Digital Object Identifier (DOI) FAQ

What is a DOI?

A DOI, or Digital Object Identifier, is a permanent, unique identifier that provides a persistent and singular link to an object (in IssueLab’s case, a link to a digital document file).

Essentially a DOI is a permanent identifier that acts as a tracking device when attached to physical and digital objects — documents, web pages, videos, other online resources. It provides a persistent link to details about, and access to, the object itself. A DOI can only be assigned to one object, and an object can only have one DOI. DOIs do not expire; once assigned a DOI remains in the DOI system in perpetuity. DOIs are maintained by the International DOI Foundation, and are issued by official registration agencies. You can think of Foundation Center’s IssueLab service as a sub-issuer of DOIs — we work with a registration agency to obtain and maintain DOIs for social sector publishers.

What will a DOI do for me?

A DOI attached to your published work ensures that your work is always discoverable online and in new ways, and that you can better understand how many times it is accessed over time.

One of the biggest benefits of a DOI is that it acts as a permanent and singular link to an object. In this capacity the DOI can provide comprehensive, consolidated link click-tracking which, in turn, let’s us understand how many times an object has been requested online no matter where a click on a DOI link occurs.

There are over one hundred million DOIs in existence. Academia is one of the largest users of the DOI system — it is next to impossible to find a published article in a peer-reviewed journal that doesn’t have a DOI. Why? In addition to link click-tracking (an important metric on its own), DOIs enable activities such as citation tracking which can provide information about how many times an article has been cited and by whom — this is obviously an important metric to academics, academic institutions, and the journals that publish academic work.

Lastly, DOIs can expand your audience. DOIs are issued by registration agencies which typically have a network of content providers (libraries, aggregators, clearinghouses, etc.) that use DOIs and their associated metadata in info-delivery tools and services. Your DOI-carrying publications automatically become part of this larger data share, increasing exposure of your findings and analysis.

What will my DOI look like?

DOIs supplied by IssueLab look like this: 10.15868/socialsector.12345

A DOI is a unique alpha-numeric string of characters. We have some control over the structure of the DOIs that we issue on behalf of social sector organizations and have created a DOI that reflects the content that it is applied to. The first portion of this alpha-numeric string — 10.15868 — is not something we can change. However, everything following the forward-slash (/) is under our control. We chose to use “socialsector” because it helps to identify what the resource in question is a social sector knowledge product. The numbers after the dot (.) reflect the unique ID of the resource in IssueLab’s system.

We are investigating how this new DOI number might be used to make search engines, spiders, and bots aware that they are handling social sector content which could benefit the sector when end users are searching for particular kinds of content through larger search engines such as Google or Yahoo. This is all in the exploratory phase. We’ll keep you posted!

How do I use my DOI?

DOIs are easy to use. Once you’ve received one, simply use the DOI link in place of the hyperlink you would typically use to provide people access to your downloadable content.

Once your DOI is available, instead of this:

“Download our latest report at”

…do this:

“Download our latest report at″

…or even easier – use a shortDOI:

“Download our latest report at”

We’ll provide you with all of the versions of your DOI that you will need for online and print use. Important: make sure that those who share a link to your resource use the DOI link. Only by using this unique DOI link can you benefit from the consolidated link tracking that the DOI system provides.

What will people see when they click on my DOI?

A click on an IssueLab-issued DOI will reveal one of two displays depending on whether the publication being requested is available on your web server.

Part of the reason we are using the DOI system to assist with social sector publishing is to ensure that the knowledge of the sector is accessible. Along with obtaining a DOI, it’s our job to maintain the record associated with a DOI including access to the full-text of a requested publication. Since we are not only a sharing platform but also an archiving service, we are well positioned to fulfill the promise of full-text accessibility.

In order to guarantee that a click on a DOI link will get people to the document they seek, we will only issue DOIs for resources that have an actual file uploaded and saved to IssueLab’s web server. Here’s what people will see when they click on a DOI link:

If you’ve supplied a working link to the requested publication to IssueLab, clicking on the DOI link will reveal a page that includes a brief description of the document (title, publication date, publishing organization) and two links — one to your website and one to IssueLab — leading to the downloadable file.

If IssueLab doesn’t have a working link to the requested publication on file, or if the link we have on file leads to something other than the downloadable file (eg., leads to a page-not-found error), clicking on the DOI link will lead to IssueLab’s copy of the downloadable file.

You can supply IssueLab with a working link at any time and we will update the metadata associated with your DOI so that your link is included in the intermediary page.

What does it cost to get a DOI?

It costs you nothing to get a DOI through IssueLab’s DOI service.

IssueLab has embarked on the DOI initiative because, as the primary archive, distribution channel, and cheerleader for social sector knowledge, we see this initiative as an inherent responsibility. We believe the small string of alpha-numeric characters that make up a DOI will have a big impact on the social sector’s ability to track usage of its findings and analysis. We are happy to incur the cost of DOIs — everything from the small fee to purchase individual DOIs to developing and maintaining the systems and tools that interact with the DOI system — because every single DOI issued is one more social sector knowledge product saved in perpetuity. You’re welcome!

Does Foundation Center own the DOI on my publication or do I?

Well…., yes and no. When we generate a DOI through Crossref, the DOI is allocated to our Crossref account and we are understood as the stewards of that DOI. Crossref does allow us to transfer a DOI to another entitity, and that process enables us to transfer a DOI to you. But there are caveats.First, a DOI can only be assigned to one object, and an object can only have one DOI. DOIs do not expire; once assigned a DOI remains in the DOI system in perpetuity.Second, you must be a dues-paying member of a DOI registration agency, such as Crossref, to be able to generate, maintain, or take over an existing DOI.Okay, so let’s say your DOI is “10.15868/socialsector.12345”. For as long as there’s a DOI system, that DOI will exist and it will be attached to the document it was originally generated to identify. Once you become a member of a registration agency, we can work together to transfer the DOI from our account to yours. To note: the actual DOI — 10.15868/socialsector.12345 — will not change even after it has transfered into your account. But you will be able to maintain the metadata and document associated with this DOI, making modifications as you see fit. Foundation Center would not be able to modify the DOI post-transfer. Complete information about transfering a DOI is available on Crossref’s site.You can continue to link to the archived full-text file that lives at IssueLab — doing so guarantees that at least one of the links the DOI system has on file for your publication will lead to the downloadable file. Our file archiving service remains available to you as does our continued sharing of your publication with our network of users and data partners.

How do I get a DOI through Foundation Center?

Simply visit to get started. It’s that simple. Really – click here and you’re golden!

What is Foundation Center’s role?

You can think of Foundation Center’s IssueLab service as your organization’s doorway to DOIs.Where the social sector is concerned, there are four entities involved in obtaining and maintaining DOIs:1. Your social sector organization works with us to secure DOIs for your organization’s published works through IssueLab’s DOI service.2. We work with Crossref, an official DOI registration agency, to secure and maintain DOIs on behalf of social sector organizations.3. Crossref interfaces with the International DOI Foundation to secure DOIs and maintain DOI metadata.4. The International DOI Foundation stores all DOIs in existence and provides DOI resolution services (ie., shuffles people off to the location where the full-text document of the publication they are interested in lives).

Do I have to go through Foundation Center to get a DOI?

We are the easiest way that a social sector organization can obtain a DOI for a self-published work. Together with Crossref, we are the bridge between your organization and the DOI system.The path to a DOI typically looks like this: an entity becomes a member of a DOI registration agency (RA). That membership allows the entity to request a DOI through the RA. The RA receives the DOI request and ensures that the DOI will be unique (ie., checks that the DOI doesn’t already exist). The RA obtains the DOI on behalf of the requesting entity, or communicates with the requesting entity when it isn’t possible to complete the DOI transaction. The “entity” in this scenario has traditionally been a journal – academic, scientific – that publishes peer-reviewed articles. Journals make up the vast majority of DOI requests.The social sector typically self-publishes its knowledge — there is no journal system in place to track and maintain our published works. Foundation Center has become a member of Crossref, an official registration agency in order to generate and maintain DOIs on behalf of the social sector. We chose to work with Crossref because, in addition to issuing DOIs, Crossref maintains a network of content providers — more than 4,500 publishers, abstract and indexing (A&I) databases, aggregators, and libraries — that distribute information and provide access to the objects in Crossref’s system. Obtaining a DOI through Foundation Center’s IssueLab service automatically puts your publication in front of these content providers and their varied users.

What does Foundation Center get out of this?

We see DOIs as one proven way to understand the impact of the findings and analysis of the social sector. That understanding can help everyone involved with philanthropy and social issues to do their work better. And helping philanthropy succeed is at the core of our mission.The Foundation Center’s work centers on collecting and understanding philanthropic data. The knowledge produced by the social sector is an outcome of philanthropy and, as such, we are interested in understanding the impact of that knowledge. Through our IssueLab service we are committed to ensuring that the knowledge generated by the social sector is a known quantity — easy to discover, easy to access, and easy to share and use. Now, through our DOI initiative, we can access real data about how often these products are accessed.The DOI is one of the only ways that we know of that let’s us get closer to a true measure of impact — how many times a publication is requested across the Web regardless of where a link was clicked. In the future we will experiment with other metrics available through DOIs such as citation tracking.

Who can I talk with to learn more?

We welcome your questions and conversation about IssueLab’s new DOI service, and DOIs in general. The easiest way to get in touch is by email. Please send us a message at We look forward to hearing from you!