CiteSeer's goal is to improve the dissemination and access of academic and scientific literature. As a non-profit service that can be freely used by anyone, it has been considered as part of the open access movement that is attempting to change academic and scientific publishing to allow greater access to scientific literature. CiteSeer freely provided Open Archives Initiative metadata of all indexed documents and links indexed documents when possible to other sources of metadata such as DBLP and the ACM Portal. To promote open data, CiteSeerx shares its data for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons license.
The name can be construed to have at least two explanations. As a pun, a 'sightseer' is a tourist who looks at the sights, so a 'cite seer' would be a researcher who looks at cited papers. Another is a 'seer' is a prophet and a 'cite seer' is a prophet of citations. CiteSeer changed its name to ResearchIndex at one point and then changed it back.