PaperID – An Open Source Identifier for Research Papers

As a journalist, I receive a lot of press releases that cite “forthcoming” papers. Depending on the publisher one can usually find the paper in a pre-press state on their website. However, it’s often the case that the DOI does not go live at the same time as the embargo expires on the press release, and so I might legitimately publish an article about the research I cannot use the DOI as the reference and must use the direct URL for the paper. Unfortunately, some publishers then move the paper when the paper publishes, so the link I used ends up broken.

Moreover, this cannot be useful for authors themselves in that a paper that does not make the grade at the International Journal of Good Stuff and ends up being resubmitted to the Parochial Bulletin of Not So Good Stuff will gain a different identification code along the way.

Will Griffiths on ChemSpider was recently discussing the possibility of an OpenURL system. I think we could go one step further.

A simple standardized way of generating a unique identifier for each and every paper that would be transportable between different phases of the publication process from submission to acceptance and publication, or rejection and resubmission elsewhere, would be a much better way of registering papers. The identifier would be created at the point when the final draft is ready to be mailed to the first editorial office in the chain, perhaps based on timestamp, lead author initials, and standard institution abbreviation. It could be the scientific literary equivalent of an InChIkey for each research paper.

There would have to be a standardized validation system, so that authors were sure to be using the right system, but that could be established relatively painlessly through the big institutions, be networked and have cross-checking to avoid duplicates. And, of course, be open source, open access.

The possibilities are endless, PaperID would create an electronic paper trail from author through preprint, in press, to online, and final publication. It might even be back-extended into the area of Open Notebook Science and equally usefully into archival, review, and cross-referencing.

DOI is useful most of the time OpenURL sounds intriguing, but PaperID could be revolutionary.


8 thoughts on “PaperID – An Open Source Identifier for Research Papers

  1. Yes, it is quite web 2.0. I wonder whether it might somehow be tied in with the whole peer-review process and actually whether or not it could become a way to sidestep publishers altogether. Of course, that’s opening a whole new can of worms, but what if publishing simply became the process of acquiring a PaperID, the paper is timestamped and version history is maintained, peer reviewing becomes universal and papers are never rejected or accepted they stay online whatever. Publishers would then become aggregators of the PaperID and may run journals carrying abstracts in much the same way that PubMed does now.


  2. By this I know all the meaning…It is a great idea! This is a service
    to the authors, where the publishers must still be involved. It’s
    quite Web-2.0-sounded. And the credibility of a paper is directly
    related to the author(s), or a web account. And the ethics of the
    whole science community will rely on a Web 2.0 interactive system! At
    that time the username of G. M. Whitesides will be more famous than
    his real name.

    And if it is not the DOI, will it be an improved Connotea?

    Will it be easier to cheat in such a spontaneous system? Must it be
    adopted and censored by an official organization of any kind? This is
    equal to saying that the current science community has totally accepted
    the web as their main way of communication. At that time we don’t need
    to talk about DOI and Connotea anymore.


Comments are closed.