DOIs and citation

DOIs and citation

The Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) that DataCite provides are a technical solution to the broken links that can occur when authors cite resources on the web.

They provide an internationally-recognised standard for data citation, making data and other research outputs findable, accessible, interoperable and re-useable, while ensuring citation, credit and research impact.

DOIs are a crucial part of DataCite, which was founded to encourage data citation, and in itself, not only supports the reproducibility of research, but also promotes data sharing. 

As online resources, research data are particularly vulnerable to broken links. If the data behind a research paper cannot be found, it becomes difficult to reproduce and verify that work. This potential for broken links dissuades authors from citing data, and lack of citation discourages researchers from sharing their data at all.

DOIs have been used to support citations to online journal articles for nearly 20 years. DataCite has been making it possible to cite data with DOIs since 2009. Prior to that, a typical data citation (if the data was cited at all) might have looked something like:

Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). []

(Taken from

As you will see, this article is only from 2009, and the link is already broken. But now data citations look like this:

University of London. Institute of Education. Centre for Longitudinal Studies (2008) Millennium Cohort Study: Fourth Survey, [computer file]. 4th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], SN: 6411,

(Taken from

DOIs and how they work

The DOI system is an internationally recognised and supported standard, managed by the International DOI Foundation. DOIs are persistent identifiers that are used to uniquely identify an object (which may itself be physical or digital) in the digital environment.

DOIs continue to work through time even if an object moves, because the organisations that create the DOIs update them with the new locations. Users do not need to know if an object has moved, as the DOI link will always take them to the right place.

A DOI name is turned into a link using the International DOI Foundation resolver, For example, the DOI 10.5524/100001 the link is

DataCite DOIs are not just for data

While DataCite was originally founded to support data citation, DataCite DOIs can be used on a variety of objects. Examples of objects that have DataCite DOIs include:

DataCite DOIs are not just for open content

There are valid cases where data and other research items cannot be made openly available, so DataCite does not expect that every item assigned a DOI must be open access. This may mean that researchers who use a DOI to access an item find that they subsequently need to apply for access, pay for access, or receive ethical approval to access it. This is information that should be made available on the DOI landing page.

If you have content that you would like to make persistently citeable, please get in touch with us to discuss.