PubMed ID and DOI, two important identifiers of scientific publications

In Citation tracking by Xu CuiLeave a Comment

We provide both the “PubMed ID” and “DOI” fields of publications in our citation tracking service. But what are they and why are they important?

PubMed is one of the most popular literature databases among life science researchers and doctors. It is maintained by National Library of Medicine (NLM) of NIH, and includes ~30 million citations so far. Very new journals or journals with low reputation may not be indexed by PubMed. Having a PubMed ID allows you and your users to quickly look up a paper.

As an example, the paper titled “A quantitative comparison of NIRS and fMRI across multiple cognitive tasks” has a PubMed ID 21047559. PubMed ID is a numeric number.

DOI, short for Digital Object Identifier, is like driver’s license number for scientific publications: it is a persistent identifier used to identify academic, professional, and government information uniquely, standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It is not limited to life sciences.

As an example, the same paper mentioned above paper has an DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.069 You will find all DOIs start with 10.

Below is a comparison between the two IDs.

PubMed IDdoi
FieldLife sciencesAll fields
FormatNumeric valueA string usually starting with “10.”
CoverageLimited to publications indexed by PubMed. Some life science journals are not indexed by PubMed.Almost all publications

Why are PubMed ID and DOI useful?

  1. If you build and maintain your own citation database, you may use PubMed ID and/or DOI as the identifier. However, only papers indexed by PubMed has a PubMed ID. DOI is adopted in all fields.
  2. You can quickly find the link of a paper if you know its PubMed ID or DOI. Just add PubMed ID after or add DOI after Take the above paper as an example, its link are and After you click the links, the browser will automatically redirect you to the paper’s official site.
  3. If you enter a PubMed ID (combined with “PubMed”) or DOI in Google, Bing, Google Scholar or any other search engines, you can find the paper quickly too.
  4. If you need to send a list of papers to your customers or colleagues, having PubMed IDs and DOI values will help them find the paper more quickly.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help track your citations or have questions about PubMed ID or DOI.

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