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ACL Citations

This repo contains data and code for the paper:

Please use the official ACL Anthology BibTeX entry to cite this paper, e.g. when you use our dataset.

In addition to this repo, we also published an archive with the extracted text files and ParsCit XML files generated as part of our experimental pipeline (see below).


We include three data files that we base our analysis on:

  • acl-parscit.tsv contains the years of papers cited in the References section of ACL Anthology papers. It is a TSV file with the following columns:

    1. The ACL Anthology ID of the paper we extracted references from.
    2. The year of publication of that paper.
    3. A comma-separated list of years of publications for papers in the References section.
  • citations-all.tsv additionally contains author/title information for each cited paper. It is a TSV file with one reference entry per line and the following columns:

    1. The ACL Anthology ID of the paper the reference is extracted from.
    2. The year of publication of the extracted reference.
    3. The author list of the extracted reference.
    4. The title of the extracted reference.
  • citations-all.matched.tsv is the result of running citations-all.tsv through our fuzzy-matching algorithm. It is a TSV file with one reference entry per line and the following columns:

    1. An ID for the extracted reference.
    2. The number of times this reference was cited in our dataset.
    3. The year of publication of the extracted reference.
    4. Its author list.
    5. Its title.
    6. A comma-separated list of ACL Anthology IDs of papers that were identified as citing this reference.

Reproducing the pipeline

To reproduce the full pipeline we used, starting from extracting the citation data from PDFs, here are the steps that you need to take.


  1. Install requirements for Python scripts in this repo:

    pip install -r requirements.txt

  2. Install ParsCit.

    a. Clone the ParsCit repository.

    b. Install the following Perl libraries:

    cpan install XML::Twig
    cpan install XML::Writer
    cpan install XML::Writer::String

    These are the ones most likely to not be installed on your system by default, but a full list can be found in ParsCit's installation instructions.

    c. Install CRF++. The ParsCit repo comes with version 0.51, which didn't compile on my system, so I downloaded the most recent version 0.58 instead from the CRF++ website.

    Basically, you need to compile CRF++ from scratch and then copy some compiled files to the ParsCit directory:

    cp -Rf crf_learn crf_test .libs ParsCit/crfpp/

    d. You should now be able to run ParsCit, which you can try by cding to ParsCit/bin and running:

    ./ -m extract_all ../demodata/sample2.txt

Running the pipeline

  1. Download the desired PDF files from the Anthology by specifying their IDs. Wildcards ? and * are allowed. The following would fetch all long and short papers from NAACL 2018:

    python ./ fetch 'N18-1*' 'N18-2*'

    The downloaded files will be in a subfolder pdf/N18/.

  2. Convert the PDFs to text, e.g.:

    find pdf/ -name '*.pdf' -exec pdftotext -raw "{}" "{}.txt" \;

    (If the PDFs do not have embedded text, a full OCR pipeline would be required here, but we're only dealing with PDF files that do have text.)

  3. Run the text files through ParsCit:

    find pdf/ -name '*.txt' -exec perl -X ./ -m extract_citations "{}" "{}.xml" \;

    (The -X flag prevents you from getting spammed with countless deprecation warnings that will probably appear...)

  4. Extract the citation years from the parsed XML files:

    python ./ pdf/* --csv N18.csv -f parscit

N18.csv will be a tab-separated file containing the paper ID in the first column, paper published date in the second column, and a comma-separated list of years of cited papers in the third column.

Note: Steps 2--4 are also implemented in the script bin/, which might be a better starting point for actually running this.


Here is a brief overview of included scripts. All scripts will provide the -h/--help flag to obtain more information about their exact usage.

  • downloads PDFs from the ACL Anthology based on ID prefixes.

  • is used to produce citations-all.tsv from the parsed ParsCit XML files.

  • is used to obtain the number of publications in the Anthology, by year and publication venue. (Used to produce Figure 1 in the paper.)

  • implements the fuzzy-matching algorithm and is used to produce citations-all.matched.tsv from the citations-all.tsv file.

  • extracts the years of cited papers from the parsed ParsCit XML files.

  • is the full extraction pipeline, described above.

  • is a convenience script to get stats about where and how often the extraction process encountered problems.


Analyzing what people cite in the ACL Anthology







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