Unique Identifiers: Current Landscape and Future Trends

blog arrowPosted on: Nov 29, 2016

Posted by: Mark Leggott, Executive Director, Research Data Canada

Since its inception, Research Data Canada (RDC) has worked with the community to develop outputs highlighting best practices in research data management. Concurrent with its latest output, RDC is launching the Best Practices Series with Unique Identifiers: Current Landscape and Future Trends.

The research enterprise generates a great deal of information, both in physical and digital form, representing a wide range of data, from descriptive information about researchers, to publications, to datasets resulting from a research project. This information is scattered across many systems and technologies including human resource systems, grant management systems, publication databases, repositories, web pages and so on.

Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) are the anchors that facilitate links between related information and data. Essentially, IDs are labels that refer to a specific entity in the information landscape, such as an object, organization, person, dataset, etc. For example, in the same way that a ‘Person’ record has the fields ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’, it should be a best practice for each such record to also have a unique field for ‘ID’ to make the record more useful as a research information source, since there can be more than one author with the same first and last names, and individual researchers can have multiple pseudonyms.

A persistent ID adds value to a digital object by providing it with a long-lasting reference that gives information about the object regardless of what happens to it. The Unique Identifiers document provides a summary of the latest developments in best practices for IDs, with a focus on researchers, data objects, organizations, and equipment. It also makes a series of recommendations that RDC believes will help build a sustainable approach to building an interoperable research data management ecosystem.

Unique Identifiers is available here.