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What is data citation?

Data citation refers to the practice of providing a reference to data in the same way as researchers routinely provide a bibliographic reference to outputs such as journal articles, reports and conference papers. Citing data is increasingly being recognised as one of the key practices leading to recognition  of  data  as a primary research output. This is important because:

  • when datasets are routinely cited they will achieve greater validity and significance within the scholarly communications cycle
  • citation of data enables recognition of scholarly effort with the potential for reward based on data outputs
  • the use of data should be appropriately attributed in scholarly outputs as with other types of publication.

Assigning a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to data facilitates data citation and is considered best practice. A DOI is a type of persistent identifier that indicates a dataset will be well  managed  and accessible for long term use. It is now routine practice for publishers to assign  DOIs to journal articles and for authors to include them in article citations. The ANDS DOI Service (Cite My Data) allows Australian research  organisations  to mint DOIs for datasets and collections so they can be included in data citations.

Data citation is international best practice:

Data citation poster

Building a Culture of Data Citation poster

Free printed copies of the poster in A4 or pamphlet form are available by emailing

Benefits of data citation

Why cite data?

Citation of data brings numerous benefits for researchers and institutions. For example:

  • Evidence suggests that including citable data in related publications increases the citation rate of those publications.
  • Routine citation of data will assist in gaining acknowledgement of data as a first class research output.
  • Citations for published data can be included in CVs and biographical sketches along with journal articles, reports and conference papers.
  • Only cited data can be counted and tracked (in a similar manner to journal articles) to measure impact.

Benefits of adding DOIs to finalised data sets

Why include a DOI in data citations?

While data may be cited without a DOI, assigning a DOI to data and including it in a data citation is considered best practice. DOIs provide additional benefits such as:

  • Easy and persistent access to research data available via the internet
  • Enhanced discovery, retrieval and management of data to enable data reuse and verification of research results.
  • Support for automated tracking of data outputs:

How to cite research data

Data citation styles continue to evolve and vary across disciplines and publishers. DataCite recommends using one of the following formats:

  • Mandatory citation elements only
  • Hanigan, Ivan (2012): Monthly drought data for Australia 1890-2008 using the Hutchinson Drought Index. The Australian National University Australian Data Archive.
  • Including version and resource type
    Bradford, Matt; Murphy, Helen; Ford, Andrew; Hogan, Dominic; Metcalfe, Dan (2014): CSIRO Permanent Rainforest Plots of North Queensland. v2. CSIRO. Data Collection.

Nature Publishing’s Data Policy states:

Citations of datasets should include the minimum information recommended by DataCite and follow Nature Research style i.e. authors, title, publisher (repository name), identifier.
Dataset identifiers including DOIs should be expressed as full URLs. For example:

  • Hao, Z., AghaKouchak, A., Nakhjiri, N. & Farahmand, A. Global Integrated Drought Monitoring and Prediction System (GIDMaPS) Data sets. Figshare (2014)
  • See a published example in Nature Communications. (items 1 & 43 in the reference list)

You can use the DataCite DOI Citation Formatter, a service created in collaboration with CrossRef, to format your citation. For example:

  • Hanigan, Ivan. (2010) Meteorological Data for Australian Postal Areas . Australian Data Archive. DOI: 10.4225/13/50BBFCFE08A12

Not all datasets have a DOI that can be referenced in a citation and alternatives to the DataCite citation style do exist. The basic APA style for citing data is shown in the example below:

Read more about citing data and see examples of more citation styles and formats.