Digital Identifiers the New Persistent Identifiers

2011-12-02. British Library, London. The EU (FP7) funded Digoiduna project has come out with its recommendations on what it is calling “digital identifiers”, which (for lack of a better phrase) seems to be ‘a re-branding exercise’ for the “Persistent Identifiers” community.  However (as I understand it), “Digital Identifier” as used by the Digoiduna project is actually an umbrella term that includes “persistent identifiers” as just one of the layers in the identifiers stack; the additional layers they have put atop the technology stack of PIDs include:

  • A.) interoperability (both machine and human), e.g. do URNs and DOIs both do content negoations to machine readable data or do the humans even agree that ‘content negotiation’ is the correct method to expose machine readable metadata from the identifier?
  • B.) stakeholder engagement, e.g. what reputation does the identifier have: do scholarly think links are Academic or DOI links are more academic?
  • C.) cultural influences, e.g. does the UK respect centralised big business companies as the sole priopritier of their most important links in comparison to how the US feels about government providing centralised leadership?
  • D.) temporal status, e.g. what are realistic models for persisting citable links over time, not just flippant statements like “forever” but real cost models for 10 years, 50 years, 100 years, 500 years and so on, how do we actually start to compare models for time?

The Digoiduna project analysis of "Persistent Identifiers" has resulted in a new definition for PIDs (and therefore new multi-dimensional 'brand') now called 'Digital Identifiers' (DIs).

While we still need to look over the full Digoiduna report in depth, this change in perspective (the new ‘DI’ brand) for PIDs is a welcome change from JISC’s PoV as our previous reports in the area support a complex view of identifiers which are primarily driven by the user need (personally, I think Digoiduna could be a bit more user-centric in their presentation of this new identifier stack), but on the whole their call to action to “mobilise resources” is a welcome one:

“…promote actions to mobilize technical, human, financial resources aiming at triggering a wider demand of usage…”

This recommendation clearly support the previous work JISC has been done in Persistent Identifiers and in fact we are hoping to take more real world action in supporting further end user technologies, to quote from our own report:

“JISC should draw a line under long-running arguments about particular persistent identifier schemes and instead should focus its efforts on enabling HEI’s to choose and implement schemes appropriate to their needs… [support] should be provided on how an HEI might choose between identifier schemes based on their own needs and contexts…the pros and cons of various approaches in different circumstances, for different purposes, should be outlined… [especially on how] the adoption and management on the various identifier schemes available.” –JISC Consultation on Identifiers 2010

The other encouraging aspect of the Digoiduna work is that they are highlighting efforts such as the Den Haag Manifesto which *is* ‘drawing a line under long-running arguments’ and embracing the potential there is to be had by persistent identifier and linkeddata communities coming together.  While the Den Haag manifesto might still have some technical difficulties it is the importance of not always arguing about the correct way forward and just trying to move forward in areas where we can collaborate and interoperate without trying to claim one is better (aka more persistent) than the other (just do it).

This hope for the community adopting a “fail fast; fail soon” attitude was further supported by the announcement by Salvatore Mele of CERN and Jan Brase of Datacite and the German National Technical Library that they would be looking to work together to make author identifiers (OrcIDs) and scholarly resource identifiers (DOIs) interoperate (hopefully via linkeddata methods); naturally this kind of bibliographic metadata profile that DOIs can provide cross-linked to author profile metadata (OrcID) is one where real value could be generated on behalf of the scholarly community by using both linkeddata and persistent digital identifier techniques (e.g. content negotiation, redirection, abstraction, etc).

Finally, I’ll end this post with a bit of gossip that JISC is itself hoping to launch a couple of new projects in the identifier space that will take action in providing end users tools that easily integrate “Digital Identifiers” into scholarly workflows (this alongside the ongoing work we already have done in this space).

In short, the PID arena has been ‘too much chatter and not enough action’ for some time and that needs to change; accordingly, we are currently looking at taking forwards some new efforts in the space that could really help make scholars lives easier in their day to day use of identifiers. These projects are in planning and as yet not guaranteed to happen…but fingers crossed they will. Stay tuned :)

Post written by David F. Flanders (with help from his Digital Infrastructure team colleagues, special thanks to Rachel Bruce and Neil Jacobs for suggested amendments).  David is an Innovation Programme Manager for the Digital Infrastructure Team.

6 thoughts on “Digital Identifiers the New Persistent Identifiers

  1. Ian Mulvany

    Hi Dave,

    We’ll keep an eye on what’s happening in this space. We are very keen to make our resources interoperable with as many persistent identifiers that we can. We have our own internal data challenges, but lots of plans in the new year to make our own identifiers much more transparent.

    – Ian

  2. Ian Mulvany

    Also, I did a quick google search for “Digioduna” but not web sites came up, it looks like this project doesn’t have a findable non-persistent identifier, are there any links to the project?

    – Ian

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