May 19, 2022

Rich Citations: PLOS Develops Enriched Citation Format, API Now Available For Developers

A new format for citations developed by the team at the Public Library of Science (PLOS) that will add a lot more data to what a citation has traditionally provided.

This is yet another project that we will be watching very closely not only for how the code develops/improves, how the data is used, and also to see if others outside of PLOS begin to utilize it.

From a PLOS Tech Blog Post by Adam Becker:

We need citations that carry detailed information about the citing paper, the cited object, and the relationship between the two. And these citations need to be in a format that both humans and computers can read, available under an open license for anyone to use.

This is exactly what we’ve done here at PLOS. We’ve developed an enriched format for citations, called, appropriately enough, rich citations. Rich citations carry a host of information about the citing and cited entities (A and B, respectively), including:

Bibliographic information about A and B, including the full list of authors, titles, dates of publication, journal and publisher information, and unique identifiers (e.g. DOIs) for both;

  • The sections and locations in A where a citation to B appears;
  • The license under which B appears;
  • The CrossMark status of B (updated, retracted, etc);
  • How many times B is cited within A, and the context in which it is cited;
  • Whether A and B share any authors (self-citation);
  • Any additional works cited by A at the same location as B (i.e. citation groupings);
  • The data types of A and B (e.g. journal article, book, code, etc.).

Use the New Enriched Citation Format

Learn More: API Info and Documentation

The post goes on to say that the PLOS database already contains about 10,000 articles with enriched citations including most PLOS Medicine articles. The plan is to have enriched citations for all PLOS articles in the next few weeks.

Becker writes:

The ultimate goal is to collect rich citations for the entire scientific literature and provide it as open data for the research community. This kind of database would be a valuable resource not only in itself but also for the wide variety of applications that could be built using it. With a detailed database of the connections between scientific works, it would be much easier to trace the intellectual history of an idea or fact, and to see the true dependencies between different pieces of the scientific literature.

We can also use this database to create better paper recommendation engines, helping readers find new and exciting work related to older work.

Much More in the Complete Blog Post

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.