NISO Publishes Recommended Practice and Technical Report on Improving OpenURLs Through Analytics

Newly devised metrics enable OpenURL metadata quality to be measured and improved

Baltimore, MD - June 3, 2013 - The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) announces the publication of a new recommended practice, Improving OpenURLs Through Analytics (IOTA): Recommendations for Link Resolver Providers (NISO RP-21-2013). These recommendations are the result of a three-year study performed by the NISO IOTA Working Group in which millions of OpenURLs were analyzed and a Completeness Index was developed as a means of quantifying OpenURL quality. By applying this Completeness Index to their OpenURL data and following the recommendations, providers of link resolvers can monitor the quality of their OpenURLs and work with content providers to improve the provided metadata—ultimately resulting in a higher success rate for end users. The project is summarized in a technical report, IOTA Working Group Summary of Activities and Outcomes (NISO TR-05-2013), which was published along with the recommended practice.
"OpenURLs are context-sensitive URLs widely used by publishers and libraries to allow end users to connect to the full-text of e-resources discovered during a search," explains Aron Wolf, Data Program Analyst with Serials Solutions and member of the IOTA Working Group. "To ensure that the user accesses the most appropriate copy of a resource (one that is preferably free to the user due to a subscription through the user's library), the OpenURL link connects to a link resolver knowledgebase. The metadata embedded within the OpenURL is compared through the link resolver with what is held in or licensed through the library and the end user is then presented with the available full-text access options. At a typical academic library, thousands of OpenURL requests are initiated by patrons each week. The problem is that too often these links do not work as expected because the metadata in the OpenURL is incorrect or incomplete, leaving users unable to access the resources they need."

"Through our analysis, the IOTA Working Group found that there was a pattern to the failures in OpenURLs," states Adam Chandler, Electronic Resources User Experience Librarian at Cornell University Library and Chair of the IOTA Working Group. "The Completeness Index was developed as a method of predicting the success of OpenURLs from a given provider by examining the data elements that provider includes in the OpenURLs from its site. This metric can serve as a tool to help determine which content providers are more likely to cause linking problems due to missing data elements in their OpenURLs and can identify exactly what the problems are. The Recommended Practice explains how to implement the measures so that problems can be clearly identified and steps taken with the content providers to improve the quality of the metadata."

"The IOTA Recommended Practice is a perfect complement to the NISO/UKSG KBART Recommended Practice (NISO RP-9-2010)," states Todd Carpenter, NISO's Executive Director. "While KBART recommends how to improve the data within the link resolver knowledgebase, IOTA is focused on the metadata passed in the OpenURL itself. Together, these recommendations can ensure that OpenURLs will consistently provide the results that libraries, publishers, and end users have come to expect from this technology."

The IOTA Recommended Practice and Technical Report are both available for free download from the IOTA Working Group's page on the NISO website at:

About the National Information Standards Organization (NISO)
NISO fosters the development and maintenance of standards that facilitate the creation, persistent management, and effective interchange of information so that it can be trusted for use in research and learning. To fulfill this mission, NISO engages libraries, publishers, information aggregators, and other organizations that support learning, research, and scholarship through the creation, organization, management, and curation of knowledge. NISO works with intersecting communities of interest and across the entire lifecycle of an information standard. NISO is a not-for-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). More information about NISO is available on its website: