What is a DOI?

By Daniel Van Strien, on 17 February 2017

What is a DOI?

DOI stands for ‘Digital Object Identifier’. A DOI is an alphanumeric string assigned to an object which allows for an object to be identified over time. Often a DOI will be presented as a link which looks like: https://doi.org/10.1109/5.771073. A DOI will always point (link) to the current location for an object. A DOI is similar to a URL but unlike a URL a DOI will take you to the correct object even if the object is moved.

Why should I use a DOI?

A DOI is useful for citing your data in journal articles and other publications, it makes it easier for other people to cite your data and makes your data more discoverable. Most of us have had experience of following a link on a website to arrive on a 404 landing page. A DOI aims to avoid this happening with your research data. The use of a DOI or another persistent identifier is often a requirement of research funder policies on sharing underlying data.

Should I use DOI or another identifier for my data?

A DOI provides a persistent identifier for your data and has become a widespread standard. There are other identifiers available which some repositories may use instead. If you are depositing in a reputable repository then you should be given some type of persistent identifier which you can use to cite and link to your data.

It is also important to note that whilst a DOI provides a persistent identifier for your data it is also important that you assign metadata to your data too. This metadata will help others to understand the data you have shared and also make it easier for people to discover data which might be useful for their research.

How do I get a DOI for my data?

Most repositories will assign a DOI to your uploaded data. UCL Discovery and Digital Collections will both mint DOIs for any data shared in these repositories. Other established repositories will provide you with a DOI for your data once it has been uploaded. Once you have a DOI you can use it to cite your underlying data in publications, on the web and to more easily share your data with other researchers.