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Research Impact Challenge

Understand DOIs

DOIs allow your work to be found if the URL changes, or if it’s transferred to another platform. They make it easier to track your citations, shares, mentions, and other reuse and discussion of your work.


In previous chapters of the Impact Challenge, we’ve touched upon the importance of having persistent identifiers like DOIs for your research. DOIs – digital object identifiers – make it easy for others to find your work by providing a permanent, unique identifier for each scholarly output. When properly maintained, that identifier will always redirect to where your work is stored – even if the underlying URL changes, the journal in which you published disappears, etc. All you have to do to make a DOI linkable is append “” to the front of a minted DOI. For example, you can make doi:10.1017/S1047759400072263 linkable by writing it as “”

DOIs also make it easy to track when and where your work is cited, discussed, shared, bookmarked, or otherwise used across the internet. DOIs are widely used and well supported by platforms that track impacts across the Web.

Let’s dig into how you can get DOIs for articles, data, software, and other types of scholarly works. It will set you up well for future chapters of the OU Impact Challenge, which will cover services you can use to track the impacts of your work using DOIs and other permanent identifiers.

​DOIs for articles & preprints

Many journals register and assign DOIs for journal articles automatically. So getting a DOI for your articles can be as “easy” as publishing with a journal that issues them.

If you plan to publish (or have already published) in a journal that doesn’t offer DOI registration services, that’s okay! You can archive a preprint (which we’ll cover in a future Impact Challenge chapter) or – if the publisher allows it – the postprint (peer-reviewed, final, submitted manuscript that’s not the formatted, published version) of your article on a platform that issues DOIs, such as Figshare, Zenodo, or ResearchGate. The following sections describe how you can obtain DOIs in various circumstances.

Figshare, Zenodo, ResearchGate & BioRxiv

All of these services work pretty much the same for issuing DOIs: you upload an article and a DOI is assigned automatically. We’ll briefly walk you through the process, using Figshare and ResearchGate as examples

  • Login to Figshare and click the “Upload” link in the upper-right corner.
  • Upload the article and click the “Add info” link.
  • Add a description of the file (metadata). Be as thorough as possible when describing it; rich descriptions can make it easier to find your article using search engines.
  • Some journals require that you add a statement to the archived preprint. It’s usually something along the lines of:  “This is a pre-print version of the following article: [full citation pointing to publisher’s website]. It is posted here with the publisher’s permission.” You can usually find the statement on the “Author’s Rights” section of your journal’s website, and some relevant policies can be found on Sherpa/Romeo.
  • Make the article “Public” (select the radio button for Public immediately to the left of the “Save changes” button.
  • In the newly-live object record, you’ll see your DOI as shown below:

The placement of the DOI will vary from platform to platform, but the result will be the same: as soon as you’ve completed the upload process, a DOI will be automatically generated.


ResearchGate allows users to mint DOIs for articles that don’t yet have one, but it’s not done automatically. Here is the process:

  • Login to ResearchGate.
  • On your profile page, click “Add your publications”.
  • Select “All other research” in the pop-up box.
  • Upload your article and add descriptive information, click “Save”.
  • On the right-hand side of your item record, click on the blue downward-facing arrow, and select “Generate a DOI” (if this is not visible, then generating a DOI for this type of research output is not possible).
  • Confirm your publication details are correct and that the article doesn’t already have a DOI. Click “Generate a DOI” again.
  • You’ll now see your DOI:​

DOIs for data

You can also generate DOIs for research data, thanks to disciplinary data repositories like Dryad, KNB, and other services found on

When should you mint a DOI for your data? Natasha Simons of ANDS says that a DOI should be applied when:

  • The data will be exposed and forms part of the scholarly record [this can be when you’re publishing supplementary data alongside a paper, “opening up” unpublished datasets, or otherwise making your data available to others];
  • The data can be kept persistent [it won’t have to be removed from the repository];
  • And the minimum DataCite metadata schema requirements can be met [you’ll need to provide information on the dataset’s Creator, Title, Publisher, and Publication Year; the Publisher information is communicated by your repository]

Getting a DOI for your data is usually as easy as just depositing your data in ways described in the previous Impact Challenge, Make Your Data Discoverable, which resembles the article deposit method above. Note that many repositories only issue a single DOI for a dataset, even if “versioning” (uploading of newer datasets, with the history of changes to the files preserved on the repository) is allowed.

However, if you have data that will be updated over time, consider using a repository that will issue a versioned DOI. Versioned DOIs can reflect what version of the data others are citing, making references to older versions of the dataset possible.

Dryad is just one repository that issues versioned DOIs. Here’s how they do it:

  • You upload your data to the repository and get your base DOI (e.g. doi:10.5061/dryad.585t4)
  • When you upload a new version, Dryad will create a new suffix to the DOI that points to that particular version of the dataset (e.g. doi:10.5061/dryad.585t4.v2)

​DOIs for software

It’s easy to mint a DOI for your research software if you use GitHub to host your software, and then connect it to your Figshare or Zenodo account. Here’s how it works:

  • Choose the public GitHub repository* for which you want a DOI (NOTE: for those of us more accustomed to data repositories and institutional repositories, GitHub calls specific software packages “repositories”)
  • Login to Figshare or Zenodo
  • Connect your Figshare or Zenodo account to GitHub
  • Use Figshare or Zenodo to select the GitHub repository you want a DOI for
  • Check that your GitHub repository is set to communicate with Figshare or Zenodo
  • Create a new “release” of your GitHub repository
  • Return to Figshare or Zenodo, make sure the full description of your software package appears in the Uploads section, and then submit your software
  • An automatically minted DOI will appear on the item record page, as demonstrated in the following Zenodo screen capture:

In-depth instructions to minting DOIs for software can be found on GitHub

If you do not use GitHub but want to mint DOIs for your software, you can upload your software and the accompanying documentation as binary files to Figshare and Zenodo, similar to the research data deposit process described above.

​DOIs for open peer reviews

An increasing number of journals and peer review platforms are issuing DOIs for open peer reviews (covered in a future chapter of the Impact Challenge). If you openly reviewed a journal article, there are two main ways you can get a DOI for your reviews:

  • Review for a journal like PeerJ or peer review platform like Publons that issues DOIs automatically
  • Archive your review in a repository that issues DOIs, like Figshare or Zenodo

DOIs will allow others to easily find your open peer reviews, and also allow you to track discussions and reuse of your peer reviews across the Web, like you can with other scholarly outputs. That’s a major advantage over private or anonymous peer reviews, which are never seen beyond your editor and the article’s author, and can rarely be claimed for credit towards the enormous amount of intellectual work that the reviews require.

​DOIs for everything else

Just like the outputs above, you can mint DOIs for your slide decks, posters, and even blog posts if you upload them to Zenodo or Figshare, following the instructions outlined above. And remember, you can also work with librarians at OU Libraries to register a DOI for materials posted on university websites, such as digital research assets or other works.


Many of the limitations of DOIs are caused by human error. For example, although it’s ideal for entities to reference your work using the DOI link (more on that below), you can’t control whether or not others will actually do so. That’s because research is often shared online using regular, easy-to-copy URLs instead of DOIs. The best you can do, if you have sufficient control of the deposit interface, is to provide the DOI on the same page where the research output is shared. List it front and center, along with a preferred citation, so that anyone who shares your work will hopefully see it and follow your instructions.

It’s also problematic to create more than one DOI for a research output. Not only do you replicate registration work, but you also complicate your ability to track usage of your work, as it no longer has a unique identifier for effective monitoring. In general, do not mint a DOI for anything that already has one.

Another key limitation is that we rely upon the publisher or service provider to keep the DOI record up-to-date with a DOI registration agency, such as Crossref or DataCite. Keeping records up-to-date, such as when URLs change or journals fold, is what ensures that DOIs point to the correct place on the Web. Most reputable publishers will perform this maintenance service without a notification from content creators, but some publishers and repositories may not be as responsible. For example, as of this writing, it is unclear if ResearchGate has a documented preservation policy. If you aren’t sure if the publisher’s archiving policy is up to snuff, ask them about it. 


First, mint DOIs for your 5 most important research outputs that don’t already have them. Bonus points if some of those outputs are not articles.

Once you have your DOIs, use them:

  • Put them onto your CV alongside your research products
  • If applicable, update your ArXiv preprint metadata to point to them
  • Put clearly-labeled preferred citations that include DOIs into your dataset or software documentation
  • Encourage others to always link to your review using the DOI resolver link (these are created by putting “” in front of your DOI; here’s an example of what one looks like:

If you spend some time now minting DOIs for your most important research outputs, you’ll be all prepared in a few weeks when we explore how you can use altmetrics and impact-tracking services like and Impactstory to discover how often your works are cited, saved, shared, discussed, and otherwise reused online.

This guide is based on the "30-Day Impact Challenge" by Stacy Konkiel and used here under a CC BY 4.0 International License and the OU Impact Challenge which is also licensed CC BY 4.0.  Many thanks to those authors for creating and sharing these materials.