Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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What's your DOI?

Mon, 04 May 2009

I would hope everyone in academic knows what a DOI (or digital object identifier) is. And to quote Wikipedia, it's a "permanent digital identifier given to an object." This is actually a very wide remit dealing with a vast number of "name spaces", but most academics associate it with the funny string of numbers at the end of a reference in a journal article, thus:

Skidmore AK. 1989. A comparison of techniques for calculating gradient and aspect from a gridded digital elevation model. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems 3(4): 323334. doi:10.1080/02693798908941519

This is a persistent identifier, so simply prefix it with thus:

to be taken to a landing page for the article. All very clever stuff and it makes data discovery (and recovery) much easier. Of course it means every article needs a DOI and the publishers need to assign them. As publishing is just one area of DOIs, there is a registrar that deals with this on behalf of the DOI Foundation called CrossRef. Publishers enter article level metadata, including the DOI, set up a landing page and... voila, it all works!

Of course to make the most of the system it helps if all authors, when they write their articles, attach the DOI to all the references as well, however it can be a pain to trawl through all the papers and find this. Well CrossRef have a variety of DOI tools available, including one for a "reverse lookup". That is, feed in the article details and retrieve the DOI (rather than the usual other way round). And they use some clever processing from eXtyles to achieve this through their appropriately named Simple Text Query. Copy all your references and paste them (in one go) in to the text box and press "Submit". For every article it uses some clever algorithms to work out exactly which paper it is and then matches it to the DOI database returning the full details to you. An excellent service that just works faultlessly; invaluable research tool.

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