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Confidence, and the business of persistent identification

Editorial note: A version of this blog post was previously published in the JISC IE Technical Foundations blog.

The persistent identification of resources is a foundational element of the JISC Information Environment. There are several schemes and technologies available to support this, with one of the most prominently used in the JISC IE being the Digital Object Identifier (DOI). Built on the Handle technology, the DOI, under the stewardship of the not-for-profit International DOI Foundation (IDF), adds the important element of collective commitment and management, based on straightforward business interests. DOIs are allocated and managed through Registration Agencies (RAs).

DOI has become somewhat synonymous with scholarly publishing, with most people working in the JISC IE having encountered them in citations for papers in online journals and repositories. However, while publishers continue to play an important role in minting and using DOIs, the use of DOIs to persistently identify datasets produced in research is growing in significance. Last year saw the creation of a new RA - DataCite, which deals with this relatively new and growing area.

There has been much debate over the years about the persistent identification of resources - especially at the technical level. Yet all technical solutions are bound, eventually, to come up against the issue of the persistence, or lack thereof, of organisations of people. In the JISC IE space we can see that publishers come and go, and that journal titles, for example, merge or change ownership from time to time. Universities, seen by many as very persistent organisations (a pre-conception which might, sadly, be tested in the next few years) do, nonetheless, merge and change.

The creation of a body which has as its primary goal the management of the persistence of identifiers - essentially the role of the Registration Agency in DOI - is an approach to addressing this lack of permanence. Within the 'ecosystem' of the RAs, each participant has a vested interest not only in maintaing their own identifiers, but in ensuring that the system as a whole continues to function well. From this point of view, it is in the interests of all participants that the commitment from others is strong which means that the addition of new RAs, such as DataCite, can only be a good thing.

Over the last year or so, IDF has been working with MovieLabs as part of a project to establish the not-for-profit Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR). This initiative includes the establishment of a new Registration Agency for DOIs for all digital resources created for TV and film by a consortium of many of the major producers in the entertainment industry. EIDR is actively seeking more participants, and offers a variety of types of membership.

While the engagement of this new industry may not be directly relevant to many people working in the scope of the JISC IE, the confidence and investment which this industry has placed in the DOI system is significant. This development increases the viability of DOI in general and, as such, should make it a more attractive prospect to those working in the JISC IE and in HE in the UK generally.

Essentially, confidence is an important aspect of persistence - and significant buy-in to DOI from such different sectors, commercial and public, should increase confidence in this solution.

A whitepaper about EIDR is available on request.

An introduction to DOI in a higher education context (set of presentation slides)

Dr. Radut | blog_post_tf