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When writing a paper, it's not that seldom, that I want to cite papers where a DOI is given but cannot be accessed (anymore). Quite frequently, the corresponding DOI is also presented within the PDF document of the paper that I want to cite, which is also not accessible (anymore).

The intention of DOIs was to guarantee permanent access to documents and unify it, but in reality, some are broken over time. Furthermore, not every DOI lookup website does have a complete list of all DOIs.

My primary question is: Is there some common practice how to handle this situation? Should I provide the DOI as well in my references, even though it is not accessible anymore? (Maybe it could still be accessible with some other DOI lookup website?)

What is the best DOI lookup tool? Is there something better than https://doi.org?

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    This is interesting and surprising (and worrying). Can you say a little more about what kinds of documents you are seeing with frequently broken DOIs?
    – Ben Bolker
    Aug 24 '20 at 14:40
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    @BenBolker I have found several documents with inaccessible DOIs over time while writing papers in the past and I supposed that others would also experience this issue. As far as I can remember, most papers with problematic DOIs were from "smaller" and rather "unknown" publishers (at least for me) and most papers were older or at least several years old. Maybe, some "smaller" publishers even vanished over the years, if one speaks of papers, which are e.g. 10, 15, 20 years old? I will provide a current, concrete example in the answer below.
    – Anderson
    Aug 24 '20 at 18:56
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    The few cases where I've had problems were with very recently published papers that hadn't yet been registered somewhere ...
    – Ben Bolker
    Aug 24 '20 at 18:58
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I'm from Crossref. The DOI should always resolve to some location, even if the content has moved location on the web or has changed publisher. Can you share the example so we can get it reported? It's possible it's not a Crossref DOI of course (there are several other DOI agencies) but I can find out from the DOI. The prefix does often denote a particular publisher but journals change hands frequently as societies negotiate different publishing agreements so that's not necessarily a failsafe way to solve the problem (which I agree should not be your problem!). Happy to help if you share the example(s) :-)

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    DOI: 10.15680/IJIRSET.2019.0806081; Data Extraction Techniques for Data on different Environment: A Review; PDF (where the DOI is included as well): ijirset.com/upload/2019/june/81_Data.pdf; - currently no result in crossref.org when providing the DOI; - currently no result in doi.org when providing the DOI; Listed in SemanticScholar: semanticscholar.org/paper/…
    – Anderson
    Aug 24 '20 at 19:15
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    @Anderson Looking to ijirset.com/volume-8-issue-6.html, I picked another "DOI" and found it to be invalid. I wonder whether the DOIs are fake.
    – user2768
    Aug 25 '20 at 7:46
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    @Anderson Is the journal fraudulent? It's website looks "interesting" to say the least.
    – user117200
    Aug 25 '20 at 9:32
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    "Fast review & Publication within 12 to 24 hours" I mean come on, this is not a real journal, is it?!
    – user117200
    Aug 25 '20 at 9:33
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    @TheoreticalMinimum Yes, this is one of these predatory open access journals that charge you for basically a review-less publication. Im not surprised the DOI is far from official. I strongly advise anyone from using these papers as scientific sources. I'd reject a paper if it used these as references for their work. Look at the journals name "International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology", come on. "Journal of everything you'd pay me to publish" Aug 25 '20 at 10:33
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I'm also from Crossref. Broken DOI links aren't good and we do try and fix them. If you get the "DOI Not Found" error page -for example when following this link - https://doi.org/10.15680/IJIRSET.2019.0806081 - it means that the DOI hasn't been registered. If you fill in the form then this error is reported to the appropriate Registration Agency. In Crossref's case we notify the publisher of the error and ask them to fix the problem - it usually gets fixed but if the publisher has ceased operations or isn't a Crossref member anymore the link may not be able to be fixed. Where archiving arrangements are in place the DOI can be redirected to archived copies of the content.

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    Will the database of crossref.org also be updated, when an inaccessible DOI is reported to doi.org? Can it also be reported to crossref.org directly? What if a result gets shown, but the wrong one (example: 10.15680/IJIRSET.2016.0501002 - Numerical Study of the Effect of Vertical Wind Break on the Trough Collector's Drag Force [ijirset.com/volume-5-issue-1.html])? Then the form will not be shown.
    – Anderson
    Aug 25 '20 at 9:54
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    Publishers fix the DOIs by updating their metadata with Crossref so the Crossref database has to be updated by the publisher. For DOIs that point to the wrong content you can email support(at)crossref.org or the publisher directly - http://www.ijirset.com/contact-us.html.
    – Ed Pentz
    Aug 25 '20 at 10:41
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    I know this is not a FAQ of Crossref, but I think this question is related: The journal that OP refers to is from that big subset of journals that are predatory, and likely do not follow standard scientific procedures (e.g. it claims it has an IF of 7.4, self-calculated bogus data). Do journals that would traditionally be listed in Beall's list have access to DOIs/are registered with Crossref? i.e. is there any vetting on who can be register DOIs? Aug 25 '20 at 13:05
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    @AnderBiguri Note, publications / journal articles are not the only items which may be attributed a doi. datacite and zenodo for example equally tag programs (e.g., MoleculeViewer), or whole datasets (e.g. this earth sciences excel file) with this identifier.
    – Buttonwood
    Aug 25 '20 at 17:43
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    @AnderBiguri Of course you can get a DOI for a photo of your cat, just say it's a "research output" and upload it to Figshare. A DOI is just a convenient globally unique persistent identifier for "stuff", not a mark of academic or scientific merit. Having a DOI says exactly nothing about the usefulness of a given digital object.
    – TooTea
    Aug 25 '20 at 19:22
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While not as volatile as URLs, DOIs still can be revoked or otherwise become unavailable.

In your case, consider if there is a chance that the DOI could become available again (there might be technical difficulties with the host) or whether there is another available source (another DOI). Personally, I would include the DOI in the bibliography and send a message to the author(s) or the provider (this should not be your problem to solve).

All accessible DOIs can be searched with Crossref (search by title, author, DOI and other metadata).

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    Most of the time, I think the expectation should be that the DOI will become accessible again in due time, so it's only reasonable to provide it. Consider also providing a second link, e.g., to a preprint or a Wayback Machine snapshot. Aug 24 '20 at 15:00
  • Sometimes, a trained eye already attributes the start of the doi to a publisher (e.g., 10.1021 to the American Chemical Society, 10.1016 to Elsevier), an information obviously public (list of examples). I wonder if a doi regularly remains the same if one publisher is merged with an other.
    – Buttonwood
    Aug 24 '20 at 16:08
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While DOIs are very convenient, it may actually not be a problem if it is broken. Usually, citations include author(s) name(s), journal name, journal issue, year and possibly page reference and article title. With this information alone you should be able to find a referenced article using the traditional method. Therefore, DOIs can be considered a convenience service with not too big of a fallout if they break. Another convenient "service" is to ask a librarian at your institution if you have difficulties finding a referenced source.

Furthermore, keep in mind that a DOI might simply contain a typo and can thus not be resolved correctly. This can of course also happen with traditional referencing, but there it is usually easier to see that the article from "Nautre" is actually published in "Nature".

Lastly, I would like to point out that the internet has other tools to resolve DOIs than the usual websites. For example, I can easily find the article you mentioned in the comments by using a regular internet search engine.

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    While it may be possible to find a paper without a DOI, letting DOIs break defeats the purpose of having them at all in the first place.
    – GoodDeeds
    Aug 25 '20 at 2:28
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This answer is partially derived from other answers and comments for this question:

Answer for question 1

Despite the fact that DOIs should stay operational/accessible, there exist different reasons why they can become inaccessible:

  1. Some publishers might vanish over time. In this case a DOI authority can be contacted to report the broken DOI.

  2. A publisher might have been merged with another publisher. In case such a DOI is broken, the publisher or a DOI authority could be notified. Usually, the new publisher can fix it.

  3. Some papers might be revoked after publication. In this case a DOI authority should be contacted so that the DOI does not link to a URL which e.g. does not exist anymore.

  4. A domain of a publisher might be down temporarily. This case can be tested by loading other Web pages of the same publisher. If several pages are down at the same time, it's advisable to wait for some hours and then again check the state of the domain. Just some patience might solve this issue.

  5. A technical problem with a specific Website of the publisher's domain might exist. E.g. the content could have been moved to a different location/address. This can be tested, by checking other Web pages of the same publisher. If they work properly, it's most likely that a specific Website has some issue which needs to be fixed by the publisher. Thus, the publisher should be informed.

  6. Sometimes, when papers were recently published, the DOI might already exist but the paper is not yet accessible. In case of very fresh papers, just some patience might solve this issue, until the content is uploaded properly.

  7. Some papers may be fake as well or the publisher might provide low quality papers. In case a DOI is inaccessible, it can be useful to check the trustworthiness of a publisher:

    • Is it a rather unknown publisher?
    • Does the website look suspicious?
    • Are there many typos in the papers or on the publisher's Web domain?
    • Has the publisher published papers only for e.g. 1 or 2 years?
    • Are there several papers with inaccessible DOIs of this publisher?
    • Can you find other inconsistencies?
    • Optional and not recommended in general: Has this paper never been cited by another author or by very few authors (citation count)? This is not a general recommendation, since every fresh paper has to start with a citation count of zero. Furthermore, it is not always perfectly transparent how the citation counts are created by existing systems. Different systems may report different citation counts. Furthermore, the citation count will hardly be completely accurate. If considered, this should only be seen as some small indicator in combination with other criteria.

    The more questions can be answered with yes, the more suspicious it is that the publisher might be fraudulent. It may also happen that this publisher is a "low quality" publisher, which provides low quality papers, without an extended peer review process. In any mentioned case, it is recommended to consider finding alternative papers probably also from other publishers, if possible.

  8. The DOI points to the wrong paper. If a DOI points to the wrong paper or content, then a DOI authority should be informed.

  9. Some typo might exist in the DOI. Finally, it is also possible, that there is just some typo in the given DOI.

In case of doubt, one can also simply perform a web search (e.g. Google or Google Scholar, etc.) with a search string containing the title and the authors of a paper to look it up and to check the corresponding DOI. Sometimes there may also exist a different (and operational) DOI for the paper.

Answer for question 2

https://doi.org and https://crossref.org are two excellent domains for DOI lookup.

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Summarizing some useful comments in an answer as suggested:

The journal seems to be fraudulent. The name alone is suspicious

International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology

@Ander Biguri nicknamed it "Journal of everything you'd pay me to publish" in one comment, which seems appropriate when reading the website of the publisher:

"Fast review & Publication within 12 to 24 hours"

It may be that the DOIs never expired but rather were faked from the start by the journal as @Glenn Willen points out in another comment.

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  • I am not sure, whether I want to put a particular focus for my question on the mentioned DOI in the comments, which could be fraudulent, because I assume that I have also found authentic papers in the past, where the DOI was not accessible (anymore).
    – Anderson
    Aug 25 '20 at 22:27

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