Open, Sustainable, Usable: The Continued Importance of Identifiers

by Cenveo Publisher Services

With the onset of digital publishing, researchers and publishers have had the opportunity not just to provide footnotes or a bibliography but to include links back to source material. By making that information more accessible, challenging or verifying research findings has become easier. But, linking alone is not enough as links can break and there is no uniform style or requirement which publishers must adhere to.

While some publishers and researchers are currently including identifiers in their metadata, there are many who are waiting for wider adoption of these practices before changing their workflow to include them. The benefits of standardized metadata only materialize when they are widely adopted, so with the hope that more publishers will adopt these practices, we want to revisit each of these identifiers and outline their importance for research and scholarly writing.

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Permanent Links to Content

Nearly all journal articles are assigned a unique Digital Object Identified (DOI), which facilitates more efficient management, tracking/searching, and automation by publishing and content management systems. Unlike other links, the benefit of a universal DOI is that it identifies and links to the object permanently, even if it is moved, modified, or updated. It also can contain associated metadata, although the data model requires only a limited set of “kernel” elements. For academic publishing, the primary agency is the nonprofit Crossref, which publishers work with to register an article and created unique DOIs. The use of DOIs has even spread to the entertainment and other industries as content creators realize how important they can be for citing and identifying source material.


To add to the benefit of using DOIs, it solves one of the challenges we see with digital content. When using standard URL links to articles, should the research be updated and reposted, the link is out of date and leads nowhere. With Crossref’s CrossMark service, publishers can send changes, as part of their normal DOI metadata deposits, or as updates. This generates an article-specific logo which the publisher includes in the HTML or PDF version of the article. Clicking on the logo calls up any published changes or retractions, along with other metadata associated with the article DOI, so the research is always current.

Connecting Authors to Their Work

Just as journals have identifiers, so do authors so that they can be digitally linked to all of their work. Commonly referred to as unique author identifiers, an ORCID (Open Researcher & Contributor ID) is, much like a passport number or fingerprint, unique to the individual. ORCIDs are administered by the nonprofit ORCID Inc . Once registered, it can be included in a researcher’s grant applications, CVs, websites, preprints, and of course the published articles themselves. Like DOIs, ORCIDs have also reached a tipping point among academic publishers with ORCID getting their five millionth researcher register for an iD during 2018 and a significant increase in the number of records with at least one connection to another identifier, according to the 2018 annual report.

John Breithaupt, former Director of Operations Management, Office of Publications & Databases, at the American Psychological Association noted the value to other researchers of including ORCID links in the metadata for APA journals. “In the online version of the article, the reader not only sees the author and perhaps his or her email link, but through the ORCID link can see everything else that person has published.”

Crossref has taken the ORCID concept a step further with an automatic update process, whereby authors—upon registration of an article DOI—grant permission for Crossref to automatically add the articles to the author’s ORCID record.

Research Organization Registry Community

Though DOIs and ORCIDs are being used more regularly, one thing that has been lacking in the scholarly community and not as widely used are identifiers for research organizations. That may be changing with the launch of the Research Organization Registry Community (ROR) earlier this year, at PIDapalooza, the two-day Persistent Identifier festival. The launch caused much excitement according to Alice Meadows in Scholarly Kitchen, “not surprisingly, since this community-led project aims to ‘develop an open, sustainable, usable, and unique identifier for every research organization in the world.’”

While journal and author identifiers are being more widely used, adding identifiers for organizations and continuing to advocate for the use of all identifiers will help continue to make scholarly work more easily and more widely accessible for all.

This content was excerpted from our white paper, All Things Connected: Five Factors Affecting the Scholarly Publishing Workflow, by John Parsons.


Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72