Persistent identifier

A persistent identifier is a long-lasting reference to a digital resource. Typically it has two components: a unique identifier; and a service that locates the resource over time even when it’s location changes. The first helps to ensure the provenance of a digital resource (that it is what it purports to be), whilst the second will ensure that the identifier resolves to the correct current location.

Persistent identifiers thus aim to solve the problem of the persistence of accessing cited resource, particularly in the academic literature. All too often, web addresses (links) fail to take you to the referenced resource you expect. This can be for technological reasons like server failure but human-created failures are more common. Organisations transfer journals to new publishers, reorganise their websites, or lose interest in older content, leading to broken links when you try to access a resource. This is frustrating for users, but the consequences can be serious if the linked resource is essential for legal, medical or scientific reasons.

Persistent identifiers can also be used ‘behind-the-scenes’ within a repository to manage some of the challenges in cataloguing and describing, or providing intellectual control and access to born-digital materials. Examples of persistent identifier schemes include: Digital Object Identifier (DOI), Handle, Archival Resource Key (ARK), Persistent Uniform Resource Locator (PURL) & Universal Resource Name (URN).


Source: Digital Preservation Handbook – Digital Preservation Coalition

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