Friday, April 24, 2009

How to trust the persistence of GUIDs

After some rather quiet months, members of the Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG) have started to discuss the GUID (LSID) issue again.
Beneath the never ending discussion on which identifier system (DOI, LSID, PURL, handle etc.) is best, some other interesting issues have been raised: does a GUID system need central services, does it need a business model (money) etc.

Most interesting Roger Hyam has questioned the trustworthiness, thus persistence of GUIDs. He comments:

What I find most interesting is that the only people who promise persistence are people who are trying to persuade you to use their system. The basic message is “don’t trust them trust us”
When we say GUID persistence what we really mean is reliability of GUID resolution in the short term. This is something entirely different from persistence for the long term! If it doesn’t work now we will never build a system that is worth preserving into the future. Lets just do the easy stuff now and then migrate it if we ever need to. I believe this is my final word on persistence of GUIDs
Good point! But instead of questioning the trustworthiness of GUIDs in general we should start thinking on ways to ensure or at least enhance it. So, how can we REALLY trust? Surely not based on promises. But based on facts!

Therefore, the only way such service providers (also archives, databases etc.) could prove their trustworthiness would be a specific audit procedure and certificates.

There are some initiatives working on this. For example the German nestor group. They developed a criteria catalogue for long term archives largely based on the OAIS model. Another check list is the TRAC list here. And there is the European DRAMBORA project which provides a repository audit method based on risk assessment'.

The TDWG GUID group was focusing on technology, which was good to demonstrate a GUID system can work for biodiversity informatics. Now that we face these 'new' problems with GUIDs (business model + trustworthiness) TDWG should continue, revitalize the GUID group and care about these issues.

A good starting point would be to develop such an audit procedure for LSIDs, based on the models mentioned above. TDWG (or some other organisation) could offer these audits and LSID authorities could get certified. This would enable them to demonstrate their trustworthiness, thus the persistence of their GUIDs. Such a certificate could electronically be assigned and added for example as a link to the LSID metadata.
And why offering such audits for free? Maybe revenues from audit certificates could be one pillar of a future business model for LSIDs .. or TDWG?

1 comment:

Jens Klump said...

Actually, nestor, TRAC and DRAMBORA all follow the OAIS reference model. In addition, nestor recently published a "Catalogue of criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of persistent identifier systems".