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Clarivate Analytics Acquires Kopernio

Smart Libraries Newsletter [May 2018]


Copyright (c) 2018 ALA TechSource

Abstract: In recent years, several companies in the scholarly publishing industry have expanded their portfolios with new workflow and analytics products and services. In a move consistent with this trend, Clarivate Analytics has acquired Kopernio, a company that has created a web browser extension that facilitates access to scholarly articles. The acquisition of the product further extends the tools Clarivate Analytics offers in scholarly communications arena.

In recent years, several companies in the scholarly publishing industry have expanded their portfolios with new workflow and analytics products and services. In a move consistent with this trend, Clarivate Analytics has acquired Kopernio, a company that has created a web browser extension that facilitates access to scholarly articles. The acquisition of the product further extends the tools Clarivate Analytics offers in scholarly communications arena.

Kopernio: A Browser Extension for Viewing Articles

Kopernio bills itself as doing something similar for scientific literature as Spotify does for music, providing a simple and legal way to access and save scholarly articles. Services such as Google Scholar make it relatively easy to discover a scholarly article, but gaining access to the PDF of the article itself can be much more challenging. Researchers often encounter deadends, paywalls, or authentication issues. Kopernio was born out of the frustration researchers encounter in the complicated and unreliable processes they face in finding the information they need for their work.

Kopernio belongs to the genre of browser extensions that facilitate access to scholarly articles. Once installed in the user's web browser, it automates the steps involved in obtaining the PDF of articles. It is not a search or discovery service, but a tool that streamlines access to the PDF of an article with a single click once an article of interest has been identified. For articles not available through library subscriptions, it attempts to locate versions that may be available as open access.

The key function of Kopernio lies in helping a researcher find the best version of the full text of an article—almost always provided in PDF format, independently of the search tool or interface used to find it. It works behind the scenes, activating a visual bar in the browser, which presents a “View PDF” button that loads the full text of the article with a single click. Kopernio takes care of the details behind the scenes to find the best PDF version of the article, formulating the correct version of the link needed to view it. Kopernio works with common scholarly search environments, such as Google Scholar and PubMed. Its work begins once the researcher lands on an article of interest. Without the browser extension, finding the full text PDF of an article from its citation can be a convoluted process, depending on whether it is available through the library's subscriptions or if the researcher is working from the campus network, or other complications.

Legal Access to Resources

Kopernio operates entirely within the realm of the official scholarly communications ecosystem and does not rely on pirate sites that may not respect the copyrights of publishers or scholars. It does not circumvent the access restrictions on articles to which the researcher's institution does not subscribe, but rather attempts to find open access versions that may have been deposited on disciplinary repository, such as ArXiv, an institutional repository, or on the personal blog of its author.

Researchers continually deal with obstacles in the scholarly publishing ecosystem. Scholarly articles may be available directly from publishers via library subscriptions, on disciplinary pre-print servers, institutional repositories, or posted on blogs of researchers. Much of the literature resides within proprietary resources that require institutional subscriptions for access. Those attempting to access these articles without an active subscription will encounter a paywall prompting for payment. Libraries aim to purchase subscriptions to the most important resources and provide basic mechanisms to enable access to those affiliated with the institution to gain access.

Kopernio interoperates with link resolvers that libraries provide for the resource covered within their subscriptions. For those not available within institutional subscriptions, it determines if an open access version is available.

Even when the library has subscribed to the resource, affiliated users must be authenticated to gain access. Researchers can record their institutional credentials securely within Kopernio. These credentials are then available to login to the library's proxy service or the institutional authentication service to gain access to restricted resources available through library subscriptions. Kopernio avoids the need to install a VPN (virtual private network) client or other complex mechanisms to access subscribed resources from off-campus.

Kopernio facilitates access to PDF copies of articles regardless of the search environment employed. A researcher can begin with general search tools, such as Google or Google Scholar, to find the landing page for an article of interest. It automatically detects and activates links for articles covered by library subscriptions and offers suggestions for open access versions for articles not covered. Once the browser loads the page with the citation, it works behind the scenes to find the PDF of the article:

  • If the researcher is working from their own institutional network and their library has obtained a subscription, then no additional processing is needed for Kopernio to present the “Access PDF” button. Kopernio can also locate pre-prints or other versions of the article if the researcher is interested.
  • If the researcher is working from outside the institutional network, Kopernio can use saved authentication credentials to transparently login to the library's link resolver to present proxied versions of the link to the desired article.
  • If the researcher's library does not have an active subscription with the publisher of the article, Kopernio will perform a search against the oaDOI database and other relevant resources to attempt to locate a copy of some version of the article on an open access repository.

Kopernio cannot provide a link to the PDF in all cases. No library subscribes to every scholarly resource, and open access versions are not always available. Its performance, however, should improve over time in tandem with the growth in open access publishing.

In addition to its core features for viewing PDF versions of articles, Kopernio includes additional features for storing and sharing them. It provides a storage area for the user, called a locker, to place any articles accessed for future reading. The article locker resides in cloud storage provided by Kopernio, so that it can be accessed across a user's multiple devices.

Kopernio Company Background

Kopernio traces its development to “Canary Haz” developed by Dr. Peter Vincent and Benjamin Kaube, both affiliated with the Imperial College London, to simplify finding scientific papers. Canary Haz Limited was established in July 2016. Kopernio was founded in July 2017 by Jan Reichelt and Benjamin Kaube as the successor company to Canary Haz. Reichelt served as its Chief Executive Officer. In February 2018, Kopernio received funding from Innovate UK, an agency of the UK government to accelerate innovation. At this time, the product was renamed from Canary Haz to Kopernio. Its acquisition by Clarivate Analytics in April 2018 represents a very rapid trajectory from the development of a prototype product, the launch of a startup, and initial rounds of investment to the culmination of its strategic acquisition by a major commercial enterprise.

Clarivate Analytics Background

Clarivate Analytics is a major corporation involved in scholarly publishing, offering competing products and services to Elsevier, Digital Science, and others. The company traces its corporate history to the Intellectual Property and Science division of Thompson Reuters. In 2016, this part of the organization was separated and acquired by investment firms Onex and Baring Private Equity Asia for $3.55 billion. The company is based in Philadelphia, has over 4,000 employees, and is active in over 100 countries. Its products in its Scientific and Academic Research group include Web of Science, Endnote, InCites, and Publons.

Details of the Acquisition

Clarivate Analytics will become the primary investor in Kopernio and will accelerate its development and integrate it with its other products and services. The founders of Kopernio will take new roles within Clarivate Analytics.

Jan Reichelt joined Clarivate as the Managing Director for Web of Science and will continue to oversee the strategic development of Kopernio. He had previously co-founded Mendeley along with Victor Henning in 2008. Mendeley was acquired by Elsevier in April 2013.

Ben Kaube joined Clarivate as the Managing Director for Kopernio. Kaube, along with Freddie Witherden had previously founded and served as the Chief Technical Officer of Newsflo, a service to monitor the coverage of scientific research in scientific and popular news media. Newsflo was acquired by Elsevier in January 2015.

Competing and Related Products

Kopernio belongs to a growing genre of products employing similar techniques and technologies. Several browser extensions have been developed to address various aspects of the challenges in accessing scholarly articles. Each addresses the issues differently with different features and capabilities.


Unpaywall is a free browser extension created by Impactstory, a non-profit organization specializing in developing tools for open access scholarly publications. It offers the same basic capability as Kopernio in enabling researchers to bypass paywalls for restricted articles not available through their institutions subscriptions.

Impactstory developed a large-scale citation database designed to improve access to open access scientific literature. Originally known as oaDOI, but now branded as Unpaywall Data, this resource currently indexes over 100 million scientific papers and includes links to the full text for those available as open access. The resource currently links to about 18 million open access articles. This data facilitates discovery of open access resources to users of Unpaywall and other tools. Impactstory provides access to the Unpaywall Data via an API and copies of the database to other non-profits and through commercial arrangements. Link resolvers can integrate with the Unpaywall Data API to provide links to open access copies for articles where full text is not available through the library subscription.

The Unpaywall browser extension operates as a front-end to the Unpaywall Data, detecting citations and overlaying an unlocked padlock icon for those that can be accessed for free when open access copies are found.

In a related event, Clarivate Analytics entered a partnership in June 2017 with Impactstory. Clarivate contributed data for 18 million open access articles from its Web of Science citation database to oaDOI. This partnership provided a significant expansion of open access resources represented within the resource, benefiting those that use Unpaywall and other tools based on oaDOI.

Impactstory was established as a non-profit in December 2012 by Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar. The organization has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Albert P. Sloan Foundation in support of their research and development of their services and products.

Lean Library

Lean Library offers a browser extension branded as Library Access that facilitates access to scholarly resources. It emerged from a prototype originally developed at Utrecht University Library, which gained distinction through its strategy not to offer its own discovery service but to encourage the use of Google Scholar and other disciplinary resources.

The Library Access browser extension from Lean Library facilitates access to scholarly content provided by the library. The extension sits in the background until the user opens a resource available with the library's subscriptions, and then it presents the versions of the link from the institution's proxy server. Library Access works to make it easier to access library-provided resources, removing any complications related to authentication from on-campus and off-campus locations. Like Unpaywall and Kopernio, it also attempts to find open access copies when subscribed versions are not available. Lean Library focuses on the perspective of the library to assist its users in gaining easier access to subscribed resources and to provide analytics related to usage that can be used to inform decisions on developing its collection of electronic resources. Lean Library appeals to libraries through its policy of not sharing or selling usage data. The data it collects is anonymized and not shared beyond the library.

Lean Library was founded by Johan Tilstra in October 2016 with assistance from UtrechtInc, an incubator that provides services and financing to new startups. Prior to launching, Lean Library Tilstra was affiliated with Utrecht University.

Perspective on the Acquisition

Clarivate Analytics competes with Elsevier as a provider of workflow and analytic products and services for scholarly communications. The acquisition of Kopernio, which was created by individuals that founded companies that Elsevier acquired, illustrates the competitive nature of the current arena of tools related to scholarly communications workflows. Within this sector, Elsevier, Digital Science, and Clarivate Analytics are each working to build product portfolios that will give them more traction and engagement with researchers in the production and consumption of scientific data and literature.

Clarivate, as a company with interests in developing products and services on analytics surrounding scholarly communications, will likely benefit from data added into its ecosystem from Kopernio. Usage data created from the perspective of a researcher's web browser represents an intimate view of the patterns of work of researchers and students, including search behavior and content resources queried and accessed. Although it is not known what data Clarivate Analytics may collect and use as it integrates Kopernio into its ecosystem of products and services, it seems natural for a company deeply engaged with research analytics to see the potential for value. Clarivate Analytics has shown involvement in this sector previously through its partnership with Impactstory. The acquisition of Kopernio as a service that incorporates Impactstory data into its internal workflow can also be seen as leveraging that investment.

Related News: Reestablishment of ISI

In February 2018, Clarivate Analytics revived the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) as a research and innovation center within the company, addressing a variety of issues, such as developing new metrics for scientific literature. The original ISI was founded in 1960 and developed bibliographic indexing products, including the Science Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index, which eventually became the core components of the company's Web of Science product. ISI was acquired by Thompson Scientific and Healthcare in 1992, taking the name Thompson ISI. Through subsequent business transactions, the heritage of ISI lives within the portfolio of Clarivate Analytics.

The new ISI division of Clarivate Analytics will be led by Samantha Burridge, Director of Strategy and Transformation.

View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 05
Issue:May 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:23507
Last Update:2018-10-28 07:05:00
Date Created:2018-05-30 09:25:33