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PIs for datasets moving across institutional boundaries 
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ANDS Partners
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Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:46 pm
Posts: 9
A project I'm working on involves researchers from various different institutions all creating datasets at an instrument facility at one institution and then moving those datasets to other institutions. We want to use the ANDS Persistent Identifier service to mint PIs for these datasets, and to update the PIs so that they resolve to wherever the data happens to be.

One issue we face is how to delegate the administrative rights over the identifier when the data moves from one institution to another. We want to be able to pass effective ownership of the PI to the receiving institution, so that they can manage where it points to, and update it from time to time as they see fit.

This is one reason why the ANDS handle service is relatively attractive (compared to running our own handle server), since the ANDS service is effectively shared across all the participating institutions, and it should be possible to transfer ownership of a handle between any of the participating institutions simply by updating the administrative metadata of the handle itself (this isn't actually possible yet, but I believe ANDS will make it possible - it's certainly not a big ask, from a technical point of view).

Another possible way to deal with this issue is to mint new identifiers for data as it passes from one owner to another. So when the data is captured at institution A, the institution mints a handle for it, which resolves to the data at institution A. Then when the data passes from institution A to institution B, a new handle is minted by institution B, pointing to the dataset in its location at institution B, and subsequently institution A can change their handle so that it redirects to institution B's handle. References to the original handle minted by institution A will continue to work, since it will delegate to B's handle, and B gets to decide where their handle points to. Potentially they can even redelegate the handle again (perhaps to a discipline-specific data repository).

I'd be interested to hear any other ideas about how to deal with PIs in a multi-institutional workflow.

Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:40 pm
ANDS Partners
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Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:15 pm
Posts: 5
Hi Conal,

long term persistence of identifier association is a tricky issue. I don't have any answers, but can point you in the direction of some thinking we did in the PILIN project a while ago.

Firstly, have a look at "Persistence of Identifiers Guidelines" document It discusses both the options you mention: changing access controls within an identifier management system and aliasing (redirecting) from one identifier to another.

Aliasing / redirecting is the approach recommended by the W3C Web Architecture (see, along with designing "cool" identifiers that can cope with change (see While redirects are technically elegant, they rely on maintaining the persistence of two identifier systems: one for the original identifier and one for the new identifier. The owners of the new identifier probably don't have access to the old identifier system, which means they have to trust that the original identifier system will persist for as long as they want to manage their new identifier. This is probably ok in the case of ANDS PIDs, which presumably have some sort of persistence guarantee.

The access control option requires a system that distinguishes between access control and ownership, and can delegate access control to entities other than the original identifier creator. While the Handle System can support this, you are correct that the ANDS PID service doesn't support these concepts at the moment.

Another option is to consider running your own identifier management system and guarantee persistence over your identifiers. While this is a big commitment, the W3C documents argue that you should be doing that for any URIs you publish anyway. For a longer discussion on the pros and cons of using HTTP URIs as persistent identifiers see "Using URIs as Persistent Identifiers"

It'd be great to hear about what solution you finally decide on: it is something that many of us ANDS partners also have to consider.

Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:17 pm
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