[tdwg-tag] Are DOIs expensive?

Kevin Richards RichardsK at landcareresearch.co.nz
Wed Nov 26 10:27:57 CET 2008

I agree.  I feel uncomfortable entering a "commercial" situation when it comes to GUIDs.

I do feel we are getting back into the good old arguments we had during the GUID workshops.
So probably best to review the arguments, discussions, conclusions, decisions, etc we have made over the last few years,  before we start "jumping all over the place".

In the end, then most important thing is that we get GUIDs in use - doesnt particularly matter which specific GUID type (which is really what the TDWG reccommendations allude to anyway).  So for people who have good reason to use a particular GUID type (eg using HTTP urls so that you can participate in the semantic web world), could very well use that type of GUID.


From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Roger Hyam [rogerhyam at mac.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 26 November 2008 12:06 p.m.
To: "Markus Döring (GBIF)"
Cc: Technical Architecture Group mailing list
Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] Are DOIs expensive?

So they will maintain a million identifiers - forever - for a single one off payment of €1,000!  That is €0.001 each and they are guaranteed to last forever - which is a long time.

He actually said "some thousands" - some is an interesting sum but the significant fact is that "some" is finite and "forever" is not.

If they stop working in 10 years do we get our €1,000 back or do we get actual compensation for injury caused because we have come to rely on them and now we have to find some other mechanism? Do they have a clause where they can come to us and ask for more money if they need it? Boy they would be in a good position to do so once we totally rely on them!

Now call me an old cynic (and there are probably ESCROW agreements and all that around these things to prove me totally wrong. I am speaking from ignorance and in general not specifically attacking DOI) but I can't help feeling uneasy.

Parting with money now for something that you will absolutely depend on in the future that involves committing to a single supplier with no opt out clause does not seem like a wise course of action.

Any service which doesn't come with the clause "you can always switch to another supplier in the future" is very dangerous.

The people who are running it now might be very nice but the people who are running it in 2025 might not be quite so nice.

Again these are are just my thoughts but I feel the need to express them.

All the best

p.s. I find myself scanning this email to see if it could be interpreted as liable - I think this is an indication of the level of unease I feel.

On 25 Nov 2008, at 19:06, Markus Döring (GBIF) wrote:

well, in a second mail I've asked TIB about assigning 1 billion DOIs and they actually propose a mix of handles and DOIs because of the cost involved:

"Well, a billion is of course a lot.
There is furthermore always the cost issue. There are some costs involved when signing DOI names. We try to keep them as low as possible and sometimes are able to cover them all by ourselves, but even if we speak of half a cent, or less, it adds up when a billion identifiers are needed.
One way to deal with this is for example, to use a combination of DOI and handle, as they are technically the same. If you for example assign handles to a billion records with on prefix, then the one billion handles would cost you 50 Dollars annually. But as handles are not ideal for citing, as they have no quality assurance, standard and trademark as DOI names, you can change all the handles to DOI names, if you need them to be cited officially. (This technically is just a change of the prefix more or less), so we might end with a number of say 1 million actual DOI names.  Which would cost you some thousand Euro. And only once, not annually. But all this needs to be discussed in detail, of course."


On Nov 25, 2008, at 17:19, Markus Döring (GBIF) wrote:

I took the liberty and contacted TIB about this.
It seems there is no problem using their infrastructure for large amounts of biodiversity records. Here's the body of the reply:

"The requirements for data providers are more or less the ability to store and maintain the data and provide metadata to it.
They do not need to be European institutions, but should work on a non-commercial basis.
Ideally for millions ob objects more than one prefix is advisable, but technically one prefix can be used for an unlimited number of DOI names.
In my opinion the use of DOI names would fit very well for biodiversity information, I am looking forward to discuss these issues with you further."

>>>From what I have seen they assign a DOI to a whole dataset so far.
But as it makes sense to cite a single specimen in biological articles, I dont think they would mind.


Anyone heard of Names For Life before? Seems they (plan to) use DOIs for scientific (prokaryotic) names.

On Nov 25, 2008, at 12:50, Roger Hyam wrote:

My thought is that the German TIB does not expect 'publishers' to have millions of digital assets. There is an issue with the granularity of our data compared with that of the publishing industry that would call for a different business model for a central register.

What happens if the maintenance fee is not paid? Do the identifiers cease to be permanent? There are many things in life that are permanent if you keep paying the bills our problem is paying the bills.

As a community we could run a central register for GUIDs. I'm currently free next year and would set one up but some one else would have to find the money to pay for me (and my successors/assistances) and the infrastructure .... indefinitely. The whole thing would have a significant set up cost and an on-going maintenance cost. It could be tuned to our needs and run at a much cheaper cost than DOIs but it would still cost real cash money. An endowment of say $10m (a secure income of $100k/year at current base rates) would secure the thing as a viable project provided we still got input from larger institutions on an ongoing basis.

All the best,


On 25 Nov 2008, at 10:59, Markus Döring (GBIF) wrote:

That is very interesting, Gregor. Apparently it is up to the registration agency on how much they charge (and not the central DOI). There are currently 8 agencies for different areas with the German TIB issuing DOI prefixes for "registration of scientific primary and secondary data" at the cost of 250€ per prefix (which allows you to create as many DOIs as you like).


It would also be possible to setup a new registration agency for biodiversity data if we feel this is more suited to our needs. There are several costs associated with this though, an annual membership fee ($35.000), a "franchise fee" for each newly registered name ($0.04/doi) and a maintenance fee ($0.005/doi). So this is clearly much more expensive and would be around 9 million dollars each year for 200 million occurrence records in GBIF.

So I guess this is what was investigated before and which is far too expensive. But it should be worth consulting the TIB registry, 250€ per publisher doesnt sound bad at all.


PS: I am expressing my personal thoughts in this conversation and not GBIFs official policy.

On Nov 25, 2008, at 6:26, Gregor Hagedorn wrote:

I previously concurred with arguments against DOI on the basis of
cost. However, is this correct?

http://www.tib-hannover.de/en/the-tib/doi-registration-agency/ states
a yearly fee of 250 EUR for the publisher, not a per-object fee. That
is considerably less than the Total Cost of Ownership of running
custom-designed LSID software. DOI is well established and many people
already know that it can be looked up on the web ...

Gregor Hagedorn
Heinrich-Seidel-Str. 2
12167 Berlin
skype: g.hagedorn

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