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Digital data citation

DOI marks the spot
Published: 16 June 2014

​​​​​​Journal citation is an accepted and well-established practice that gives due credit to scientific work done by scientists, and also signposts where others can find this information. In a similar way, citation of data can give proper credit to data providers who have made data available to the scientific community, while also providing a mechanism for tracing back scientific knowledge to the data that underpins it.

It is increasingly important to have a direct link between the results of a scientific study and the underlying data, which can be made explicitly with a persistent identifier. While data citation is a relatively new issue, major advances have been made in recent years, advances which are highly relevant to ICES owing to the fact that ICES depends on data submissions by member countries to achieve its mission.

Digital data citation and the use of persistent identifiers for datasets therefore was a major focus point at ICES Data and Information Group​ (DIG)​ meeting, which took place in late May at ICES headquarters. ​A persistent identifier, also called uniform resource identifier, or URI, looks like a web address, and can take several forms. It contains the name of the computer site, such as http://dx.doi.org/ followed by a unique number or set of numbers that uniquely identifies the data. A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is an example of a URI. There are several complexities in determining how to handle developing and changing datasets, how to acknowledge the originators, and how to make the collated ICES dataset citeable.

According to DIG, many researchers throughout the ICES community are planning to apply persistent identifiers to datasets in their own institutes, but relatively few have developed the  capability at this point. Furthermore, there are varying approaches in applying persistent identifiers to data. These approaches differ on the levels of granularity required from individual datasets within surveys to whole databases.

DIG Chair, Ingeborg de Boois, explains that for ICES, it will probably be necessary to find a way to cite datasets held within ICES through persistent identifiers. While there are challenges in managing persistent identifiers and collections, DIG foresees that ICES should be prepared to at least take in and store persistent identifiers from the national data submitted.

Digital data citation and publishing will be an ongoing theme at DIG meetings over the coming years. 

"A balanced approach of addressing the challenges and enabling persistent identifier use will be the way forward. It is important to ensure that these approaches do not hinder implementations in member countries, and DIG will continue to monitor this developing field and provide recommendations", concludes de Boois. 

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 ©​ Galymzhan Abdugalimov​

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Digital data citation

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