[Taxacom] In defense of DOIs

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Feb 15 17:27:25 CST 2010

Rod's list of attractive features of the DOi is impressive. 
For those without the funds to participate, such as those operating monandpop journals (listen up, rogue publishers!) may I suggest the Informal Persistent Locator (IPL). This is an alphanumeric code generated randomly or pseudorandomly that is long enough not to be duplicated within geologic time by other randomly generated strings. Tack it on your article and cite it in your bibliography and you should always be able to find copies anywhere they may be on the Web.
whatever. Presto, a poor man's DOI, working solely as locator, unattached to any special bibliographic infrastructure beyond spidering. 
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Roderic Page
Sent: Mon 2/15/2010 4:15 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] In defense of DOIs

Dear Stephen,

In one of your recent posts (http://markmail.org/message/fokdb5ipl2th2b4k
  ) you "applaud Zootaxa for not wanting to enter into the DOI money-
go-round, which would have resulted in less new taxonomy being 
published due to more time/money being wasted on pointless beauracracy 

I'm as much against  pointless bureaucracy as anybody, but I'm not 
sure you are aware of the benefits DOIs bring to electronic 
publication. DOIs underpin stable citation linking in modern journals, 
and have several advantages over raw URLs.

1. Every time they changed web site technology there was a good chance 
URLs to articles would change, breaking existing links. DOIs hide this 
using indirection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indirection ).

2. When publishers merge or are acquired (e.g., Wiley and Blackwell) 
the DOIs don't change, whereas the URLs to the articles do (publishers 
don't want their URLs "branded" with the names of former rivals that 
they have bought out). This means users can blissfully ignore who is 
publishing the content, the links "just work".

3. If the list of literature cited on an article web page use URLs, 
then a publisher is effectively branding their content with URLs to 
rival publishers. DOIs "hide" this, making linking much more palatable 
to publishers.

But the real benefits come from the services provided by CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org <http://www.crossref.org/> 
  )that underlie DOIs. For example,

1. Given a DOI I can retrieve details about the publication (e.g., 
article title, journal, etc.). No more typing bibliographies. This 
service has spawned a whole ecosystem of bibliographic tools such as http://www.connotea.org <http://www.connotea.org/> 
,  http://citeulike.org <http://citeulike.org/> , http://www.zotero.org <http://www.zotero.org/> , and http://www.mendeley.com <http://www.mendeley.com/> 
  that make it easy to manage bibliographies online (these sites are 
also generating social networks of researchers on the back of this 

2. Given article metadata I can find the DOI (if it exists). This 
service enables publishers to convert lists of papers cited to 
actionable links. It also enables sites such as Wikipedia to 
automatically convert citations into clickable links.

But there is more. Given that when a publisher registers an article 
with CrossRef the publisher can submit a list of DOIs for the 
publications cited by that article, CrossRef can provide "forward 
linking", which means that for any article the publisher can list not 
only the papers cited, but who is citing that article.

Imagine an article in Nature that cites a publication in, say, 
Zootaxa. At the moment, the Nature article has no link to the Zotaxa 
paper. The reader has to Google the paper. Furthermore, once they find 
the Zootaxa paper, the reader has no information on who has cited that 
paper. If I was a Zootaxa author, I'd love to know what papers were 
citing my work.

I fully accept that DOIs add additional work load and cost to 
publication, and that these are not trivial considerations. But please 
don't dismiss DOIs as pointless bureaucracy. I'd argue DOIs have been 
an extraordinary success, and the academic publishing landscape would 
be a mess without them (or services that provided the same 

Lastly, imagine if we had similar services for the other things we 
care about, such as taxonomic names and specimens. Services that gave 
us metadata about these things, as well as told us how they are 
interrelated (e.g., this name was published in this article, this 
specimen is the holotype for this name, etc.). In other words, 
something like CrossRef for biology. This is why I'm in  biodiversity 
informatics -- I want a CrossRef for biodiversity.

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