Identifiers for the 21st century: How to design, provision, and reuse persistent identifiers to maximize utility and impact of life science data


The paper Identifiers for the 21st century: How to design, provision, and reuse persistent identifiers to maximize utility and impact of life science data was published in PLoS Biology in June 2017.

The authors, which includes experts from well-recognized data providers like Uniprot and EMBL-EBI, describe the lessons learnt when creating identifiers in life sciences. In short:

  1. Credit any derived content using its original identifier
  2. Help local IDs travel well: Document prefix and patterns
  3. Opt for simple, durable web resolution
  4. Avoid embedding meaning or relying on it for uniqueness
  5. Design new identifiers for diverse uses by others
  6. Implement a version-management policy
  7. Do not reassign or delete identifiers
  8. Make URIs clear and findable
  9. Document the identifiers you issue and use
  10. Reference and display responsibly

In addition to the article, see also the PLOS Blog post Bad Identifiers are the Potholes of the Information Superhighway: Take-Home Lessons for Researchers.

Abstract

In many disciplines, data are highly decentralized across thousands of online databases (repositories, registries, and knowledgebases). Wringing value from such databases depends on the discipline of data science and on the humble bricks and mortar that make integration possible; identifiers are a core component of this integration infrastructure. Drawing on our experience and on work by other groups, we outline 10 lessons we have learned about the identifier qualities and best practices that facilitate large-scale data integration. Specifically, we propose actions that identifier practitioners (database providers) should take in the design, provision and reuse of identifiers. We also outline the important considerations for those referencing identifiers in various circumstances, including by authors and data generators. While the importance and relevance of each lesson will vary by context, there is a need for increased awareness about how to avoid and manage common identifier problems, especially those related to persistence and web-accessibility/resolvability. We focus strongly on web-based identifiers in the life sciences; however, the principles are broadly relevant to other disciplines.

Citation

Julie A. McMurry, Nick Juty, Niklas Blomberg, Tony Burdett, Tom Conlin, Nathalie Conte, Mélanie Courtot, John Deck, Michel Dumontier, Donal K. Fellows, Alejandra Gonzalez-Beltran, Philipp Gormanns, Jeffrey Grethe, Janna Hastings, Jean-Karim Hériché, Henning Hermjakob, Jon C. Ison, Rafael C. Jimenez, Simon Jupp, John Kunze, Camille Laibe, Nicolas Le Novère, James Malone, Maria Jesus Martin, Johanna R. McEntyre, Chris Morris, Juha Muilu, Wolfgang Müller, Philippe Rocca-Serra, Susanna-Assunta Sansone, Murat Sariyar, Jacky L. Snoep, Stian Soiland-Reyes, Natalie J. Stanford, Neil Swainston, Nicole Washington, Alan R. Williams, Sarala M. Wimalaratne, Lilly M. Winfree, Katherine Wolstencroft, Carole Goble, Christopher J. Mungall, Melissa A. Haendel, Helen Parkinson (2017):
Identifiers for the 21st century: How to design, provision, and reuse persistent identifiers to maximize utility and impact of life science data
PLoS Biology 15(6): e2001414
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2001414

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