What is a Nanopublication
A nanopublication is the smallest unit of publishable information: an assertion about anything that can be uniquely identified and attributed to its author.

Individual nanopublications can be cited by others and tracked for their impact on the community.

Nanopublications are a natural response to the explosion of high-quality contextual information that overwhelms the capacity of conventional research articles in scholarly communication.

With nanopublications, it is possible to disseminate individual data as independent publications with or without an accompanying research article. Furthermore, because nanopublications can be attributed and cited, they provide incentives for researchers to make their data available in standard formats that drive data accessibility and interoperability.


A nanopublication has three basic elements (aka named graphs):

  1. The Assertion: An assertion is a minimal unit of thought, expressing a relationship between two concepts (called the Subject and the Object) using a third concept (called the Predicate).
  2. The Provenance: This is metadata providing some context about the assertion. Provenance means, ‘how this came to be’  and includes the methods that were used to generate the assertion and attribution metadata such as authors, institutions, time-stamps, grants, links to DOIs, URLs about the assertion.
  3. The Publication Information:  This is metadata about the nanopublication as a whole, and pertains to both the assertion and provenance.  Similar to the provenance graph, the Publication Information contains “citation-like” metadata but pertains to the nanopublication and not just the assertion.

Nanopublications can be serialized using existing ontologies and RDF, allowing nanopublications to be machine readable and opening the door to universal interoperability. In turn, this allows extremely large, heterogeneous and decentralized data to be analyzed for the discovery of new associations that would otherwise be beyond the capacity of human reasoning.

Nanopublication infrastructure is administered by the Concept Web Alliance, and are based on open standards. We anticipate the community-driven evolution of nanopublication formats to fit the changing needs of authors and publishers.

Want to know more?

  • The nanopublication Guidelines  describing the technical specifications.
  • See examples of nanopublications, here
  • The history of nanopublications and other bibliographic information can be found here.