Why Use Persistent Identifiers?

What’s the point of PIDs?

Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) are an essential component of research infrastructure. PIDs are critical for building and maintaining reliable and robust links between objects, people, communities and infrastructures. PIDs eliminate ambiguity; the metadata associated with them describes what something is, helps you find it, and lets you know how to use and reuse it.

PIDs are sometimes described as a social security number for a research object. Another analogy which might be helpful when thinking about PIDs is with a statue, unique, long-lasting and robust.

PIDs make research entities such as publications, datasets, researchers and others:

  • Discoverable - identifying them uniquely and reliably
  • Accessible - resolving to the specific entity reliably and consistently, even if it moves to a new location
  • Useable - pointing directly to a particular version of a resource
  • Intelligible - exposing the provenance of resources, connecting them, improving accuracy and the flow of information
  • Interoperable - providing provenance and transparency, making resources trustworthy
  • Assessable - an interconnected network of specifically identified entities

However assigning a unique label does not make something a PID, for the full value of PIDs to be realised they require the associated metadata and services, the agreed standards, and a sustainable community around the PID system which builds assurance and trust. PIDs can only be as persistent as the organizations that provide and support them.

Proper use of PIDs supports:

  • Discovery of resources
  • Citation and reuse
  • Collaboration across facilities, disciplines, institutions, and countries
  • Credit - people and facilities can be reliably associated and acknowledged
  • Evaluation of impact through citation tracking
  • Trust and verification - accurate identification builds trust
  • Privacy - accurate identification allows privacy preferences to be supported
  • Efficiency and scalability - through increased interoperability
  • Innovation

The main benefits of using PIDs vary across different communities - based on the groupings for the Knowledge Hub we have summarised them below.

For researchers the main benefit of PIDs are the discoverability and profile building opportunities offered. It is also easier to gain credits for work undertaken in an unambiguous way.

For librarians and repository managers the longevity and trustworthy nature of PIDs is a large benefit as well as the opportunity of assessment.

For developers PIDs make it easier to interoperate across systems, their trustworthy nature and metadata requirements make this interoperability easier.

For funders and policy makers PIDs make it easier to track research outputs and understand the relationships between researchers and different types of research outputs.

For publishers PIDs improve the trustworthiness of their resources, and provide an interoperable framework across published research.

Updated 23 March 2020 with image and additional content.


Hi Frances,

a very nice summary & listing of arguments for using PIDs! But: how do I cite this post of yours - does it have a PID, and will its URL (https:// www.pidforum .org/t/why-use-persistent-identifiers/714) and the contents be sustainably curated & managed?

Maggie Hellström
(data management specialist at ICOS Carbon Portal, https://icos-cp.eu/)

Hi Maggie

Great you like the post! I’d suggest the best way to cite the resource is using the URL with the FREYA Project as author as the content was created collaboratively. Posts on the PIDForum do not have a PID. It is primarily a discussion forum but we wanted to consolidate the number of places to find resources on PIDs which is why the Knowledge Hub is here. We are having lots of discussions about the long term future of this content, but I am certain that this content will remain accessible for the foreseeable future. Once FREYA has ended we may archive the topic so you can no longer comment but it will be available to view in the future.

Hope that helps

Hi Frances,
thanks for the hints, I’ll make sure to follow them when referring/citing/quoting from your post in a forthcoming project deliverable that I’m writing.

I’m a bit disappointed that there’s no provision built in to assign e.g. a Handle to these PID Forum posts, but that is of course not unique - in fact, I don’t know of any blog site (or similar) that allows for PID:ing (or, indeed, even versioning) in a way that facilitates accurate citation & referncing. Maybe that’s the point - that social media content is to be treated as “ephemeral”, and shouldn’t really be referred to in scientific literature and the like.

But there lies a problem: so much information, views and discussion on services, resources and (new) features of these are nowadays almost exclusively disseminated in the form of blog posts, op-eds or materials made only for the web. Maybe this is because developments are going so fast that things are obsolete almost as soon as they appear, or that we are all so stressed out and lack time to compose more sustainable and better curated documents? Whatever the reasons, it is creating issues and challenges for those of us that want to highlight the “state of the art” in e.g. articles, project deliverables and similar, as reviewers, fact checkers and (academic) opponents are increasingly facing difficulties in retrieving cited information…


There is always the option of ‘quasi-PIDing’ a webpage using the Wayback Machine’s ‘Save Page Now’ feature: https://archive.org/web/


Vážení kolegovia, PID Fórum hodlá zverejniť informácie a dokumenty v ďalších jazykoch. Prvou lastovičkou je stránka Prečo používať trvalé identifikátory? v slovenskom jazyku.
Dajme sa do toho!
Dear colleagues, PID Forum is starting to have resources in other languages. The first essay is the page Why use Persistent Identifiers? in Slovak language.
Let´s go on!
Alojz (SCSTI Bratislava, Slovakia)