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

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.
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  1. Oregon Health & Science Univ., Portland, OR (United States). Dept. of Medical Informatics and Epidemiology
  2. European Molecular Biology Lab., Hinxton (United Kingdom). European Bioinformatics Inst.
  3. Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton (United Kingdom). ELIXIR Hub
  4. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States). Berkeley Natural History Museums
  5. Maastricht Univ. (Netherlands). Inst. of Data Science
  6. Univ. of Manchester (United Kingdom). School of Computer Science
  7. Univ. of Oxford (United Kingdom). Oxford e-Research Centre
  8. German Research Center for Environmental Health (Helmholtz Centre Munich) (Germany). Inst. of Experimental Genetics
  9. Univ. of California, San Diego, CA (United States). Center for Research in Biological Systems
  10. Babraham Inst., Cambridge (United Kingdom)
  11. European Molecular Biology Lab., Heidelberg (Germany)
  12. Technical Univ. of Denmark, Lyngby (Denmark). Center for Biological Sequence Analysis. Dept. of Systems Biology
  13. California Digital Library, Oakland, CA (United States)
  14. Daresbury Lab., Warrington (United Kingdom). Science and Technology Facilities Council
  15. Univ. of Groningen (Netherlands). Genomics Coordination Center. Dept. of Genetics. Univ. Medical Center Groningen. Groningen Bioinformatics Center
  16. Heidelberg Inst. for Theoretical Studies (Germany). Scientific Databases and Visualization
  17. Bern Univ. of Applied Sciences (Switzerland). Inst. for Medical Informatics. Engineering and Information Technology
  18. Univ. of Manchester (United Kingdom). Manchester Inst. of Biology; Stellenbosch Univ. (South Africa). Dept. of Biochemistry
  19. Univ. of Manchester (United Kingdom). Manchester Centre for Synthetic Biology of Fine and Speciality Chemicals
  20. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States). Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology
  21. Leiden Univ. (Netherlands). Leiden Inst. of Advanced Computer Science
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-05CH11231; R24OD011883; U41HG007822; U24AI117966; U54AI117925; 675728; 312455; 654248; 601043; BB/L005069/1; BB/M013189/1; BB/K019783/1; BBS/E/B/000C0419; BB/M006891/1; BB/M017702/1; BB/L005050/1
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
PLoS biology (Online)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: PLoS biology (Online); Journal Volume: 15; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 1545-7885
Public Library of Science
Research Org:
Oregon Health & Science Univ., Portland, OR (United States); European Molecular Biology Lab., Hinxton (United Kingdom); Univ. of Oxford (United Kingdom); Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22); National Inst. of Health (NIH) (United States); European Commission (EC); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (United Kingdom)
Country of Publication:
United States
96 KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT AND PRESERVATION; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; archives; internet; citation analysis; biodiversity; ontologies; colon; sequence databases; syntax
OSTI Identifier: