We are used to DOI's now for over 10 years. If a DOI is known for an scientific article, simply punching in the url http://dx.doi.org/xxxxxx will get you to its location and eventually access. All scientific publishers today support DOI's although implementation is not flawless. Articles from before the DOI era have a DOI added but retroactively including this DOI to the actual pdf of that article while technically trivial, for publishers is a major challenge. Any scientific article concludes its business with a list of citations and what would be more convenient if all citations would be accompanied with a clickable DOI? Wiley agrees but ACS publications and many more publishers do not. And why do all links in these pdf files target SELF and not BLANK? Scientific publishers deserve more competent IT managers!. At least Wikipedia has fully adopted it and to satisfaction.
And getting to the actual topic of this blog, why is it not possible to attach a similar identifier to a scientist? A good question and addressed in a Science News item by Declan Butler that sadly does NOT have a DOI. Butler introduces us to a certain Y. Wang who apparently publishes 10 articles per day and is the most productive scientist on the planet. Of course many different Wangs exist and if only it was possible to distinguish between all these Wangs. Via a unique identifier called a ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) !!.
Pretty straightforward, but why is this identifier still discussed and not implemented even in 2012? One obvious reason could be that fat commercial players are trying to get an exclusive hold on the game, for example fat cats like Thomson Reuters with their ResearcherID. Implementing an identifier on a non-profit basis really should not be that costly: Crossref charges one dollar for a DOI (here) although we should be aware that even non-profits can get tremendously wealthy by overcharging (hi ACS!).
The major challenge in the proposed scheme of course is assigning authors to articles. According to the ORCID website individuals alive today can create a orcid just like that. But who is going to link http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja01201a526 to Robert Burns Woodward? It should not be linked to Bob Woodward or Robert Woodward or even Mr. Burns. This blog is going into ponder-mode........