PID-optimised workflows: A vision of a more efficient future
We present four expansive diagrams, each of which is intended to showcase a possible future, in which persistent identifiers (PIDs) are used throughout the research lifecycle to enable automation, efficiency, new discovery tools, and analysis. The use of open PIDs throughout also supports greater transparency and reproducibility in research activities and communications.
Anyone can use these diagrams and adapt them to meet their own workflows. This is, after all, just one vision of a PID-optimised future, and one that is by necessity somewhat generic. The goal is to inspire all those working to support research and innovation to consider how they could use powerful, global, open research information infrastructures in new ways to improve the health and resilience of the ecosystem.
This work emerged from a programme of activities commissioned by Jisc in the UK and sponsored by Research England. It was carried out by the MoreBrains Cooperative, and included the development of a national PID roadmap for the UK, with the goal of supporting a strong research base and enabling a smoother transition to more openness at every step, from applying for a grant to communicating research findings.
At the start of the programme, five ‘priority PIDs’ were selected, based on a series of workshops and community discussions. Given the nature of PIDs as both coordinates and signposts in the information landscape, the use of open PID systems was seen as essential. The consensus list of entities for which PIDs would provide the greatest benefits was therefore matched to relevant open PID systems, all of which have some form of community governance.
The following priority PIDs were selected:
- Crossref Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for funding grants of all kinds
- Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier (ORCID) IDs for people
- Research Activity Identifiers (RAiDs) for projects
- Research Organization Registry (ROR) identifiers for organisations
- Crossref and DataCite DOIs for outputs (especially articles and data)
Community discussions and a survey in 2020 helped to refine the expectations for these PIDs, and provided an additional set of priorities: the workflows in which the community felt increased use of PIDs would have the greatest impact. These are:
- Funding awards, from application to reporting and evaluation
- Institutional research management
- Research article publication
- Research data management and publication
Further research by MoreBrains into the benefits PIDs could bring to these workflows served to underscore the need for a clear pathway to optimal use of PIDs in research systems, services, and toolkits. It also emphasised the fact that much of the power of PIDs comes not from their ability to uniquely and permanently identity a ‘thing’, but from the descriptive information (metadata) that accompanies each PID, the associations between PIDs, and the discovery and other tools that are offered by the organisations that provide PIDs, or by their partners.
Armed with all this information, the MoreBrains team conducted a global consultation on how a ‘PID-optimised’ version of the priority workflows could operate. We then endeavoured to distil the complex and diverse real-world processes uncovered during the consultation, into PID-focused, generic representations. Our goal was not to capture every step, but instead to present a version of the future in which most participants in the research lifecycle will recognise enough of their own professional activities to be able map the workflows onto their own activities, and to start envisaging a pathway towards a PID-optimised future.