Module 18 – Identifiers and Linked Data

In this module we’re talking about linking data! There are two parts of linked data: linking it to you to make sure you get proper credit, and making sure that the data has proper links that are not broken, expired or incorrect. Both of these things are important for increasing the shareability of your research.

First, let’s talk about DOI’s. For those of you in post secondary, you most likely have seen a DOI before, on one of the papers you cited for a project you were doing. DOI’s are practically ubiquitous these days. But what do they mean? And what are they really for?

DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. A DOI is a permanent stable link to an online journal, article or dataset. DOI’s are important because the internet is often impermanent and unstable. Everyone has tried to follow a broken link, or links that default to the homepage of a website. This happens when a page changes its URL, rendering it broken. Broken links look unprofessional and make the web messier and harder to use, which is why DOI’s are highly recommended!

When an article is given a DOI, it becomes a part of a database that makes sure that the links connecting to it are always up to date and will re-route accordingly. For that reason, even if a URL changes, a DOI will always redirect to the correct place.

DOIs are managed by the non-profit organization the International DOI Federation (IDF). All DOIs are assigned by specific registry agencies, however, journals, research institutes and universities are the ones who sign-up with those agencies. So, do not feel alarmed that you’ll have to create and register a DOI on your own.

These registry agencies mint DOI’s which is a fancy way of saying they create them. In certain cases, minting is different from creating a DOI, when it comes to the suffix of the DOI. It is possible to request a unique suffix for your DOI to be minted with, most often using such controlled vocabulary systems such as ISSN or ISBN, however the full identifier will still follow the rest of the rules of DOI minting.

DataCite is one of those specific registry agencies, and is the main organization that Canadian institutions contract to mint their DOIs via DataCite Canada.

Next, we’ll talk about the way to make sure you don’t become disconnected from your research! We’ll focus on ORCID identifiers. ORCID stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID.

An ORCID identifier is similar to a DOI but for you and your research! It’s a stable, permanent digital identifier that connects back to you and makes sure all your research links to the same person. It is also convenient, as you can connect it across many professional systems, meaning less work for you to make sure you’re credited for your work.

Why get an ORCID, you might ask? After all, can’t everyone just find you by your name? One problem with that arises when it comes to people with more common last names, like Smith. If there are multiple people with the same last name and first initial (even if the first names are different) in the same field, this can cause confusion.

There’s also the fact that some organizations list your full name while some use your first name, middle initial, last name or some only first and last. Sometimes you write your name differently depending on what the format is for an organization. All of these things can cause your research to be scattered, some of it under one form of your name, and some under another, meaning that it is harder for people to see your entire body of work.

It is important to be able to show off everything you’ve done in one place for grants or employers.

And ORCID consolidates all your records under a single ID number, which means that when someone searches that ID, they will be taken to your entire list of works.

There are additional identifiers that can be linked to create stability, and one is the Research Organization Registry. These are persistent identifiers for research organizations, allowing all of the research an organization puts out to be easily seen and linked together. However, individual researchers do not apply for these identifiers.

Before you go! Activity to try before the next module:

Sign-up for an ORCID for yourself!