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    I have a feature request which I was going to ask for in meta.math.SE as well, but figured this place would benefit from it too, while the SO developers will be less inclined to implement it (I'd think that it is lower in the priority order)

    Much like the "cite" export function, it could be nice if there was an "import" function in which we can specify a DOI and the object will be instead given a nice citation form?

    Since DOIs are pretty static, this can be an external (or not) script to the SE program which will hardcode the resolved data into the post instead of leaving a DOI tag to be resolved every time the post is loaded.

    How does that sound?

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 26th 2011 edited

    I have a rough understanding what DOI is and read you post several times. However, it is not quite clear to me what you would like to suggest. But this could well be lack of knowledge on my side; below my try to understand, perhaps I am completely off.

    Is it something like: on entering say doi!(thedoi) this will be automatically turnded into some text plus link to the identified object? (Which text?)

    ADDED: Or is the idea to automatically create (a list of) references at the end of the post using metadata of the DOIs ? End ADDED

    Or something else?

    Also regarding the 'resolving' it is not clear to me what the suggestion is. Do you mean the plus appended DOI or the complete resolution to the present location. I somehow understand your 'pretty static' as suggesting the latter but to me this seems to defeat the in my understanding main purpose of using a DOI. So I am not sure what is meant.


    Okay, I will clarify.

    First the way I see it you can either hack into the SE software and add, perhaps, another markup symbol; or you could have an external code that will recognize DOI objects (or will be fed DOI code directly) and change them into something else.

    Into what? Into a predefined citation + link. For example,

    Howard, P. The axiom of choice for countable collections of countable sets does not imply the countable union theorem. Notre Dame J. Formal Logic Volume 33, Number 2 (1992), 236-243.

    Perhaps the link to the journal can be taken off, but the point is that we replace something like doi(...) with a bibliographic+link entry of text.

    The part about static DOI code is that unlike links to somewhere (including, for example, MO) the DOI codes are not expected to change anytime soon. Therefore if we prefer to have it parse the DOI code every time (instead once) then the entry is not bound to change. A certain code will remain there for the foreseeable future.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 26th 2011

    Thank you for the clarification. Interesting idea. While I have some additional questions regarding finer details, I will wait until the discussion progresses, not to clutter a general discussion with details.


    At present, and very likely in the future, our ability to implement features like this will be limited to client-side javascript.

    Thus there are two options:

    1. intercept the submission of post text, performing the appropriate lookup and replacement.
    2. rewrite the displayed post text each time.

    Both are possible, although the second one relies on all future viewers of the content running the appropriate javascript. (Of course, using LaTeX via MathJax suffers from the same problem.) Both can easily be implemented as a userscript. If someone were to offer a nice implementation via option 1), I might be in favour of turning it on by default for all MO users. I'm not personally interested in doing the implementation; it strikes me as something that will receive relatively little use.


    I think that this is a very good idea. It would help standardise citations (at least for documents with a DOI) and this can only be a good thing. This is philosophically very similar to something we did in our group's wiki in order to be able to use arXiv identifiers as a shorthand for a fuller metadata of eprints in a bibliography we are compiling. This is described in this blog post; although this used mediawiki extensions and the arXiv API and hence the implementation here would have to differ.



    nice MediaWiki extension! I like the idea of nicely handling arxiv links better than nicely handling arbitrary DOIs: in particular, as far as I know there's no way to query a DOI for any of the metadata (e.g. the title).


    @Scott: Thanks. I agree with you that without a way to querying DOIs [I didn't know that this was not the case] then perhaps this is idea is not yet very useful. I still think that any way to uniformise citations to papers (be they in journals or in the arXiv) would be a good thing.


    @Scott: I did not know that there is no uniform way to fetch DOI metadata. I believe they might be working on such project since the website says that there is doi API in a private beta stage.

    Like Jose I too think that a uniform standard for citation on the site would be a very good thing. As far as I know arXiv has DOI strings, so a DOI interface would be useful for arXiv papers too.

    Update: has an XML output of metadata. It seems to be possible after all.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2011

    @Asaf: instead of asking at Meta.Math.SE, you should vote up and comment on my feature request on Meta.SO instead.

    May I suggest that we consider adding a standardized way to refer to MathSciNet instead of DOI?
    MathSciNet is much more useful than DOI,
    because one can immediately see the corresponding review
    and MRef and MR Lookup services allow one to extract
    bibliographic references from an MR number in a uniform algorithmic way.
    Furthermore, the Article link in each review is in fact a link to,
    so in fact one loses nothing by linking to MathSciNet instead of DOI.
    On the other hand it is not so easy to pass from a DOI link to the corresponding MathSciNet review.

    @Willie: I did not know that you had such a request open. Furthermore I refuse to join meta.SO, so I cannot upvote it :-P

    @Dmitri: That would be a good idea as well. However, preprints from arXiv do not appear on MathSciNet, perhaps it is possible to make a unified citationator, as MR... strings are easily identified, as DOI strings.

    @Asaf: ArXiv prerints don't appear on MathSciNet,
    but I think they don't get a DOI number either.

    As for the syntax, one could cite an arXiv preprint as [arXiv:1108.0189v1] and a MathSciNet review as [MR2763085].
    This can be easily handled automatically by a script.

    Hm. I wonder why I did remember that arXiv stuff gets DOI'ed... I guess we can separate these tags, then.

    I still think that DOI would be a good idea, in case the metadata can be extracted easily.


    In a short correspondence with CrossRef it turns that one needs either become a member (I'd assume of CrossRef, I don't know how much it would cost to have MO with access to the site); or one can use OpenURL for that. I am not sure how exactly, though.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2011

    Regarding MathSciNet: I cannot really test this at the moment (as presently I am on a computer were I do have access), but I am under the impression (and will test this when I am somewhere were I do not have [automatic] access) that without a subscription one does not get a review from MathSciNet. If this is so I would find it unfortunate to encourage linking to material behind a paywall and thus completely inacessible to some users and sometimes inacessible (in a convenient way) to more users. By contrast for Zentrallblatt MATH specific items seem free for everybody. (Only convenient searching is limited to subscribers.)

    In case I am not mistaken on the above and something like this is added: I would be in favor to add support for the very similar but more freely accessible database Zentralblatt MATH instead (not in addition) to MathSciNet (in order not to encourage linking to inaccessible content where a more freely accessible alternative is available).

    @quid: The review text is not accessible without a subscription, but everything else is.
    For this reason it seems to me that referring to Zentralblatt alone is a bad idea,
    because MathSciNet seems to provide more data.
    For example, MathSciNet provides more DOI links and more original reviews
    (i.e., reviews written by a reviewer, not simply a copy of the abstract) than Zentralblatt.
    Zentralblatt also indexes fewer articles than MathSciNet.

    On the other hand,
    I don't see anything wrong with providing both MathSciNet and Zentralblatt links.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2011

    @Dimitri Pavlov: there are some points where I prefer MR over ZB (yes for recent things more original reviews and in particular they seem on avarage faster in adding them). But regarding ZB indexing fewer articles, for total count the opposite seems true (MR says over two millions ZB over three). Currently added onse; not totally sure. MR says over 100 000 per year and ZB says so far in 2011 over 85000 (which seems roughly the same). Those recent articles not in both are perhaps somewhat corner-cases anyway; but perhaps I care about the wrong subpart of the literature to notice.

    Yet perhaps I did not stress my main point enough: I would find it quite unfortunate if linking to content (in part) behind a paywall became some sort of de-facto standard for providing references on MO.


    I'm with @quid here. MathSciNet is great and all, but I think it's a bit rude to give people links to paywall'd links if you're not sure they'll have access.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeSep 29th 2011

    @quid: part of ZB's total count is due to its far more complete list of articles published before, oh, say 1930.

    @Scott: but for the purpose of linking to the original article, the MSN Relay should provide enough information. (It links to the original article when possible.)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 29th 2011

    @Willie: agreed that ZB larger size is (mainly, or perhaps only) due to its longer existance, but still I have not heard which relevant items are (supposedly?) in MR and not ZB. Indeed, in my experience for MO questions references to old papers are not irrelevant (not too few questions deal with things like when was this or that introduced, who proved what exactly, and so on; going sometimes well back to the 1930s and beyond); and rather more relevant than things sufficiently non-main-stream to be not in both. What is true is that MR deals relatively gracefully with getitem-links in the absence of a subscription. However, I am worried that if people develop the habit of linking to MR many will start to implicitly assume that then everybody has the review/abstract handy and assume this in their answers/questions, which as it is not the case could become a problem. [If for some reason it turns out to be necessary to link to MR it is also now not at all hard, and indeed not much harder than with support. I mean the MR or Zbl number is about the last thing I know by heart about a paper; so if I know the MR number I typically have everything else handy too, and in all likelihood even the relevant page open.]

    @Scott Morrison: As WillieWong already pointed out, MathSciNet's Relay Station
    resolves the problem that you pointed out.
    Specifically, its description ( says:

    Subscribers to MathSciNet will go directly to the review which, among other valuable data, provides links to original articles and to online journals.

    Non-MathSciNet subscribers will receive a fully formed MathSciNet citation including an
    MR number and Mathematics Subject Classification as illustrated below.

    MR1444154 (98c:60087) 60J15 (20P05 60B15)
    Chung, F. R. K.; Graham, R. L. Random walks on generating sets for finite groups. The Wilf Festschrift (Philadelphia, PA, 1996). Electron. J. Combin. 4 (1997), no. 2, Research Paper 7, approx. 14 pp. (electronic).

    Additionally, users will see either of the following icons:
    Article Takes the user to the original online article when available.
    Journal Takes the user to the journal if links to the article are not yet available.

    There will be instances when neither the journal or article are available online. Relay Station will still provide users with a full MathSciNet citation.

    @WillieWong and @Dmitri, thanks, I'd forgotten about the relay mechanism. I agree this is fine.


    Okay, maybe someone should suggest a concrete description of what we might do to handle arxiv or MathSciNet references nicely!

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 29th 2011

    I have no concrete suggestion, but one point is important to me. And, this perhaps starts a step earlier. Namely, what is the actual goal, or what should 'handle nicely' mean.

    Asaf's original suggestion was such that using the mechanism would tend to make the MO-post more self-contained; the post would contain full bib-details.

    I would dislike anything that invites making posts less self-contained. For example I would dislike a simple solution like turning !MR123456 into a MR123456 plus linking to the relevant MathSciNet review via getitem; same for arXiv. (This is othogonal to the question whether the full content is visible for everybody or not.)

    I strongly prefer if I can get at least a rough idea (better a precise one, though I know I do not always comply to this when writing) what is linked to whithout clicking through. By contrast, if I have full bib-details a stable link to the official version, the MathSciNet page, the arXiv page,... to me seem like a very minor convenience, basically irrelevant, since these are trivial to find for everybody anyway. In particular, if there are no plans with the MO content I am unanware of and I am not missing something, consistent references do not seem important to me; they would be nice and one could imagine making use of this in one form or another, but not important (the questions are so loosely related that whether Question 1234 and Question 11234 link to the same thing in a different or the same way seems not so important to me). Yet, that posts are self-contained/convenient to read is very important to me.

    I am not sure this will go into this direction, but preemptively: please let us not make a standard, or invite doing, something that is (at least close to the time of writing, that is when most people will read) worse than posting a 'naked' link from which I sometimes can infer much more than from MR123456.

    In my opinion, a 'simple solution' could be worse than not doing anything. And, then I definitely think the latter would be better.

    p.s. I am aware that there are plenty of links of the form 'here', but the question is what is arround, and I believe that there is a psychological difference when writing. When writing: 'see here' it is clear that this is not self-contained and one might thus not do this without giving some context. While 'see MR123456' might give the illusion of being self-contained.


    @quid: I don't think anyone here had the idea of using MR323434 or Ar2342:2344 as titles for the referred links.

    The story is that on math.SE one of the users had a very nice habit of adding a bibliography list, with links when possible. I like that idea and it caught me, as some of my latest posts both here and on math.SE can testify.

    However being a spoiled brat that found out about bibtex before citing anything, I would very much like it if I had some convenience in adding a citation in a post here. Furthermore, since this is the internet I don't even have to give a full bibtex code because this can be handled better by the software. It will also solve the manual labour of finding the link to the paper, adding other markup to the citation and so on.

    Lastly, I believe that if writing [MR123456] will automatically be resolved into a full citation with a link it will increase the number of users that add these citations. I like that in my posts and I like that in other's posts.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 30th 2011

    @Asaf: Yes, I know that you did not have this idea, so I gave your suggestion as an in my opinion positive example. I do not know the ideas of 'anyone'. Dimiti Pavlov suggested "we consider adding a standardized way to refer to MathSciNet" I do not know what the precise suggestion is. But from the further discussion it seems to be about linking to not querying and extracting information from MathSciNet to include it in the post. And if you do not query what else but the number do you have.

    You say (emphasize mine): "I believe that if writing [MR123456] will automatically be resolved into a full citation with a link it will increase the number of users that add these citations. I like that in my posts and I like that in other's posts."

    Yes that would be convenient. But I was not sure everybody was talking about this, as opposed to only a link. And, my point is that support for only a link (which I imagine would be quite straightforward to do) would be worse than nothing, and not a small step in the right direction.

    I am glad to hear that you are convinced everybody agrees on this.

    We can try to adopt Wikipedia's style.
    For example, in the main text one can write something like [MR2763085].
    The MO engine should resolve this into a link of the form [3],
    which should refer to the bottom of the page,
    with an automatically generated item of the form
    [3] Hohnhold, Henning; Kreck, Matthias; Stolz, Stephan; Teichner, Peter.
    Differential forms and 0-dimensional supersymmetric field theories.
    Quantum Topol. 2 (2011), no. 1, 1--41.
    MR2763085, Zbl 05862061, doi:10.4171/QT/12

    The last three items should of course be linked to the corresponding pages.

    @Dmitri: we could even add the actual PDF file to the links for those of us outside the EMS paywall :)

    @José: I fail to see how you could generate such a link algorithmically.

    @Dmitri: I know. I was just curious about the paper you mentioned, couldn't get past the paywall and found it in Teichner's website. I didn't mean to imply you could get it algorithmically -- hence the :)


    I think it is possible, perhaps, to have the tag as either [MR12312311] or as [MR2341234:http://...] when in the latter the link is supplied by hand an being used as link for the citation.