When DOIs first became widespread for papers, I was a big fan. Just by adding "http://dx.doi.org/" to the start of the DOI I could ensure that a link would always lead the reader to the correct web page of the publisher. As a unique identifier, the DOI could be used to connect disparate resources relating to papers; e.g. comments on papers in blog posts and Table of Contents pages of journals.
But...do we really need DOIs? At least in their current form? Let's consider the following paper (discussed in a previous blog post):
EL Willighagen, NM O'Boyle, H Gopalakrishnan, D Jiao, R Guha, C Steinbeck and D J Wild Userscripts for the Life Sciences BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8, 487.
What unique identifiers could we use? Well, there's the DOI:
doi://10.1186/1471-2105-8-487Then there's the PubMed ID:
PMID 18154664Instead of these, I propose OpenRef:
openref://BMC Bioinformatics/2007/8/487Spot the difference. Neither the DOI nor the PMID can be derived from the paper itself. Similarly, it's not possible to figure out from the DOI or the PMID what the paper is (without access to the web, at least). Furthermore, the openref is available for all papers published, whether or not the publishers have assigned them a DOI (in associated with CrossRef). Needless to say, not all papers are in PubMed and so don't have PMIDs.
So, is it too late for OpenRef? Certainly not. Any publisher could implement it on their own server with an hour or two's work. Similarly, CrossRef could do it (though it would only work for those papers which have DOIs). Other Web 2.0 sites that manipulate information on publications could use it also; e.g. CiteULike and Connotea.
This would mean that you could instantly access information on a particular paper using a web browser and going to
http://www.biomedcentral/openref/BMC Bioinformatics/2007/8/487instead of having to know the DOI or search on a publisher's web site.
(1) For journals that don't use volumes, the openref would be of the form openref://Journal Name/Year/Page
(2) There are certain parallels for chemists between DOIs vs. openref and CAS numbers vs. InChI.
(3) The term RESTful is used in the sense of "RESTful web services" (an excellent book).