Introducing a new standard for the citation of research data

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The Identifiers Expert Group of the FORCE11 Data Citation Implementation Pilot (DCIP) has achieved a significant step toward the harmonization of identifier resolution standards for data citation in research articles. 

Working with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the California Digital Library (CDL), they have established interoperability of compact identifiers and developed a global approach for the formal citation of research data in the life sciences. The approach and its development are described in an article published today in the journal Scientific Data, which has also announced its adoption of the standard.

The compact identifier creates an easy-to-read and easy-to-process citation system by  combining a unique prefix for the individual archive with a locally assigned identifier; it points to identical records through either EMBL-EBI or CDL’s resolving systems. For this system to work globally, EMBL-EBI and CDL established a namespace registry with an easy-to-use form for requesting new prefixes, and clear governance and maintenance rules to resolve all references to the right data collections. Systematic work in other DCIP Expert Groups has defined roadmaps for implementing data citation as a standard practice for Publishers and Data Repositories.

“With this publication, and Scientific Data’s announcement that it is adopting harmonized compact identifiers, the path to widespread data citation in bioscience has been significantly smoothed,” said Tim Clark, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia Data Science Institute and a senior author of the Scientific Data article. “This will enable authors and publishers to strengthen the reliability and reproducibility of published claims, and the reusability of underlying data. Dr. Martone and I are very happy to have been able to contribute to this work through FORCE11, which provided a uniquely supportive environment for the practical work to be organized and accomplished.” 

Dr. Martone added: "This approach works with identifier traditions in biomedical databases based on accession numbers, while adapting them for FAIR practices. I am also proud that it brought together existing resolution systems cooperatively rather than competitively to provide better and more robust identifier services to those who require them. I want to especially acknowledge my colleague Tim Clark for his tireless and extended efforts." Dr. Martone is Professor Emeritus at University of California, San Diego.

Harmonizing identifier resolution services is the main goal of the FORCE11 Identifiers Expert Group, which made its first priority to create links between the and N2T resolution services hosted by EMBL-EBI and CDL, respectively. The group is led by Tim Clark and Maryann Martone, in close collaboration with staff at EMBL-EBI and CDL, and supported by many other recognized experts in the field. It was supported by funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program.

For more information about the Identifiers Expert Group and the Data Citation Implementation Pilot of FORCE11, please visit 

The paper, Wimalaratne S. M. et al. Uniform resolution of compact identifiers for biomedical data. Sci. Data. 5:180029 doi: 10.1038/sdata.2018.29 (2018) is available at 

About FORCE11

FORCE11 is a non-profit organization and community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishers and research funders that has arisen organically to help facilitate the change toward improved knowledge creation and sharing. Individually and collectively, we aim to bring about a change in modern scholarly communications through the effective use of information technology. We are a neutral information market, where stakeholders come to the table for an open discussion, on an even playing field, to talk about changing the ways scholarly and scientific information is communicated, shared and used. Learn more and join the FORCE11 community on our website. You may also follow us on Twitter or connect on Slack