What is a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)?

by Adam Milward , March 10th, 2021

After publishing a dataset, it is necessary to locate and browse its contents. Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) were created for this very purpose: to manage the identification of resources over digital networks and to make the citing of resources, like datasets, easier and identifiable.   

DOIs are unique references that provide information about an object (a resource) and how it can be accessed. These objects or resources can be a journal paper or dataset. These permanent identifiers will lead you to a web page that grants you access to the required data. 

DOIs are helpful when it comes to the publication of datasets and are becoming the standard practice for linking to and citing datasets.   


Reliability. Reliability is imperative in the data environment. Not only must the data itself be reliable, but also its sources in order for it to be effective and trustworthy. 

Citing a web address is particularly risky when publishing a dataset because the web address can change over time and no longer work. That means, if the contents of the dataset changes, people following the link will reach a dead page without finding the dataset they are looking for.

Unlike a URL web address, a DOI reference never changes once it is created. These unique character strings provide a stable reference, so no matter how often an object changes location, it will always be identified. If references, or the objects  content changes significantly, the DOI record is updated and the DOI link remains the same.

Despite being a stable reference though, DOIs should not be mistaken as an automatic guarantee of quality. This is because, not everything with a DOI has been peer reviewed, making the Registration Agency (RA) from which you get your DOI all the more important.

Recognition. DOIs provide a simple way for citing and publishing data, by recognising the value of published data and the effort that has been put into its creation through gathering and compiling, capturing and management. Using a DOI in the publication of datasets provides a seamless method to increase the visibility of published work, granting greater credit and recognition to deserving data owners. 

METADATAWORKS recognises the importance of DOIs in research data and are proud to be a member of DataCite, an organisation that provides DOIs for referencing and sharing scientific datasets. 

To find out how you can mint DOIs using MetadataWorks and make your research outputs more discoverable get in touch.

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