Can I refer to DOIs without explaining what they are? I am writing for an audience of experienced academics.

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    Refer where? In a paper? In an email? In a conversation? – darij grinberg Oct 5 '19 at 5:40
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    Well, the answers will depend on the situation. (Though in most cases you can solve the issue by hyperlinking to the Wikipedia page like this: DOI. But this goes into general writing advice.) – darij grinberg Oct 5 '19 at 6:01
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    @darijgrinberg I am not asking about how to write; I am asking about what faculty know. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 5 '19 at 6:25
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    "I am asking about what faculty know" – and how can we know what the faculty know? Ask them if they know. Without this, they either know or don't know - I don't know. – user68958 Oct 5 '19 at 14:36

My suspicion is that the vast majority of academics (in STEM fields, say) will

  • have seen DOIs being used many times in papers and online,
  • be able to discern your intent if you use the term DOI in a context other than in print with a URL next to it,
  • have absolutely no idea what the letters stand for, and
  • never have done any research (e.g., read the DOI wikipedia article) about what DOI's are, why they're used, etc.

Added: In response to Strongbad's comment, let me summarize the above briefly. I believe that a large majority of academics will have seen DOIs being used and know that if they go to the URL they'll wind up at the paper they're looking for. I also believe that, if pressed, many academics would say that the point of having a DOI is to be able to provide people with a stable URL where the paper may be found. But I think that in most cases the latter response would be a guess because I think that very few academics have spent any time looking into DOIs in any serious way.

  • I think this has the makings of a great answer, but it might help if you expand it. Knowing that if you click a doi it will bring you to the paper is not really the same thing as knowing what a doi really is. – StrongBad Oct 5 '19 at 14:21

I wouldn’t assume faculty in general know anything. Faculty in a particular field or subfield have certain common knowledge, but faculty in general have little to no common knowledge since they’re trained in different fields, in different countries, and in different decades. Probably you’re on safe ground assuming they know the earth is a sphere, but probably not HTML, and certainly not DOIs.

  • The Earth is an oblate spheroid not a sphere... :) Mind you I think some faculty think the Earth is flat... – Solar Mike Oct 6 '19 at 7:03

From personal experience, I know that you cannot assume that faculty (particularly older faculty) will know what a DOI is.

While most younger established faculty will be generally digitally savvy and have encountered DOIs, ORCID, preprint archives, etc., that will not apply to all.

  • Some people are in narrow sub-fields where shifts to more integrated electronic publication just haven't fully taken hold yet.
  • Many older faculty are not particularly active in "normal" publications any more, either mostly just doing books and invited pieces or else being a senior collaborator who doesn't actually directly deal with the mechanisms of publication directly any more.

My own personal anecdote is on a senior colleague who I often interact with, but who had never even heard of DOIs until I recently explained the system to them. This person also typically interacts with all of their publications on paper. They do use a computer to compose and not a typewriter, but that's about as far as it goes.

You probably don't need to do an in-depth discussions of mechanisms, though, just add a phrase or sentence to get the gist across.

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