Metanorma: Aequitate Verum

Bibliographic information auto-fetch using DOIs now supported

Author’s picture Nick Nicholas Author’s picture Ronald Tse on 28 Dec 2022


Users have long wished for auto-fetching bibliographic information using publishing identifiers, such as the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which has been a fixture of digital publishing since 1997.

The "DOI identifier" (ratified as ISO 26324 (ISO 26324:2012, ISO 26324:2022)) is a unique identifier for a publication, registered at the DOI service operated by the DOI Foundation through a DOI registration agency.

Today, the DOI has become ubiquitous with many publishers and agencies have embracing it for not only new publications, but also past publications, especially as those publications are reissued online.

Relaton now supports DOI retrival

Relaton, which Metanorma depends on for bibliographic information retrieval, has just announced support for DOI identifier lookups using the Crossref service.

More information on the new features of Relaton-DOI can be found here:

Using DOI auto-fetch in Metanorma bibliographies

Entering a DOI identifier with the doi: prefix at the "reference subject field" (after the comma that delimits the "reference anchor") will indicate to Metanorma that the bibliographic record will be fetched through Relaton (Relaton-DOI to be exact, from the Crossref service). The reference will be formatted according to the required style of the relevant publishing body.

Since this information is fetched through Relaton, you do not need to provide any of the bibliographic information yourself.

There are certain caveats with data completeness and correctness from Crossref, detailed at the Relaton blog post.
Metanorma bibliography using DOI identifier auto-fetch
== Bibliography

* [[[ref1,doi:10.1515/9783110889406.257]]]

Amending bibliographic information fetched using DOIs in Metanorma

While Relaton-DOI provides auto-fetched bibliographic information from Crossref, such Crossref data is not always complete or sufficient for referencing purposes (challenges mentioned at the Relaton blog post).

This means that if the Crossref provided information for a DOI is insufficient, the user must supplement (override) that information.

In Metanorma, the span:…​[] syntax for bibliographic elements allows you to enter bibliographic information for an entry in the absence of data from a bibliographic database.

The same means can be used to add to or emend a reference fetched from Crossref, that we know to be faulty.

  • Data encoded in the title following the bibliographic anchor with span:[] is used to supplement auto-fetched information.

  • If the span information presents information absent in the fetched record, it is added to the record.

  • If the span information presents information corresponding in the fetched record, it overwrites it.

  • Information is broken down by type: if an identifier, or URI, or date is of a given type, it overwrites only identifiers of the same type in the fetched record. The same applies to contributors: contributors of a given type overwrite only contributors of the same type in the fetched record.

  • Information is replaced, not additive.

    If there are multiple authors in the fetched record, they are replaced by the listing of multiple authors in the bibliographic spans.

To illustrate, the following citation modifies the record fetched from Crossref.

Metanorma bibliographic entry with DOI identifier fetch and data override
* [[[ref1,doi:10.1045/november2010-massart]]],[Johnson],[Boris],

The modifications are:

  • The pages span are added to the source record, which contains volume and issue information, but no page information.

  • The authors listed for the source record are overwritten by the single author "Boris Johnson".

  • The date published is overwritten by the new date 2021. The date the article was issued, by contrast, is left alone.


Metanorma users citing publications with DOI identifiers can now keep their fingers "freer" than succumbing to the chore of entering citation information.

When the auto-fetched information from Crossref is insufficient, no fret — at least there is a way to fix that data to your liking!