USGS Data Management

blank space
Preserve > Persistent Identifiers
U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram Plan Acquire Process Analyze Preserve Publish/Share Manage Quality Describe (Metadata, Documentation) Backup & Secure The USGS Science Data Lifecycle
U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram

Persistent Identifiers

Persistent Identifiers are globally unique numeric and/or character strings that reference a digital object. Persistent identifiers can be actionable in that they enable a user to access the digital resource via a persistent link. They are intended to function for the long term. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the most relevant to USGS are Digital Object Identifiers (DOI).

What are DOIs and how are they useful?

Key Points

  • Persistent identifiers
    • provide a long-term reference to a digital object.
    • can be actionable, providing a persistent link to the digital resource.
    • can allow datasets to be tracked and cited.
    • encourage access, discovery, and potential reuse of datasets.
  • The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) System enables the location of digital objects on the Internet.
  • DOIs are globally unique, alphanumeric strings assigned to one digital object.
  • USGS Series publications are assigned Digital Object Identifiers as part of the library cataloging process.
  • USGS Data approved for release must be assigned Digital Object Identifiers.
  • Visit the USGS DOI Creation Tool to create a DOI for the dataset itself.

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is one type of unique, persistent identifier that is permanently assigned to a specific electronic resource. It is sometimes likened to a Social Security Number (SSN) for a person. Just as a person may be assigned a unique number that identifies him or her to various parties – employers, creditors, the Internal Revenue Service – and remains the same no matter where he or she moves, so an electronic object receives a unique sequence of alphanumeric characters that remain tied to that object, no matter how many times the object moves to different servers or property rights owners. A DOI can link an end user to the unique digital object. A DOI supports scientific integrity in that it provides access to the data, workflow, or software version used in a research project from which results can be reproduced.

A DOI is permanently attached to a digital object, and is managed apart from the object's physical location. The DOI itself doesn't change. This provides enormous advantage, because a properly managed DOI will always point to the current online location of that object, and can therefore be used reliably in all references and citations. The reliability of DOIs provides a strong advantage over a cited URL, which does little good for end users if the desired object is no longer available from that electronic location.

A DOI identifies a specific online resource, such as the final version of a dataset or publication that was approved for release, a dataset that was improved and annotated to meet a requirement, or the version of a numerical model that was used in a scientific publication.

USGS Use of DOIs

Two official DOI registration organizations used by the USGS and sanctioned by the Digital Object Identifier Consortium are CrossRef and DataCite.

A DOI name takes the form of a character string divided into two parts, a prefix and a suffix, separated by a slash. The prefix for USGS scholarly series publications is 10.3133. The prefix for USGS data is 10.5066. When a DOI begins with 10.3133, it references a USGS scholarly series publication, and when it begins with 10.5066, it references a USGS dataset or other data product.

Here's what a DOI looks like:

doi: 10.3133/pp1814A

Here's how it becomes an actionable link:

For USGS Publications

Digital Object Identifiers for USGS series publications will be obtained for you when they are released through the USGS publication process specified in the Fundamental Science Practices. These Digital Object Identifiers will originate from the CrossRef system. This DOI assignment is part of the standard USGS publications process.

Example USGS Publication (DOI automatically obtained through CrossRef):

Engott, J.A., Johnson, A.G., Bassiouni, Maoya, and Izuka, S.K., 2015, Spatially distributed groundwater recharge for 2010 land cover estimated using a water-budget model for the Island of O`ahu, Hawai`i: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5010, 49 p.,

Diffendorfer, J.E., Compton, Roger, Kramer, Louisa, Ancona, Zach, and Norton, Donna, 2014, Onshore industrial wind turbine locations for the United States through July 2013: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 817,

For USGS Datasets

All data released through USGS on servers owned by, or managed under contract to, the Bureau must be assigned a DOI generated by the USGS Digital Object Identifier (DOI) Creation Tool; DOIs created using this tool are registered to

USGS data that are published on Federal servers managed by other agencies may be assigned a DOI managed by the hosting agency, if required as a condition for publishing the data; otherwise, a USGS DOI should be assigned to these data using the USGS DOI Creation Tool. The Data Management Plan should specify where the final data will be published; if another Federal agency will publish the USGS data, the Plan should also stipulate which agency will assign and manage the DOI during the anticipated lifecycle of the data. USGS scientists are encouraged to consult their Bureau Approving Official for questions or further guidance.

Regardless of the assigning agency, the DOI for the data must be referenced in the final metadata record as the link to the data.

  • Convert the DOI to an actionable link. The DOI 10.5066/F7VX0DMQ can be made into an actionable link by appending immediately before the 10.5066. The actionable DOI hyperlink is therefore
  • For FGDC CSDGM metadata, the dataset DOI link should be placed in the Online Linkage (XML tag "onlink") in the Citation Information section, and/or in the Network Resource Name (XML tag "networkr") in the Distribution Information section.
  • For ISO 19115-x metadata, the dataset DOI link should be placed in the MD_Metadata section, in the tag "gmd:dataSetURI".

Data associated with the scholarly publication (DOI obtained by data owner through DataCite):

Moschetti, M.P., 2017, Database of earthquake ground motions from 3-D simulations on the Salt Lake City of the Wasatch fault zone, Utah: U.S. Geological Survey data release,

McLeod, J.M., Jelks, Howard, Pursifull, Sandra, and Johnson, N.A., 2016, Characterizing the early life history of an imperiled freshwater mussel (Ptychobranchus jonesi): U.S. Geological Survey data release,

Barber, L.B., Weber, A.K., LeBlanc, D.R., Hull, R.B., Sunderland, E.M., and Vecitis, C.D., 2017, Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances in contaminated groundwater, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 2014-2015 (ver. 1.1, March 24, 2017): U.S. Geological Survey data release,

For USGS data residing on non-USGS Federal servers, please consult your Bureau Approving Official for guidance.

For Outside Journal Publications

Most peer-reviewed journals will assign the DOI to articles using their own DOI prefix and registration process.

Example outside journal publication (No action needed to create a DOI):

Estimates of Natural Salinity and Hydrology in a Subtropical Estuarine Ecosystem: Implications for Greater Everglades Restoration Frank E. Marshall, G. Lynn Wingard, Patrick A. Pitts.

Best Practices:

  • Ensure a persistent identifier is assigned to published scholarly articles
    • Some publishers may already require this and will do it for you.
    • USGS publications are assigned Digital Object Identifiers as part of the library cataloging process.
  • When assigning a Digital Object Identifier for a dataset:
    • Assign a Digital Object Identifier for each version of your dataset if you want to track changes to the dataset.
    • Include the Digital Object Identifier in your metadata record that describes your data [see Describe > Metadata for more information]
    • Include the Digital Object Identifier in the citation of the data set. [see Describe > Data Citation for more information]
  • Placement of the DOI for the dataset in a CSDGM metadata record
    • The DOI should go in the primary <onlink> in the Citation Information section.
    • Make sure that the format of the DOI is a URL, (not of the format doi:10.5066/ABCD123). Your DOI should be entered in the format If your DOI is not entered as a URL, your metadata record will be rejected by catalogs such as the USGS Science Data Catalog and
  • Placement of the DOI for the related publication in a CSDGM record
    • The related publication is usually cited as a Larger Work Citation in the metadata. The Larger Work Citation has its own <onlink> field, and this is the correct location for the publication's DOI.
    • Make sure that the format of the DOI is a URL, (not of the format doi:10.3133/ABCD123). Your DOI should be entered in the format If your DOI is not entered as a URL, your metadata record will be rejected by catalogs such as the USGS Science Data Catalog and
  • A DOI's value as a persistent identifier is lost entirely if a DOI is not updated when the object it references changes physical location (i.e., the URL changes in some way)
    • If your data product's physical URL changes in any way, it is critical that you update your DOI to point to the new path for the file. The DOI in your citation will not resolve, and will result in 'file not found' errors for users, if you do not maintain the physical link to your data product in the DOI record.
    • USGS scientists and data managers can update their DOIs at any time in the USGS DOI Creation Tool to correct a broken link or change any other information about their data product. Updates made in the tool are submitted daily to the DataCite index. The DataCite index converts the DOIs into resolvable online links for the Web.
    • The USGS DOI Creation Tool allows staff to designate co-owners and backups of individual DOI records, so that trusted colleagues can assist originators of DOI records in maintaining the integrity of DOIs over time. It is strongly recommended that at least one co-owner or backup be assigned to any DOI.


  • USGS - Digital Object Identifier Creation Tool
  • Description:
    USGS Core Science Analytics, Synthesis, and Libraries and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Mercury Consortium established a Digital Object Identifier service for USGS and Mercury data/metadata projects. The Digital Object Identifier creation tool is offered through the California Digital Library’s UC3EZID which enables a digital object producer to obtain and manage persistent identifiers for their digital content.

What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires:

The USGS Survey Manual chapter SM 502.8 Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release requires that data approved for release must be assigned a persistent identifier, specifically a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for scientific data obtained from the USGS registration agent, and be accompanied by a recommended citation.

Recommended Reading