[Taxacom] In defense of DOIs

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Feb 17 20:03:49 CST 2010

small correction:
... because it would lose all the extra hits via the URLs

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle [deepreef at bishopmuseum.org]
Sent: Thursday, 18 February 2010 1:30 p.m.
To: 'taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu'
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] In defense of DOIs

I've been following this thread with great interest, but limited time to
participate.  Paul Kirk stole my thunder a bit just now, but I still want to
take the opportunity of Rod's original post on DOI's,  Wolfgang's message,
and a couple of other replies to clear a few things up, and to try to
explain where things are going in biodiversity informatics-land.

First, regarding Rod's post on DOIs, he provided two lists of advantages to
DOIs.  The first list (which included thee numbered points) apply equally to
all resolvable identifiers, of which DOIs are just one example.  The second
part of Rod's post (what he deemed as "the real benefits" of DOIs) described
how DOIs *in particular* (unlike any other resolvable identifiers) work
within the CrossRef paradigm.  I fully agree with Rod -- this is one of the
two main advantages of DOIs, compared with other kinds of resolvable
identifiers. The other is that DOIs are maintained and perpetuated by a
third party (external to the issuer, and external to the consumer), and thus
*seem* like they might have greater persistence (or, conversely, may
instantaneously have zero persistence if the whole DOI framework goes under
-- not a likely scenario).

The one big disadvantage to DOIs that everyone always points to is the cost.
Whether or not the cost is "huge" or "trivial" depends on the context.  A
journal publishing, say, 500 articles a year could probably absorb the $500
for the DOIs, which really is trivial compared to all the other costs
associated with publishing a journal of that size each year.  On the other
hand, if we want to use DOIs as identifiers to all biodiversity literature
during the past 250 years or so (Millions of aritcles? Tens of millions?
More?), then even 3 cents per article might be a bit pricey.

But even if the money were available to pay for this, there seems to be
another issue:  who has the right to assign DOIs to historical literature?
Can anyone do it?  Does it have to be the publisher? What about for journals
that are still extant?  What about the onese that died long ago?  What about
books? Chapters in books?  Other citable documents?

This leads me to the second concern I have about DOIs:  what is the scope of
objects to which they can be assigned? Is it only to articles?  What about
taxon treatments within articles?  Correspondence?  Government reports?
Field notebooks? There are dozens of other kinds of documents (and
subsections of documents) that contain information of relevance to taxonomy
and other biodiversity research.  If we want to index all of this
information (I'd like to think that we do want to), then we need resolvable
identifiers assigned to these myriad other forms of citable documentation

I think DOIs are wonderful, and where they exist, we should use them; and I
applaud any efforts to establish them for units of publication that do not
yet have them established.  We should also be diligent to map them to any
other extant identifiers being applied to units of publication (I have been
negligent on thius myself). However, I remain unconvinced that they will
serve all the needs we have for unique identifiers for citable documents.

Now, on to Wolfgang's post....


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
> Sent: Monday, February 15, 2010 12:15 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 [sic]."
> 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
>   )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://citeulike.org, http://www.zotero.org, and
> 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 service).
> 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 functionality).
> 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.
> Regards
> Rod
> ---------------------------------------------------------
> Roderic Page
> Professor of Taxonomy
> Graham Kerr Building
> University of Glasgow
> Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
> Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
> Tel: +44 141 330 4778
> Fax: +44 141 330 2792
> AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112517192
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/rdmpage
> Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com
> Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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