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Persistent Identifiers 101

Kirsty27 July 2020

You might have heard the phrase ‘Persistent Identifier or even PID in passing, but what does it actually mean 

A persistent identifier (PID) is a long-lasting reference to a resource. That resource might be a publication, dataset or person. Equally it could be a scientific sample, funding body, set of geographical coordinates, unpublished report or piece of software. Whatever it is, the primary purpose of the PID is to provide the information required to reliably identify, verify and locate it.” – OpenAIRE 

These identifiers either connect to a set of metadata describing an item, or link to the item itself.  

In 2018, the Tickell report was released. It presented independent advice about Open Access, which had implications for the world of PIDs. Adam Tickell recommended that Jisc lead a project to select and promote a range of unique identifiers for different purposes, to try and limit the amount of confusion and duplication in this area.  

The JISC project has been in progress for the last year. They are working on what they describe as ‘priority PIDs’ which cover the following categories:  

  • People 
  • Works 
  • Organisations 
  • Grants 
  • Projects 

So what are the PIDs we need to be aware of? 

People 

The primary PID for people is one that you will already be familiar with if you are a regular reader of the blog. Even if you aren’t, you have probably heard of it – it’s ORCID.  

ORCID is an open identifier for individuals that allows you to secure accurate attribution for all of your outputs. It also functions quite nicely as an online bibliography, and can be used to automatically collect and record your papers in RPS. All in all, it’s pretty useful 

If you want to know more about what you can do with ORCID, have a look at our recent blog post ‘Getting the best out of your ORCID. All of the details about linking ORCID to RPS and vice versa, are available on the blog and the Open Access website 

Works 

The next identifier is for works. It’s another that you have probably seen, even if you don’t know a lot about themDOIDOI stands for Digital Object IdentifierIt’s a unique registration number for a Digital Object. This could be an article or a dataset, but it could equally be an image, a book, or even a chapter in a book. DOIs are unique and persistent which means that if your chosen journal changes publisher, you will still be able to find your article because the DOI is independent and will keep up to date.  

DOIs are most often acquired through a Registration Agency called Crossref, but you will also come across DataCiteBoth of these services do the same job, providing and tracking DOIs, but the underlying tools are slightly different.  

Did you know: if you have the DOI of a paper, an easy way to find that paper is to add https://doi.org/ to the front. The URL this creates will take you to the paper, no matter who published it. For example: 10.1080/08870446.2019.1679373 is DOI, and https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2019.1679373 will take you straight to the paper 

Organisations 

The Research Organisation Registry (ROR) is a new PID registry that is being created by key stakeholders, including Crossref and Jisc, to bring more detail and consistency to organisational identifiers. The definition of organisations goes beyond institutions like UCL to include any organisation that is involved in research production or management, so this can include funders, publishers, research institutes and scholarly societies.   

Grants 

Crossref is key in the identification of individual funders and in creating identifiers for research grants. Grant IDs are DOI’s, but connected to grant-specific metadata such as award type, value and investigators. The intent is for funders to register each grant and provide a GrantID, which has the potential to make tracking papers and data linked to individual projects much simpler in the long run. Several hundred grants have been registered already, mostly via Wellcome (With thanks to Rachael Lammey for the clarification 03/08/2020)

Projects 

The Jisc project is supporting Research Activity ID (RAiD), a project based in Australia which creates a unique identifier for a research project. The intent is for this to be the final part of a network of identifiers that will allow people, works, and institutions to be linked to their projects and funders. This will complete the chain and allow accurate attribution and accountability at every stage of the research process.   

How can I get involved? 

The work being undertaken to select and support individual PIDs at each stage of the research process is a good idea, and if it works then it will be a step towards a fully interconnected, open and transparent research process. The next stage of the Jisc project is currently underway, and they are surveying all sectors of the UK research community about awareness, use, and experience of PIDs. If you want to contribute, their survey is open and has just been extended until 21 August!  

PIDs diagram

PIDs environment – Click to enlarge

UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group

Catherine Sharp13 July 2020

There are now more than 5,000 journals in UCL’s transformative agreements, where UCL researchers can now publish open access without additional costs. They cover all disciplines; departments have been using our subject-specific list to identify journals that are relevant to them.

We’re getting lots of questions about which publishers might introduce an agreement next. Today, Paul Ayris (Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services) writes about the UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group that oversees negotiation of these agreements, and explains what the Group is hoping to achieve with current negotiations.


UCL Library Services makes tens of thousands of electronic journals, books and databases available to all UCL staff and students. Have you ever wondered how these materials are acquired and how the discussions with the publishers are conducted?

For e-journals, these discussions take place at a national level and are conducted by the Jisc on behalf of UK Higher Education. UK HE spends a lot of money each year with commercial publishers to acquire e-journals – over £100 million. It’s big business and the consortium of universities that Jisc can call together for a deal with an individual publisher can be both large and impressive. In summer 2019, I stood down after many years as chair of the Jisc Content Strategy Group, which oversaw Big Deal purchases for UK HE. I did this because both Jisc and I wanted to move oversight of these deals to a body chaired at Vice-Chancellor level and aligned with Universities UK (UUK). In this way the new UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group was born.

The membership is diverse. There are University Librarians like me on the Group, and I am happy to say that my colleague Chris Banks (Assistant Provost, Space and Director of Library Services at Imperial) is also a member. There are representatives from other University Libraries with less spending power than UCL and Imperial. SCONUL and RLUK (Research Libraries UK) are also members, as are senior academic figures representing UUK members. The Group is chaired by Professor Stephen Decent, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University.

What are our core aims? These are:

  • Develop and advance strategy for cost-effective publication, acquisition and delivery of research output which takes account of the dynamic nature of the information marketplace and the changing needs of the community
  • Develop and advance strategy for the utilization of negotiations with publishers and societies to facilitate a quick, cost effective and financially sustainable transition to OA
  • Develop and advance strategy for the use of a broad range of innovative approaches in licensing and negotiation to facilitate the acquisition, dissemination and management of research outputs
  • Provide leadership for national negotiations
  • Act as a conduit between the negotiators and the sector (university leaders, researchers, administration and funders) for the agreement, communication, oversight and reporting on objectives, strategy, tactics and progress of negotiations
  • Facilitate debate and action to help implement long term solutions to challenges in publication and acquisition of research output
  • Oversee the conduct of the negotiations on behalf of the UK academic community
  • Provide a focal point for the provision of guidance on the range of institutional responses to a dynamic research, policy and research environment
  • Evaluate options in the event that negotiations do not proceed as planned and further action from the sector may be required to achieve an acceptable agreement
  • Seek transparency in deals with publishers especially in relation to cost and how institutional money is being spent

It’s an ambitious and very demanding role. We have already written to all major publishers, asking for substantial reductions in subscription costs as a result of the pressure on university finances caused by covid-19. We have also set ourselves the target of turning all current subscription deals into Open Access Read and Publish deals. This will allow the UK to be compliant with a growing number of research funder policies, such as the forthcoming UKRI OA policy, the OA policy of the Wellcome Trust and Plan S from Science Europe.

The stakes are high. UCL is committed to Open Science/Scholarship principles as key drivers in the global research and education landscape. The role of the High Level Strategy Group is to deliver that change in the publishing arena, achieving the goal of 100% Open Access as speedily as possible.

Paul Ayris
Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Everything you ever needed to know about Registered Reports (*even if you weren’t afraid to ask)

Kirsty3 July 2020

The concept of Registered Reports was developed in response to a vast range of meta-analysis over the past few years (1) that showed that a lot of research being published exhibited bias. Different papers analysed publication bias, hindsight bias, and selective reporting which demonstrated that published works overwhelmingly showed predominantly positive results. There were also significant issues with reproducibility and transparency as people were not sharing sufficient results or enough detail in methodologies to allow for the results stated to be replicated.

The nature of good research is to investigate, to take a hypothesis and test it dispassionately, discovering the results and presenting them as new or confirmed knowledge – whether the hypothesis is proven or not, it’s all knowledge! Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality. The issue at the core of all of this is the research environment itself – good, objective practice is not always what gets rewarded.

Researchers are often given the message (intentionally or otherwise) by publishers, funders, institutions and colleagues that positive, world-changing, elegant and simple results are prized above all others. It’s these results that researchers and publishers want to publish. Since publishing is key to career advancement, this inevitably influences how researchers carry out their work. Leaving aside for now deliberate falsification of results, and the arguments about alternative ways of disseminating them, we can see how this leads to behaviours that produce at best selective and incomplete results, and at worst downright misleading ones. Behaviours like HARKing (Hypothesising After Results are Known) and P-hacking, testing variables until you find something significant, are particularly problematic. Since researches also tend to cite positive results more than negative ones, this positive publication bias continues to be amplified after publication, too.

So, what can be done?

Registered reports are a new way of getting your work accepted for publication. The idea is that you submit only part of a study, like the first half of an article, and the peer review is conducted on your idea and study design, before any data is collected. If you are successful, you receive an Acceptance in Principle, do your research and write it up. If the research hypothesis and methods section that has already been accepted hasn’t changed significantly, the final acceptance is based on a peer review of the remaining parts of the article. This second round of peer review focuses on how complete and robust your work is, completely uninfluenced by the results of the study.

If I want to use Registered Reports for my next project, where do I go?

There is a list of journals that are supporting Registered Reports on the Center for Open Science website.

Naturally, if you aren’t working in a hypothesis-driven subject area, Registered Reports might not be for you, but there are other options to consider. They are a little less well known, but still have their own benefits:

Results Blind Peer Review is very similar to registered reports. The article is submitted and reviewed as normal, but the results are withheld until after the first peer review stage.

Exploratory reports are the newest method and lean more towards supporting exploratory research in less hypothesis-driven subject areas. This allows meta-analysis and confirmatory research, and more flexibility in the flow of the research from design to results.

Do registered reports really work?

The logic behind Registered Reports has already proven its worth: compared with papers published in the traditional way, a much higher percentage of Registered Reports have ‘null’ results. This suggests they really do reduce publication bias. And they’re still cited at similar rates to conventional articles.

These forays into addressing bias are just a beginning. The issue isn’t going to go away overnight but these journals, with the support of researchers, can start to redress the balance and make sure that results that disprove hypotheses get as much air-time as those that prove them. These journals show that there is a way for researchers and publishers to work together to address the problems of publication bias. Meanwhile, institutions are changing their promotion and assessment criteria to ensure that the research quality, rather than where the work is published, is taken more into account. A similar path is being taken by funders and even the REF. We all need to support these journals and together commit to an open research culture.

 

(1) Chambers, C. D. and Tzavella, L. (2020) Registered Reports: Past, Present and Future. MetaArXiv. doi: 10.31222/osf.io/43298.