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Is It Time for ISLN?

Those of you who are familiar with the publication Drug Discovery News, may have noticed a simple but highly effective number at the end of each article.

This number (e.g. E120608) is a printed ID number that allows you to go directly to the electronic version of the printed article on the Drug Discovery News web site. They call it EditConnect. I call it brilliant!

So, I got to thinking, is it not time for everyone to do this? Is it not time for ISLN, the International Standard Link Number?

No doubt you are already familiar with the grand-daddy of standard numbers, the ISBN. This, of course, is the International Standard Book Number. You can find it in just about any book published today regardless of language or geographic origin.

The success of ISBN led to any number of other ISxN's. Here are just a few:

  • ISSN - Serials/periodicals
  • ISAN - Audiovisuals
  • ISLN - Legal items
  • ISIN - Securities

Just about every letter is already taken but I'm hoping that the letter "L" can also stand for Link.

Why Link?

Because what we need is a way to get to additional information on just about anything. So, the ISLN should appear on just about anything that leads to more information.

In a publication, for example, it should be attached to every article, editorial, announcement, news item, advertisement, etc.

Imagine a consumer seeing a drug ad in a popular magazine. By simply typing the ISLN that appears in the ad on the Google or Yahoo search bar, the consumer will be taken immediately to the web site for the product being advertised. From there, almost anything would be possible.

Take the Drug Discovery News EditConnect number as an example. Not only was I able to go directly to the article I had just read in the printed publication but also got three additional links to other related information. Using one of the links, allowed me to learn about the application of Cell BE processors [look it up, it's quite fascinating] for identifying protein binding sites.

Just imagine the benefits to be gained from the widespread use of the ISLN? For one, it will save lots of time. I am still amazed how long it can take to find the electronic equivalent of a printed article. Using the search function is a hit and miss affair, takes too long and gets real frustrating. With ISLN the response should be instantaneous. Then think of the rich content that could be made available via ISLN. Rather than read the nearly useless package insert printed behind every ad, go directly to useful information properly organized for the typical consumer.

Implementation should not be too difficult. After all, many other organizations have already done it. There are many standards organizations that can help. The technology is there.

Taking a cue from the ISBN, there needs to be a single organization that gives out a unique prefix number to each ISLN owner. Then, the owner can add its own suffix number to each item as they are created. As with anyting else in this world, the devil will be in the details.

For now, let me just suggest that it is high time to get ISLN off the ground. What do you think?


P.S. - Yes I noticed. ISLN is already taken. Well, it's only an acronym and acronyms can have multiple meanings. This is the least of my worries.


George Laszlo

Marc, while you are certainly correct about the power of search, I don't agree with your conclusions. First, there is nothing more accurate about search than a unique reference. When you use the unique ID, like ISLN, you will get one hit. If you do a search with keywords, you will get any number of hits and then have to figure out which is the the one you really want. Your argument that long numbers would lead to typing in the wrong number is true but only rarely so. If this was not the case, people would really be frustrated trying to use phone numbers. Perhaps most importantly, there is really nothing wrong with being "old school" as long as the method is reliable and people like it. As you no doubt know, it's not necessary to throw out the old just because something newer is available. So, from where I sit, search and unique ID's are complementary.

Marc Dencker

I think this is kinda old school. these days if you want to find something you dont use ISBN or ISLN numbers you just search for it on using the publication name and some key words (or tittle).

long numbers are too difficult to use/remember and if you are one digit of you are toast. If you google stuff you can still find it if you miss part of the information.

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