Josh from The Winnower (thewinnower.com) here. I wanted to reach out and see if users of Stack Exchange Academia would be interested in permanently archiving and assigning Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to top threads with The Winnower. We’ve begun to offer DOIs and permanent archival to blogs, scholarly reddit AMAs, and we think various Stack Exchange is equally deserving of such services, services that are typically only afforded to traditional scholarly publishers. In short we’d love to make these great Q&As citable in the scholarly literature and count on users CVs for credit in the workplace/academia. But of course, we’d like your feedback before we do anything. We’ve met with some great people at the Stack Exchange offices and based upon your feedback they are willing to help. So…

Do you think top threads in Academia should be assigned a DOI and archived permanently via The Winnower?
If so, what threshold would you set
If not, why?

For background here is some more info on why we are offering DOIs to new media and how we’re doing it.

What is a DOI? http://www.crossref.org/01company/16fastfacts.html

Why we assign DOIs and archive scholarly reddit AMAs https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/3finu8/doi_assignments_for_science_amas/

And for those curious we archive content via Portico, the same method used for many leading scholarly journals.

Thanks! Josh, founder of The Winnower ([email protected])

  • 4
    It might be worth noting that some SE sites (e.g. Physics.SE) allow to download BibTeX citations of questions and answers. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:03
  • @MassimoOrtolano - that's great, but it doesn't solve the same issue as having a DOI. (of course, just having a DOI doesn't solve the issue of formatting either :) ) Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 10:58
  • There is an issue of contributorship here which I think the DOI, but more specifically ORCIDs are necessary for. There are many ways to contribute to academia, beyond the usual "write a paper, get $$$". Answering a question, mentoring young researchers, ensuring quality in the community - all of these are contributions. The badge system is a fantastic way to show this. Having SE badges (or others) in an ORCID would be what I'm looking for. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:02
  • Also brought up on the whole-network meta at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/266307/…
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 4:43

4 Answers 4


While this seems like a nice idea, I think this is something that needs to be addressed across the full Stack Exchange network. I could see that multiple sites (particularly some of the hard science sites) being interested, and thus it would be useful to have the central Stack Exchange employees make the decision if it can be made available across the network to sites that want it.

  • We met with Stack Exchange employees last week and they are willing to work with us so long as the community is interested (we are asking the same Q at various site metas). It would be good to get some kind of consensus at each site to know which sites would receive DOIs (if we go ahead and do it). If we can show interest they will make sure it can get done and put resources towards it.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 20:08
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    I hope Stack Exchange is very careful about this. I would not be happy if the network as a whole seemed to be endorsing this system. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 20:54
  • Can you clarify how this would be an endorsement? I believe that is not a correct representation of what we are proposing.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:04

In short we’d love to make these great Q&As citable in the scholarly literature and count on users CVs for credit in the workplace/academia.

Assigning DOIs does absolutely nothing of the sort. Questions and answers here can already be cited with no need for DOIs. (Many documents people cite don't have DOIs, and that doesn't stop anyone.) And the idea that this will make them count for credit on CVs is ridiculous. I can't imagine any university department saying "We didn't think participating in Q&A online should count for anything, but now that your contributions have been assigned DOIs by The Winnower, that make them Genuine Scholarly Contributions™ worthy of respect and credit."

Under the Creative Commons license used on this site, nobody can stop The Winnower from archiving whatever they'd like, as long as they comply with the license terms. However, I do not believe the site should officially endorse these activities:

  1. It comes uncomfortably close to endorsing The Winnower overall. So far, I see nothing to indicate that it's a service I'd like to endorse.

  2. It feeds into the DOI fetish, which I think is something we should strongly oppose. (There's nothing wrong with DOIs, and they are a useful organizational tool, but they should not be presented as a symbol of scholarly legitimacy, and the question here already does that)

The other aspect of this is archiving via Portico. That's not bad, but I don't think it's necessary for this site. (If The Winnower decides to do it anyway, I can't stop them and wouldn't want to, but I don't think it's worth an endorsement.)

  • 1
    Thanks for the response. We are trying to encourage and reward discussions on Stack Exchange with something that is given to all scholarly publications at the minimum. I did not mean to give the impression that all you need is a DOI for academic credit and if I did, I apologize for that. To date, however, DOIs are the gold standard in scholarly referencing and are used by many online publishing tools/services. Why shouldn't new forms of media be given it? Last, we are proposing only the best content receive DOIs and archival as judged by the community.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:00
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    I am missing though how this comes off as an endorsement of The Winnower. We are offering a service to new scholarly communication for free. We think the content that the community produces on SE is valuable--we'd like to help preserve it.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:02
  • PS we will only proceed if the community wants it.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:11
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    Questions and answers here can already be cited with no need for DOIs. — And have been!
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 21:39
  • Regarding endorsement, I just mean it in the sense that whenever anyone publicly uses a service, it amounts to an implicit endorsement. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 23:01
  • Unfortunately I can imagine, but luckily have not experienced, a university giving credit based on a "peer-reviewed, edited, archived, and indexed" publication like an SE answer.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 23:57

How does one even archive a dynamic site like SE? If I write an answer/question and it gets deleted, do you issue a retraction? Do you issuse a new DOI/ update the archive everytime an edit is made?

Maybe it is naive, but to the extent I value my contributions here, I trust how SE is archiving the data. If they go bankrupt I think they will provide the data for a bit. I find URLs, almost as easy as DOIs and again trust SE not to break links too badly.

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    Archival would work basically work as snapshots. When DOI is issued all content that is present is archived. Could issue "versioned" DOIs after major edits or some other defined threshold is reached. As for archival, I think it is more about the community and preserving these great interactions for the next 50 or 100 years. Today most of the worlds discussion, intellectual and not, occurs online. We should utilize what academics have come up with to make sure the good stuff is preserved. Anyways, it seems as if the community is not interested so I don't think it will happen.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 1:47
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    @Josh Please don't attempt to try to munge together DOIs and version control. This just sounds like a disaster on its way to occur.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 2:58

What would be the purpose? I suppose it is rare that a StackExchange thread (and even rarer that an Academia StackExchange thread) reaches the level of a significant academic production that one would like to cite it. No desire to cite a thread would equate to no need for a DOI.

In any case, it would be useful to have empirical evidence that having a DOI would be useful.

  • I think there are few reasons we should assign DOIs to SE threads. If we limit DOIs to only the top posts, this may incentivize better answers/questions from a wider audience. Also, we are offering permanent archival via Portico, so high quality threads will be preserved for many decades to come, even if The Winnower or Stack Exchange were to cease to exist. Related to your other point it seems as if some people are already citing various threads. scholar.google.com/…
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 20:41
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    I am currently working on a paper that will cite two CrossValidated threads. I had two questions that I couldn't figure out myself. The answers were helpful and not trivial but would certainly not have merited a "traditional" publication by themselves. I strongly believe citing them is the right thing to do. This may, of course, differ by discipline - I also doubt many people (maybe social scientists?) will want to cite Academia. Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 6:32

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