The DOI System and DataCite

The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) System was designed to provide a form of persistent identification, in which each DOI name unequivocally and permanently identifies the object to which it is associated. The DOI name is connected with a current resource and structured metadata associated with it. Thus the DOI is a unique tool making research data and other electronic resources to individual, citable scientific objects.

The metadata provides users with relevant pieces of information about the objects and their relationships. The mandatory properties deliver all the attributes needed for citation. Included are also network actions that allow DOI names to be resolved to web locations where the objects they describe can be found. To achieve its goals the DOI system combines the Handle System and the indecs Content Model with a social infrastructure.

The Handle System ensures that the DOI name for an object is not based on any changeable attributes of the object such as its physical location or ownership, that the attributes of the object are encoded in its metadata rather than in its DOI name, and that no two objects are assigned the same DOI name.

The indecs Content Model is used within the DOI system to associate metadata with objects. A small kernel of common metadata is shared by all DOI names and can be optionally extended with other relevant data, which may be public or restricted. Registrants may update the metadata for their DOI names at any time, such as when publication information changes or when an object moves to a different URL.

The International DOI Foundation (IDF)oversees the integration of these technologies and operation of the system through a technical and social infrastructure. The social infrastructure of a federation of independent registration agencies offering DOI services was modelled on existing successful federated deployments of identifiers such as GS1 and ISBN. DataCite is the global registration agency offering service for persistent identification of research data.

The global consortium DataCite is the official DOI registration agency for research data and grey literature. DataCite promotes the use of DOIs for published datasets, in order to establish easier access to research data, to increase the acceptance of research data as legitimate contributions in the scholarly record, and to support data archiving to permit results to be verified and repurposed for the future.

By working with data centres to assign persistent identifiers to datasets, DataCite is developing an infrastructure that supports simple and effective methods of data citation, discovery, and access. Citable datasets become legitimate contributions to scholarly communication, paving the way for new metrics and publication models that recognise and reward data sharing.

DataCite’s Managing Agent is the German National Library of Science and Technology, TIB; currently there are 18 members from 14 countries

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a character string (a "digital identifier") used to uniquely identify an object such as texts, datasets, films, etc. Metadata about the object is stored in association with the DOI name and this metadata must include a location, such as a URL, where the object can be found.

The DOI name for an object is permanent, whereas its location and other metadata may change. Referring to an online document by its DOI name provides more stable linking than simply referring to it by its URL, because if the URL changes, the publisher needs only update the metadata for the DOI to link to the new URL.

Since May 2012, the DOI system is a published ISO standard 26324:2012 (http://www.iso.org/iso/pressrelease.htm?refid=Ref1561).

For additional information please contact us at doi-info@tib.uni-hannover.de

What does a DOI name look like?

The DOI name consists of a unique, alphanumeric character sequence, which is divided into two parts, a prefix and a suffix. 

The prefix is assigned by the registration agency. The suffix is assigned by the data centre, i.e. the institution that is responsible for the contents.

When assigning a suffix, remember that the DOI name is an opaque string (a dumb number). No definitive information can or should be interpreted from the number in use. The DOI name remains persistent through ownership changes.

Why do I need a DOI Name?

1. Citability

Datasets signed with a DOI name are citable like any other source. A DOI name enables the user to elegantly link between a paper and the data that is cited in it.

This dataset:

Kuhlmann, H et al. (2009):
Age models, iron intensity, magnetic susceptibility records and dry bulk density of sediment cores from around the Canary Islands.


is analysed in this article:

Kuhlmann, Holger; Freudenthal, Tim; Helmke, Peer; Meggers, Helge (2004): Reconstruction of paleoceanography off NW Africa during the last 40,000 years: influence of local and regional factors on sediment accumulation. Marine Geology, 207(1-4), 209-224,


If datasets are routinely cited they will start to achieve a validity and significance within the scholarly communications cycle.

2. Persistent Identification

The DOI uniquely, unequivocally und permanently identifies the assigned object. Unlike a URL, which "breaks" the moment a website’s sitemap is reorganized, or the item is moved to a different server, the DOI ensures permanent links, because if the URL for something changes, the owner of the object simply updates one central DOI record.

3. Availability of information on the Web

The DOI associates metadata with objects, allowing it to provide users with relevant pieces of information about the objects and their relationships. Included as part of this metadata are network actions that allow DOI names to be resolved to web locations where the objects they describe can be found. To achieve its goals, the DOI system combines the Handle System and the index Content Model with a social infrastructure.

4. Semantic Interoperability

The metadata associated with a DOI enables direct, precise communicating – with each user, from every location, at every point in the production/distribution chain – with regard to every detail of the objects related with one another.

5. Get the impact of your data publications

The new ORCID-integrated citation tool enables the connection of the research outputs – including datasets, software out of the Data Cite Metadata Store to their ORCID profile. This should increase the visibility of these research outputs, and will make it easier to use these data citations in applications that connect to the ORCID Registry – ImpactStory is one of several services already doing this. This tool is part of the output from the EU project ODIN.

Sign in with ORCID here: http://datacite.labs.orcid-eu.org/

Useful Links

Access to all versions of the DataCite metadata schema, with documentation, schema definition, and examples.

Search engine for all metadata stored by DataCite.

Datacite‘s OAI-PMH service which allows access to the metadata.

DataCite Content Service exposes metadata using multiple formats.

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