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The UK National PID Consortium

This is a guest blog post by Alice Meadows, Director of Community Engagement, National Information Standards Organisation (NISO).

If you’re reading this post, the chances are you’re already a fan of persistent identifiers (PIDs). You may have an ORCID iD. You understand why to cite DOIs rather than URLs. You’re [probably] familiar with organisation identifiers like RORs, and with other types of identifiers, like the Research Activity Identifier (RAiD). You know that these and other open PIDs are not only free to end users, they are also interoperable, resolvable, and enable the creation of open, well-defined provenance information. That they enable researchers to spend more time on their research and less time managing it. And, critically, that identifiers are only truly valuable when they are combined and connected: a single identifier is like a geographical coordinate — relatively meaningless on its own, but invaluable when used with a map, or together with other coordinates.

Several organisations and government bodies have already recognised the need for a joined-up PID strategy, including the Australian Research Data Commons, CAPES in Brazil, FCT in Portugal, and others. Now, Jisc is working on an initiative to take this to the next level, with the launch of a project to establish a national UK PID consortium, building on the success of the existing UK ORCID consortium, which they have led since 2015, as well as the British Library’s DataCite consortium.

The PID consortium is being formed in part as a response to Professor Adam Tickell’s independent advice to the UK government in 2018 on open access to research publications. Among his recommendations was that Jisc should “lead on selecting and promoting a range of unique identifiers … in collaboration with sector leaders and relevant partner organisations.”

This led to the publication of a follow-up report on Developing a persistent identifier roadmap for open access to UK research by former ORCID Director of Partnerships, Josh Brown, which recommended, among other things, the creation of a national PID consortium. This and his other recommendations for the future adoption and use of PIDs in the UK are now being implemented through a joint Jisc/PID project, which he and I are currently helping Jisc to deliver.

The proposed UK PID consortium would both help enable the UK’s ‘open research infrastructure’ and also support the use of open PID infrastructures as needed by the community. In addition, Josh’s report proposes:

  • Increasing adoption and use of PIDs through targeted interventions to create high-value integrations with PID infrastructures that provide clear benefits to researchers — initial priorities are RAiDs, Crossref and DataCite DOIs, ORCID iDs, and ROR identifiers
  • Carrying out a benefits analysis to understand and evaluate the impact of PID adoption in the UK, with a focus on supporting the transition to open access, using open infrastructure, and advocating for more open interoperability
  • Establishing a governing council to oversee governance opportunities and activities in the PID systems, and to provide consortium oversight and management
  • Creating a one-off sustainability task force — with an international remit — to explore, examine, and evaluate business models and pathways to sustainability for the PID organisations in the consortium

Work is now well underway, including the formation of a stakeholder group with representatives from across the UK higher education community and research information experts, as well as funders, publishers, and identifier providers including Crossref, DataCite, and ORCID. Because both research and the open research infrastructure are international, it’s critical to also engage with the global community, including the other PID providers that have been prioritised.

The initiative is currently in its research phase. Five focus groups — one for each of the core PIDs — have been held, and a global community survey was launched in late June. Results will be shared later this year, including the anonymized data.

Once the research phase is complete, work will begin on agreeing key workflows and developing interventions for PID optimisation in them. The initial focus of these interventions will be on repositories, community infrastructures, and publishers (especially OA publishers).

We hope you’re as excited as we are about the development of the first national PID consortium, and we encourage you to get in touch for more information.

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