to play a key role in the advancement and promotion of ScienceDirect’s API Developer Portal.

“The logical choice (was to go to with) Elsevier. … (It) was the best place to begin,” said Russell, from her office in Gainesville, Florida. “It helps to have a willing partner.”

“The number of people publishing goes beyond the faculty,” she added, explaining that showcasing all UF-authored content was one of three primary outcomes measured in the initial pilot.

While it may not completely remove the burden of self-archiving, ScienceDirect’s APIs allow UF Libraries’ efforts to better support their busy academics whose research has and may appear in an Elsevier journal in the future. “What we will eventually be telling them (the UF faculty) is that if you publish in an Elsevier journal we will have it in the IR and you don’t need to do anything,” said Russell.

The additional outcomes from the pilot also provided assurances that federally-funded UF research, featured in Elsevier journals, would be made available in UF’s institutional repository (IR@UF). Further gains were made in the IR’s usability for library staff and faculty, including the addition of unique on-screen identifiers highlighting articles subject to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); reporting on OSTP papers available in the IR; and identifying who had what access to the published article on ScienceDirect, based either on the repository’s permissions, or the researcher accessing the article when using the IR themselves.

“We wanted to know comprehensively everything that UF authors have published,” Russell said. “We want to brag about our authors (and) track the scholarly contributions that have come out of this university.”

To do this, teams from ScienceDirect worked alongside the library’s software development group, including applications programmer Robert Phillips, to establish content feeds to the online book and journal platform. The first searches yielded an initial collection of abstracts and references from over 32,000 published articles authored by UF researchers, some reaching back as far as 1949.

With an average scholarly output of over 8,000 articles per year from the UF research community, the pilot revealed an overwhelming volume of papers could be traced back to Elsevier journals.

Anyone is free to obtain the necessary API Key and use ScienceDirect’s APIs free-of-charge. Institutitions with current subscriptions to ScienceDirect, like UF Libraries, can make use of the full functionality and capabilities of these tools. However, non-subscribers without direct access to ScienceDirect still have access to basic metadata, search functionalities and full access to open access content.

Letitia MukherjeeScienceDirect Market Development Manager, Letitia Mukherjee, said her work with Russell and the UF team has influenced her work, including her understanding of what good metadata for IRs looks like.

Russell said their shared understanding is having a positive impact on her own team. “They will work even better together going forward because they’ve met each other,” she said. “Elsevier is worldwide, … and I think it’s very helpful to have them come in and actually (have) each side meet the other.”

As the collaboration extends into a new phase between the library and information and analytics business, a laundry list of desired features awaits both the ScienceDirect and UF teams.

These include an upcoming notification feature reporting the number of downloads, views and shares directly with faculty. Russell said she hopes it will encourage further deposits into the IR: “That will build awareness across the campus and encourage them to discover the project and to know that this is another way their article is being made available.”

Elsevier’s free API program

Elsevier has developed APIs that institutional repository managers can use to showcase their institution’s output, increase public access and enhance user experience. Here’s how they work:

  1. Use the ScienceDirect Search API to identify all articles published by your researchers and pull good, clean metadata on these. Scopus subscribers can use the Scopus API to do the same.
  2. Use the ScienceDirect Hosting Permissions API to pull embargo end dates for manuscripts, making the process of offering content and copyright compliance even easier.
  3. Use the ScienceDirect Entitlements API to ensure researchers are always made aware of their access options, including when they have access to a final published article.
  4. Use the ScienceDirect Article Retrieval API to link out to the ScienceDirect platform, show a locally hosted manuscript to users, or stream articles within the repository environment. This helps solve multiple pain points: chasing authors to deposit, showing entitled users the best available version of an article, and reporting important metrics such as usage.

Source: Taking the pain out of open access compliance is a win for the library, by Hollie Hayward. Library Connect. October 25, 2017.

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