Making DOIs available for ONS controlled data

Categories: Datasets, Office for National Statistics

1 November 2022

Following the launch of the ONS Secure Research Service Metadata Catalogue in February this year, I am delighted to say that DOIs have now been rolled out for the data. A DOI is a unique string of numbers, letters and symbols used to provide a permanent online address for a digital object – such as a data asset.

The work has been progressed in close collaboration with ONS metadata experts, MetadataWorks (the Secure Research Service Metadata Catalogue provider), and the British Library. We would like to thank ADR UK for their continued sponsoring of the catalogue and advocacy for DOI work.

The availability of DOIs enables a range of benefits, including:

  • reducing time spent locating data sources that have been used, cited or quoted, providing insight on the provenance of data.
  • helping to avoid ‘link rot’ by registering metadata about data assets in a repository maintained by a trusted external organisation, such as the British Library
  • giving credit to data owners for publishing data and enabling robust citation and referencing (useful for data availability statements requested by journals)
  • supporting tracking to find out who has used sources and where, which enables longer-term monitoring and evaluation of government data and publications.

The work leading up to the roll out has included setting up a cross-ONS working group to appraise and discuss business and user needs for DOIs within the organisation. We assessed the use of DOIs by other research data publishing organisations and data repositories, such as the UK Data Service.

The team also assessed the suitability of British Library DataCite membership for minting DOIs as persistent identifiers. In October 2021 we joined the DataCite Consortium, led by the British Library, to start out pilot work.

We agreed a versioning strategy for publishing ONS Secure Research Service datasets so that that DOIs reflect true versions of data, and users are made aware of significant changes to data.

Wider use of DOIs within government

This is the first time DOIs have been made available for UK government data assets, when published via a government website. This early adoption is seen as a good opportunity to pilot implementation approaches for UK government digital publishing. In addition to the usual benefits of DOIs, for government they could provide a useful solution to IP heritage that has not so far been available. They are also useful in supporting longer-term monitoring and evaluation required by government investments.

The ONS team also led on a submission, with the support of DataCite at the British Library, to the Cabinet Office Open Standards Board for the DOI system to be recommended as an open standard across UK government. The recommendation is under consideration, with the Secure Research Service Metadata Catalogue being used as an early pilot to help examine the scope of any future implementation.

Using the DOIs

A DOI and citation for a Secure Research Service data asset created under the ADR UK research-ready data and access call looks like this:

Dataset MoJ Data First Linked Criminal Courts, Prisons and Probation - England and Wales
DOI name  10.57906/0y39-4s34
Example – non ONS data owner/controller Ministry of Justice, released 10 March 2022, ONS website, dataset, MoJ Data First Linked Criminal Courts, Prisons and Probation - England and Wales. 10.57906/0y39-4s34
ONS recommended citation: generic  [Data controller], released [Release date format XX Month 20XX], ONS website, dataset, dataset name [dataset landing page URL link embedded]. DOI


Your help in citing data

Now that DOIs are available for the secure data assets we manage, we would like to remind researchers and communicators to use them!

You can add the DOI to your data citation in any published work from your research, from published papers and reports to pieces in the media, social media and other online platforms. Those writing about or promoting data can also cite the DOI, so that mentions can be picked up for impact tracking.

Help on using our DOIs and catalogue can be found in the ONS Metadata Catalogue FAQs.

Please contact for more information on using DOIs.

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