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Institutional Identifiers

The I² (Institutional Identifiers--pronounced "I 2") working group will build on work from the Journal Supply Chain Efficiency Improvement Pilot (, which demonstrated the improved efficiencies of using an institutional identifier in the journal supply chain. The NISO working group will develop a standard for an institutional identifier that can be implemented in all library and publishing environments. The standard will include definition of the metadata required to be collected with the identifier and what uses can be made of that metadata.

Background and Problem Statement

Many transactions take place in the supply chain between libraries and their content providers. In the electronic era any mistake in these transactions may lead to the customers not receiving their content. One of the major issues is the lack of a common way of identifying the institution with its multiplicity of libraries, departments, campuses or offices.

There are two main initiatives currently under way, one led by libraries the other by publishers. The library initiative is the WorldCat Registry, which seeks to identify the world's libraries and collect information about them; the other is Ringgold's Identify which has identified institutions which subscribe to academic journals. Hosting services, such as Atypon, have also proposed a central registry of IP addresses.

The Journal Supply Chain Efficiency Improvement Pilot (JSCEIP), originally constituted as HighWire Press, HighWire publishers, the British Library, Swets, and Ringgold, initiated a Project to look at the supply chain and the uses of an institutional identifier in that chain. Part of the work has shown that it would improve efficiency but that implementation will require work from all parties and a commitment by all parties to use such an identifier. It has also been shown that there are many more players involved in the supply chain than originally thought.

One main issue is the question of what metadata should be collected with the identifier and what uses can be made of that metadata. A minimum set of data is required as criteria for unique identification, other data may be used to support the business models of respective organizations. Privacy and security issues will also need to be considered.

The institutions and their metadata represent a highly volatile data set. In the existing Ringgold Identify database, for example, approximately 30% of the records are changed in some way every year. While the options for maintaining local data remain the responsibility of the owning agency (in this case Ringgold), making such registry data available across heterogeneous systems requires identifiers that are based upon public standards. NISO has traditionally played a role in the promulgation of identifiers commonly used within the library and publishing communities, working both nationally and internationally.

Other institutional identifiers exist for some of the transactions (e.g., SAN, IPEDS, GLN, MARC Org Code, ISIL) and there may be a need to look at the relationship of these identifiers to the work of this institutional identifier.

Additional Resources

  • Institutional Identifiers in Repositories: A Survey Report for the NISO I² Workgroup
    The NISO I² Working Group surveyed repository managers and developers to determine the current practices and needs of the repository community regarding institutional identifiers. Results from the survey will inform a set of use cases that will be shared with the community, and that are expected to drive the development of a new standard for institutional identifiers. September 11, 2009
  • Institutional Identifiers Presentation (June 4, 2008)
    Helen Henderson's (Managing Director, Ringgold Ltd) presentation NISO's Metadata Forum by on this topic, which shows possible case studies and work timeline.

 Midterm Report, June 2010

NISO Request for Comments on Institutional Identifier Midterm Work to Date

Feedback Requested by August 2, 2010

In 2008, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) established the Institutional Identifier (I²) Working Group to develop a robust, scalable, and interoperable standard to uniquely identify institutions and to describe relationships between entities within them. The charge is to develop a standard that includes a globally unique identifier string that is usable in the web environment, together with sufficient metadata to uniquely relate the institution to its identifier. The identifier that is developed must integrate smoothly with existing workflows and processes and enable future workflows within the information chain. The Working Group is also tasked with the implementation of the identifier, including identifying the host and technical needs, addressing legacy uses of institutional identifiers in the digital information space, and identifying complementary initiatives that could be informed by, or interoperable with, the NISO I² standard.

The purpose of the Midterm Request for Comments is to provide the Working Group with valuable guidance to complete development of the I² standard and to undertake midterm course correction, as needed.

In addition to describing the purpose and background of the I² identifier, comments and responses to specific questions are sought in four areas:

  1. The environment and structure of the Institutional Identifier
  2. Expected features of the Institutional Identifier and its central registry (in the Midterm release, existing identifier standards are described and compared)
  3. Institutional Identifier metadata
  4. Scenarios illustrating the use of the Institutional Identifier

The development of useful information standards depends on input from all sectors of the information community. The I² standard has the potential to improve the reliability and efficiency of many business-related transactions including materials acquisition, e-resource management, and interlibrary loan. The Working Group hopes that you will send comments by August 2, 2010 via the feedback survey available at or to either of the co-chairs, Grace Agnew ( or Oliver Pesch (


Committee Roster


Oliver Pesch

Chief Product Strategist
EBSCO Information Services

Tina Feick

Director of Sales and Marketing, North America
HARRASSOWITZ Booksellers & Subscription Agents


Kevin Cohn

Director of Client Services
Atypon Systems, Inc.

Cindy Hepfer

University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY)

John A. Kunze

Preservation Technologies Architect, California Digital Library
California Digital Library (CDL)

Greg Malar

Business Development Director
Rockefeller University Press

Heather Weltin

Content and Data Management Lead and Program Officer for Shared Print
HathiTrust Digital Library