[tdwg-content] GUIDs for publications (usages and names) [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Paul Murray pmurray at anbg.gov.au
Wed Jan 5 13:54:04 CET 2011

On 05/01/2011, at 8:01 AM, Peter DeVries wrote:

> Users do not want to curate their own bibliographic databases and related RDF, they want to simply link to a globally unique, resolvable identifier for that citation.

Absolutely. There *is* a globally unique, resolvable identifier for publications: Digital Object Identifiers (DOI). It's a distributed, hierarchical system: organisations that publish works are assigned a root DOI and run a DOI server. Furthermore, DOIs can be assigned not simply to a publication, but to individual items in it, drilling down as far as you like.

My impression is that DOIs mainly apply to things like journal articles: things that are being published today by publishers with an online presence. Many of our references here are CSIRO publications - I wonder if CSIRO publishing hosts a DOI resolver?

A problem is that while given a DOI you can easily get the metadata for it, discovering the DOI for a publication is ... an effort. I imagine that another problem is homonyms: if two different publishers are producing editions of System Naturae,  there will be different DOIs for it.

Another issue is that if you want to cite a page of a journal, or better - a particular figure in the journal, and the publisher does not publish a DOI for that particular thing ... where do you go from there? You could host your own DOI server and assign your own DOIs .... but that rather defeats the purpose. There's no getting away from having a "microreference" field, allowing a human to fill in the gaps in the identifiers with free text.



The list of formally registered URN namespaces is here:

The ones potentially of interest - as far as I can see - with respect to serving as a globally unique citations are
ISSN	http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3044.txt	urn:ISSN:1560-1560
Identifies serials – periodicals, journals, newspapers

ISBN	http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3187.txt	URN:ISBN:0-395-36341-1
International Standard Book Number

NBN	http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3188.txt	URN:NBN:fi-fe19981001
National Bibliography Number. Identifiers given by the national libraries of various countries (Finland, in this case).  
These probably only go down to the "volume" level, but that's usually all you need for books.

There are also urn namespaces for things like articles published by news organisations, audiovisual files, if you want to cite them.



Finally - identifying published documents and the places in them is a problem that librarians, in particular, are interested in. I'm sure that the worldwide library science community has some kind of handle on this, and it might be worthwhile to leverage their solutions. They seem to have a thing called an OCLC number (Online Computer Library Centre). eg: 17200046. I'm not sure how many scientific/taxonomic libraries feed data into the worldcat system.



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