CrossRef has been spreading the gospel of linking through Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for years not only through articles, conference papers, but also through  its very informative  web site while building a database of DOIs of articles and their current URLs. DOIs and the CrossRef database  indeed provide the “citation linking backbone” letting you click on a link and be taken to the bibliographic entry of the specific article, From there anyone may proceed to the free abstract and the qualified users (at subscribing institutions) also to the full text of the article.


The biggest news of 2003, came with the announcement of the public access to the software which allows anyone to look up the DOI of an article published in a journal by one of the more than 250 participating publishers. (Of course, it was also big news that more than 100 new members joined CrossRef.) Until that time only CrossRef members had this privilege.

Offering this look-up option may be the best tool for fostering this technology, even though for the public only one item may be looked up at a time (while members can submit a batch of queries to retrieve the DOIs of a large number of articles). Doing one DOI lookup at a time is perfectly appropriate for authors of articles who want readers to be able to get linked to the cited references, or at least to their abstracts.

It is also very useful for those who compile bibliographies and would like to enhance the skeletal bibliographic  entries in non-annotated bibliographies by a click for on-demand informative abstracts (and for qualifying subscribers also with full-text).

Clicking on the persistent link generated from the CrossRef database based on the minimally required combination of author name and journal title in the example above took me to the free abstract in the Science Direct archive of Elsevier, and as an authenticated user then on to the references and the full text article.

For compiling a links-enhanced standalone bibliography or list of cited references this DOI look-up is wonderful, and using it is child’s play compared to the trials and tribulations of following one of the 786 citation styles. Such information will add  real value and utility to bibliographies and citation lists.

I bet that DOI-based hot links will make readers much much more happy than just seeing that you followed all the punctuation rules, and omitted the issue number and/or the publication year as requested by many citation styles which find those data elements too mundane and low-brow to allow in the citation.

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