Persistent identifier project set to roll out

Article dated: 21 September 2011

Work on the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) project at the UK Data Archive is moving forward with a pilot launch in late September 2011. This unique system promises to improve data citations over time. persistent identifiers

This work, done in consultation with the DataCite organisation and the British Library, is set to benefit researchers who are discouraged by the temporary nature of many web-based data citations that change or break over time. Our goal is to ensure that descriptions of all revisions to the data remain visible and accessible – while retaining the researchers' link to the exact instance of the data they originally cited.


The DOI framework is an international standard for identifying objects in a unique way. By using a DOI, you are ensuring that even if the location of an object changes, the DOI will always link to the same object.

In the new system, a DOI used on its own or as part of a citation will resolve to a 'change log' which identifies the full history of amendments made to a study over its lifetime. The study may change for a number of reasons, for example: a new wave is added to a series; we or the data producers have found a way to enrich the usability of the data; the underlying file formats have changed to support preservation; in response to requests from our community of users.

To the Archive, a changed digital object is a new digital object while to researchers, a study is an entity which may be expected to grow and improve over time.

For this reason, the new system differentiates between 'low-impact' changes (such as an amended catalogue record) and 'high-impact' changes (for example, updates which could affect the ability to replicate results). In the case of high-impact changes, a new DOI will be generated and the study citation updated.

As material is often deposited with access restrictions – and some information is necessarily protected – a DOI cannot take a user directly to the data, so the new system will generate a separate 'jump' page providing the full history of the study and each DOI associated with it. A DOI will remain persistent over time, greatly facilitating data citation and improving the visibility of associated research. At the same time, presenting all DOIs related to a study in one location ensures visibility for the most recent versions of the data.

When the system is released publicly later this year, the latest DOI on the jump page will always direct users to the data via its catalogue record. The jump page will be fully integrated into the data catalogue during the planned redevelopment of the ESDS website. In this way, researchers using UK Data Archive citations incorporating DOIs can be confident that they will persistently identify the original data source while providing seamless access to later revisions.