When I cite papers online, especially in Wikipedia pages, it is very convenient to use their DOI. However, some papers which I would like to cite (like this and that) have no DOI. Or at least, I haven't been able to find their DOI in the crossref search form.

Why isn't a DOI assigned to all papers? Is there something I can do to change this?

EDIT: I now found out that in ResearchGate, I can upload my paper and it automatically receives a DOI. So practically, my problem is solved.

  • 1
    Perhaps because it typically costs some amount of money to register a DOI with a registration service?
    – Mike A.
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 14:31
  • 2
    The question is skewed by your asking it in the passive voice. Why doesn't who assign a DOI to all papers?
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 2:12
  • 2
    ResearchGate's instructions explore.researchgate.net/display/support/Generating+a+DOI fail: there's neither a "timeline" tab nor a "Generate a DOI" button. So how did you accomplish this? Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 19:32
  • Ah. ResearchGate elsewhere says "Publications of type 'Article' and 'Conference Paper' are considered to have been published elsewhere, therefore, DOIs cannot be generated for this publication type." Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 19:35

3 Answers 3


A process exists for obtaining DOI's, including the submission of meta-data and fees. Thus, it is time and cost prohibitive for some authors / publishers to obtain DOI's for their published works.

You can find information about DOI's here: http://www.doi.org/faq.html

  • 1
    Can an author request a DOI for his paper if he pay all the fees himself, if the journal/conference do not request it at all?
    – enthu
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:59
  • 7
    The purpose of a DOI is to have a web link to a permanent archive of a paper. Unless the author is planning to maintain that permanent archive, it would not make sense for them to request a DOI on their own. @EnthusiasticStudent Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 14:52
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    @OswaldVeblen's answer about making that commitment to keeping the DOI 'maintained' is a big part of the picture. The reason that DOIs were adopted was their 'persistent' quality. CrossRef has a two-way agreement with publishers who commit to updating the link metadata (where the DOI points to).
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 15:07

DOIs are assigned by CrossRef on behalf of members. CrossRef is an association of scholarly publishers, so the members are therefore publishers rather than authors.

DOIs were introduce because of "link-rot": citing a paper by URL and within 6 months the URL doesn't work. When a publisher joins CrossRef they make a commitment to keep the DOI link metadata updated, so the DOI always points to the paper if, for example, the publisher is bought out and all the URLs change. This agreement is an important part of the DOI system and explains why publishers are members rather than authors.

Assigning a DOI is normally done during the process of publication, and will normally be done automatically. That's not to say that DOIs can't be assigned after publication: DOI 10.1098/rstl.1672.0051 is for a paper published in 1672. Publishers generally assign DOIs to new content but not to back files because new content is more likely to be cited.

It's not free to register a DOI, off the top of my head, around a dollar per DOI. It's normal (and cheaper) for publishers to deposit back-files, i.e. for publications older than 2 years (again, off the top of my head).

So, if you want to get a DOI assigned you can go to the publisher and request that they register a CrossRef DOI.

STM (Science Technology and Medicine) is a very fast-moving field with lots of papers published and cited. Humanities publishing tends to move at a different pace and tends to have different priorities. Therefore you may find STM publishers more likely to assign (and to need to assign) DOIs than in other fields.

The alternative is that you get a DOI from another organisation, for example FigShare. There are examples of people registering FigShare DOIs for their publications.

CrossRef was created to solve the problems of assigning persistent identifiers (DOIs) and linking between papers (one DOI cites another DOI). CrossRef also has lots of other infrastructure, such as bibliographic metadata, FundRef, CrossMark, metadata API etc so it's the best place to register scholarly publications.

Disclaimer: I work for CrossRef

  • So how come some DOIs point to e.g. a pubmed entry? wouldn't it make more (financial) sense for the publisher to directly link to their site?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 7:09
  • Do you have an example of a DOI pointing to a Pubmed page?
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 9:15
  • Nvm I think my reference manager tricked me. I scraped a reference using only the DOI, and it found a pubmed URL. Turns out it didn't resolve the actual DOI as I thought it would. But since pubmed often seems to offer multiple options for downloading, wouldn't it be a good idea for a DOI?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 15:37
  • This answer almost makes it sound like CrossRef created the notion of a DOI, which is quite misleading. DOIs are an international standard via ISO. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_object_identifier
    – nealmcb
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 3:42
  • This wasn't meant to be misleading. Crossref used DOI to implement persistent identifiers. Note that the ISO standard is 2012, Crossref was founded some time prior.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 16:10

A DOI is registered by a so-called Registration Agency (see FAQ 1 and 2 at DOI). Since there is a cost associated with the service, it may not be feasible for all to add such identifiers.

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