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Persistent identifiers

Page history last edited by Alma Swan 12 years, 7 months ago

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Main types of persistent identifier


ARK (Archival Resource Key)


Developed by the US National Library of Medicine. Primarily designed for custodians of archived digital objects. Emphasises the principle of stewardship of resources and their naming schemes over time. The scheme is underpinned by three requirements: a link from the object to a promise for stewardship; a link from the object to metadata that describe it; and a link to the object itself (or appropriate substitute).


DOI (Digital Object Identifier)


Originally developed by the Association of American Publishers, now managed by the IDF (International DOI Foundation). It is the identifier used by the publishing industry to uniquely identify journal articles. Based on the Handle system.




Developed by CNRI (Corporation for National Research Initiatives) and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the US. Conforms with the URN framework. It is the basis of the DOI system, but is used in other systems too.




A type of URI (see below). Establishes persistence by bringing together resources that use different types of identifier.

International Standard Text Code


The ISTC is a unique identifier for textual works in whatever version they appear. It is a new standard (ISO 21047) and on 9th January 2009 Bowker and Nielsen were announced as the international registration agencies for the standard.


ISSN/ISBN (International Standard Serial/Book Number)



System for identifying books and serialised publications (which include year-books, annuals and book series as well as journals). A type of URN.


PURL (Persistent URL)


Developed and implemented by OCLC as a naming and resolution service for general Internet resources. Intended to be an interim service until URN framework is fully established. PURLs point to a resolution service rather than the object itself and the resolution service directs the user to the URL of the object.




ANSI Standard Z39.88. Maintenance agency is OCLC. OpenURL is a standard used in libraries. An OpenURL contains metadata that enable link resolvers to point to the object in a holding library.


URI (Universal Resource Identifier: often called Uniform Resource Identifier)


May be a locator (like URL) or a name (like URN) or both.


URL (Uniform Resource Locator)


A type of URI that specifies the location (Web address) of the digital object.


URN (Universal Resource Name)


The standard is controlled by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). A URN describes the entity rather than the location as in URL. URN is an umbrella system that can accommodate other identifiers. URNs will use a Namespace Identifier (NID) code, which indicates the identification system used, and a Namespace Specific String (NSS), the local code that identifies the object. The ISBN and ISSN agencies are registering URNs using 'ISBN' and 'ISSN' as the NIDs.


UUID (Universal Unique Identifier)


An Open Software Foundation standard. Used by Oxford University repository for objects within the repository.



Recent or ongoing projects and initiatives


CLARIN (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure) project)


A pan-European project to make language resources more available and usable. Persistent identifier work is part of this project.


DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services: an institute of KNAW and NWO in the Netherlands)


In cooperation with SURFfoundation in the SURFshare programme, a national infrastructure is being rolled out in the Netherlands for registration and resolving of persistent identifiers. The project was carried out in conjunction with the archives within SurfShare. The infrastructure makes it possible that the archives can assign persistent identifiers locally within their own systems. A central system will collect these data through existing OAI-PMH interfaces. Next, services can be developed on this central system of which the first one will be a resolver. This resolver is a web application that translates persistent identifiers into the location of an object and directs the user toward it.




DataCite is an international consortium to establish easier access to scientific research data on the Internet, increase acceptance of research data as legitimate, citable contributions to the scientific record, and to support data archiving that will permit results to be verified and re-purposed for future study. Datacite has 12 members from 9 countries, and over 800 000 records registered with DOI names so far.


DRIVER Project


DRIVER is drawing up guidelines on persistent identifiers. Some material is already available but the guidelines are under development.


Knowledge Exchange initiative on persistent identifiers


The Knowledge Exchange (a collaboration of ICT/library organisations from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK) has embarked upon an initiative to bring together parties that agree to a common approach to establish an international infrastructure that uses URNs to provide permanent, and preferably open, access and reference-opportunities to unambiguously identified publications and other content when browsing the internet. This initiative combines URN initiatives that have already started, or are planned to start, on a national level, mostly using the already existing national repository infrastructures. To create an international important and visible body the following participants represent their national initiatives on persistent identifiers. Current partners are: The Netherlands: SURFfoundation (Bas Cordewener), DANS (Laurents Sesink)
Belgium/Flanders: Ministery of EWI (Geert van Grootel)
Germany: DFG (Christoph Kummel), National Library (Christina Schoning-Walter, Reinhard Altenhoner), University Library Kassel (Helge Steenweg)
United Kingdom: JISC (Paul Walk, Martin Dow)
Denmark: DEFF (Adrian Price, Soren Mikkelsen)
Sweden: National Library (Stina Degenstedt). Other partners may also be involved.




Initiative by10 agencies in 6 countries (Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland) to establish an infrastructure for Persistent Identifiers. The partners have chosen to use "Uniform Resource Names for National Bibliography Numbers" URN:NBN. The ambition of PersID is to deliver a working global resolver infrastructure which will be able to resolve requests to local URNs but also to other Persistent Identifiers. This requires technical solutions, but more important: an established organisation and agreed policy.

NEW (May 2011): Eight national organisations, brought together by Knowledge Exchange and SURFfoundation, have presented five reports on work done on establishing a persistent identifier infrastructure.The reports are available for download on the Knowledge Exchange website at http://www.knowledge-exchange.info/Default.aspx?ID=332


PILIN project (Persistent Identifier Linking Infrastructure)


Part of the ARROW initiative in Australia.


Project aims:

•    Develop an abstract model for identifiers and their management

•    Develop shared, standards-based, persistent identifier management infrastructure

•    Support adoption of persistent identifiers and services

•    Plan for sustainable shared identifier infrastructure

Supporting adoption through

•    "proof of concept" deployment and demonstrator services

•    documenting best practice


PILIN used and extended the Handle software infrastructure because of its flexibility. It scoped a national service for Australia, looking at high-level business activities, mapping to the Handle system, name authority use cases, resolution use cases and data management use cases.


Project outputs:

•    A model for persistent identifiers and services

•    Best practice and policy guides

•    Community requirements

•    Identifier management services

•    Pilot shared persistent identifier management infrastructure

•    Software toolkits to aid use of the infrastructure

•    Options & proposals for sustainability


The project completed in 2007. PILIN worked with the National Library of Australia, the most appropriate provider of a national sustainable service based on the project outcomes, with a view that the NLA will take this forward as a national service.  

Pilin Project: project closure report: https://www.pilin.net.au/Closure_Report.pdf


RIDIR project (Resourcing Identifier Interoperability for Repositories)


University of Hull project funded by JISC. The project investigating the requirements for, and benefits of, the clear use of persistent identifiers in order to facilitate interoperability between digital repositories of different types.


Project aims:

•    To engage with the identifier and repository communities to understand better their requirements and highlight the benefits of the clear use of persistent identifiers in order to facilitate interoperability where required.

•    To develop and build a fully working demonstrator to showcase the findings of this engagement and demonstrate potential means for addressing the issues raised.


Project objectives

•    To raise awareness of persistent identifier interoperability issues within the Higher and Further Education community, influencing repository practices to incorporate these issues and contributing to the understanding of the governance procedures around identifier management

•    To provide a clear way of demonstrating issues relating to persistent identifier interoperability and potential solutions for addressing a range of Use Cases


The project produced a final report, which includes an appendix on taking the project forward to a national service, and a demonstrator (available on DVD).

RIDIR project final report (2008): http://www.hull.ac.uk/ridir/Documents/ridir-final-report.pdf



Further information

German National Library site on persistent identifiers


Tonkin E (2008) Persistent identifies: considering the options. Ariadne Issue 56, July.


Paskin N (2006) Identifier interoperability. A report on two recent ISO activities. D-Lib Magazine 12(4) April 2006


Hilse H-W and Kothe J (2006) Implementing persistent identifiers.


King G (2007) An introduction to the Dataverse network as an infrastructure for data sharing. Sociological Methods and Research, 32 (2) (November): pp. 173-199


Data Curation Centre Briefing Paper: persistent identifiers


Repositories Support Project Briefing Paper: persistent identifiers: http://www.rsp.ac.uk/pubs/briefingpapers-docs/technical-persistentids.pdf

Nicholas N, Ward N and Blinco K (2009) A policy checklist for enabling persistence of identifiers. D-Lib Magazine, 15 (1/2) Jan/Feb.



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