A Digital Object Identifier (DOI or doi) allows a Uniform Resource Locator (URL or web address) to be defined for each journal article, or other online material, including datasets. It is a simple mapping between the DOI and URL. It prevents the "Link not found" errors on the web. All trusted scholarly journals assign unique DOIs to individual published journal articles, and registers the DOIs with a DOI system. An article can only be assigned one DOI, and that DOI will remain persistent in the future – regardless of changes in editor, publisher or web site host.

A requirement of the DOI system is that references cited should, wherever possible, contain a DOI (outgoing DOIs). Doing this makes it easier to generate citation counts.

A DOI expands to a URL by adding before the prefix. The original standard for displaying a DOI was without this component but the current DOI display guidelines require that a DOI be displayed as a full URL.

Steps below describe how to obtain a DOI through ASSAf. If you work directly with a registration agency such as CrossRef, they charge an annual fee to a publisher, a fee for creating DOIs for old issues (more than two years old) and a higher fee for current issues. Updates to the URL to which the DOI refers are free. You can find out more about Crossref fees here. If your organization publishes more than one journal, you only need register once, but each journal may have a different prefix.

Step 1: Applying for a DOI Prefix

The journal editor or publisher or host can apply for a DOI prefix from a DOI system such as CrossRef. Some publishing systems, such as Open Journal Systems (OJS), automate the process of creating DOIs, once the prefix is set up.

Alternatively the journal can work with ASSAf and submit DOIs through ASSAf. The procedure:
  1. Contact ASSAf and indicate that you are interested in having DOIs assigned to individual journal articles for your journal. Include the URL (web address) and title of the journal/s.
  2. ASSAf will reply with basic instructions and an example of what to do.

Step 2: Start compiling DOIs for the issue (manual process for SciELO journals)

  1. List the metadata in an Excel spread sheet to keep track of all. Click here for an example spread sheet.
  2. Compile the DOI for each article as follows:

    Example final DOI for article:

Step 3: Assiging DOIs (manual process)

The DOI for each article has to be added to the pdf version of the full text article each time. This is usually done by the layout editor, during the layout editing phase. Add it to the header or footer area.


Step 4: Enter all metadata on Excel spread sheet (manual process)

  1. Enter the metadata for all the articles on the Excel spread sheet.
  2. E-mail to ASSAf for submission to CrossRef.
    Alternatively, if your journal publishing system supports automatic DOI generation and submission, follow the procedure for that (e.g., OJS can do this).

Step 5: ASSAf submits DOIs to CrossRef

  1. The metadata for articles will be submitted to CrossRef, once all articles have URLs assigned. Where a journal is hosted online by SciELO only, the DOIs will be submitted once the SciELO files have been uploaded.
  2. Articles will be submitted using WebDeposit
  3. Where the article DOI needs to resolve to dual web pages, the following procedure is followed (the SciELO page is regarded as the secondary host):

Step 6: Resolving DOIs

Once the DOIs have been successfully submitted to CrossRef, it should resolve. This means: clicking on the hyperlinked DOI or searching for the DOI will take you to the exact article for that DOI. In other words, the DOI will turn into the URL where the article is to be found. There may be a delay if there is a large queue of requests to set up new DOIs before the DOI correctly resolves.

Resolve DOIs using the following:

Finding DOIs

Enter the details of an article to find its DOI. Please note that an article will only have a DOI if the journal/publisher has registered the DOIs with an international accredited DOI system, such as CrossRef.

Find DOIs using the following:

Useful Links

CrossRef Help
CrossRef DOI Depositor Information
The DOI System
DataCite Cite your data (how to cite using a doi)
SUNJournals Help Page
Wikipedia Digital Object Identifier

E-mail to Journal Editors re DOIs


The South African scholarly publication year has started off with the announcement of an Open Access Policy from the National Research Foundation (NRF). In addition to this, SA journals are becoming increasingly in demand internationally, and therefore it is required that these journals adhere to international standards, for example in order to be included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

ASSAf is in the process of expanding its services, of which one is to make sure a digital object identifier is assigned to each and every article digitally available through the World Wide Web. From 2015 ASSAf will be offering a DOI service to SciELO journals which do not assign DOIs to articles yet.

What is a DOI?
DOI is an acronym for digital object identifier, a unique alphanumeric string assigned to each separate digital item (article) published as part of your journal. Each DOI is associated with a set of basic metadata and a URL pointer to the full text. ASSAf has registered with CrossRef, and has been assigned a DOI prefix ( which can be used by all SciELO journals. Each SciELO journal will use a unique string, for example – the DOIs for articles published in SA Orthopaedic Journal will look as follows for an individual article, should the journal want to make use of this opportunity:

To explain:
Prefix for all SciELO journals:
E-ISSN: Each online published journal has to have an electronic ISSN, in addition to the print ISSN. Apply for an EISSN at:
Year: the year of publication, e.g. 2015
v#n#a#: volume number, issue number, article number

The article at will therefore have the following DOI (should it be assigned and registered):

Importance of DOIs
- Required by SciELO to be included for articles to be published from 2015 onwards.
- Required by Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) for acknowledgment of journal title as a high quality open access journal.
- Each DOI helps to uniquely identify an individual article, and provides a persistent link to its location on the Internet (World Wide Web).
- Article DOIs are required when other researchers want to cite/reference articles published in your journal.
- A DOI provides an active hyperlink which enhance the user experience, making it easy to find articles referenced by others.
- The DOI will – in future – become a way to evaluate article impact.
- All trusted subscription and open access journals assign and register DOIs.

Making use of the ASSAf SciELO option

If you are interested in making use of this offer, the journal (editor & editorial board) will need to commit to the following:
- Assign a unique DOI to each new article published from 2015 onwards. Request the doi numbers from ASSAf, prior to the layout editing process.
- Have the DOI added to the pdf version of the article, by the layout editor, before being published. The final published article should contain the unique DOI.
- ASSAf will prepare an XML file with metadata for the new issue, and submit the metadata (incl. DOIs) to CrossRef. This has to be done immediately on publication of the new issue.
- ASSAf will pay the fee of $1.00 per article to CrossRef, once the issue has been published.

ASSAf is also committed to pay the annual subscription fee of $275.00 per annum to CrossRef, and will provide the necessary support and training.

Please contact us should you be interested in making use of this opportunity, which applies to new issues only. We will then respond with more specific details as applied to your journal.

Looking very much forward hearing from you!

With kind regards