Policy makers across the research domain are benefitting from the increased use of Persistent Identifiers (PIDs), which help to enhance the visibility and interconnections of research activities. Identifiers for people, datasets, organisations, publications and other resources are enablers of Open Science as they make research outputs findable and help to manage research attribution to individuals, research institutions and divisions of them, to specific projects and to funding agencies.
Research funders are integrating PIDs to make the creation, collection and analysis of research information easier, and more accurate. Here are just a few examples of how this works in practice.
Collecting information about publications from DOIs simplifies reporting on the Europen project outcomes that contributes to the Horizon 2020 Dashboard. In the UK, the national research evaluation exercise, the Research Excellence Framework use DOIs to make the collection of journal articles for evaluation more efficient. If the researcher provided a DOI, they didn’t need to submit a hard copy of their article. The Swedish national research council, the Vetenskapsrådet, have made ORCID iDs a mandatory part of their grant application system making it easier to link individuals who have received funding to their publications. Quite a few funders have endorsed the use of ORCIDs in an open letter. Large research facilities, which are funders-in-kind by granting access to their scientific instruments to visitor scientists, consider using ORCIDs for monitoring the use and impact of the facilities, and have formed a dedicated working group.
Publishers of academic journals, who owing to their ability to set requirements for research dissemination can be considered a special case of policy makers, have long supported the use of DOIs for journal articles and cited datasets, as their ongoing support for Crossref shows. However, there is a movement towards embedding identifiers for authors into articles and associated metadata, supported by a growing number of publishers who have started to require ORCID iDs for corresponding authors.
Funder organisations themselves can bear persistent identifiers, which is useful for clear attribution. Crossref is operating a funders registry, as well as a service for linking research funding and published outcomes.
New types of persistent identifiers, such as for Instruments, offer to funders and policy makers new opportunities for monitoring research frontiers and managing investment in research. Another recent trend is making connections across different types of PIDs and building knowledge graphs underpinned by PIDs; this should allow even deeper insight into research landscape and more detailed research monitoring as connections can give rich context for evidence-based decision-making. These activities are supported by the RDA Persistent Identification of Instruments Working Group and Open Science Graphs for FAIR Data Interest Group.
Technological advances and community effort are not enough to make building the PIDs-underpinned knowledge graphs a scalable and sustainable effort. To support this form of knowledge dissemination, sensible policies should be introduced that would encourage researchers to consistently use a good variety of PID types in the attribution sections of their publications and in other shareable research outputs, e.g. in datasets metadata and software metadata. This is where funders and other policy makers can make a real difference.
Even when funders and policy makers are appreciative of the value of PIDs, there are certainly challenges on the way to a wider adoption of persistent identifiers into their practices. One specific challenge is that, even when the benefits of PID adoption for a certain entity are clear, there may be a variety of choice for certain PID types. As an example, there are a few prominent providers of PIDs for organizations: ISNI, Ringgold, GRID and ROR, so which PID infrastructure to recommend as a part of an official policy may require enlightened deliberation. Another challenge is offering effective incentives for the PID adoption by different stakeholders on different stages of the research lifecycle. These and other challenges are the reason why the proliferation of PIDs in research information management and policy making varies across countries and institutions.
Yet the benefits of having a thriving ecosystem of persistent identifiers for all actors, resources and outcomes of the research lifecycle are clear, so encouraging PID use should be an essential part of any sensible research policy on the institutional, national and international levels. Implementing PIDs and PID-based services is a rich investment in the efficiency, robustness and transparency of research, whatever the discipline and wherever it is carried out. As any investment, making a policy about PIDs implementation and use requires well-informed and educated decisions made with enough contribution and feedback from research communities. This is why relevant national and international projects, as well as relevant RDA groups should make their permanent engagement with policy makers a priority.