Launched one year ago, ORCID provides unique persistent identifiers for the benefit of both individual researchers and their institutions.
If you’ve published in Nature recently, you’ll have been asked for an ORCID iD.
Last October, ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor iD) launched its global, free-to-use registry to provide researchers with unique persistent identifiers (ORCID iDs). It has the potential to make a huge difference to a researcher’s ability to gain full credit for their work and is a useful tool for universities as they track, evaluate and report research work.
The good news is that over 300,000 researchers across the globe have already signed up.
What does ORCID do?
A researcher’s name isn’t enough to reliably identify the author of, or contributor to, a paper published in a scientific journal or a dataset uploaded to a repository. Many researchers share the same name, while others have different names during their career, or different variations of the same one. For example, A. Smith, Anna Smith, and Anna L. Smith could all refer to the same person. But a unique identifier, as provided by ORCID, which researchers can associate with their name variations and their research works, is a way to ensure that these links can be made accurately and reliably. This will help A. Smith to get credit for her publications by uniquely identifying her as the author of her work across all systems integrated with the ORCID registry.
ORCID has over 80 members from the research and scholarly community including major funders, universities and publishers. Many of them have started to embed ORCID iDs in research workflows such as manuscript submission or grant application processes so that it becomes part of the metadata associated with research outputs. Nature is just one example. When funder or publisher systems are integrated with the ORCID registry, public information linked to an ORCID iD could eventually pre-populate grant or manuscript submission forms reducing the administrative burden for researchers.
ORCID’s potential for universities
In the UK, the University of Glasgow and University College London are among the early institutional adopters of ORCID and their experiences are included in a recent study where representatives from a number of universities were asked to think about particular areas where ORCID could be useful.
The resulting report - ‘Use cases and views on the future use of ORCID in UK Higher Education’ - shows that the ways in which individual institutions plan to engage with ORCID vary widely and that they see many opportunities for utilising the service. Ben Johnson, higher education policy adviser at HEFCE, said:
“We are encouraged to note the take-up of ORCID, and the innovative ways that institutions are implementing this. We are keen to explore opportunities to exploit the power of ORCID as a globally recognised and unique researcher ID, and will continue to keep a close eye on developments.”
The University of Kent, for example, highlighted how ORCID could help them to identify and bring in information about visiting professors or project collaborators to their systems. The university also needs to ensure that it has a full record of its staff’s outputs and achievements which could be facilitated by ORCID. A comprehensive record showing how current research might be underpinned by earlier work will have clear benefits when it comes to making future Research Excellence Framework (REF) submissions.
The University of Glasgow points out that ORCID would support their move towards a model where researchers only need to provide information about their publications and research outputs once. This goes in their repository and is then re-used for reporting to RCUK’s research outcome systems, in staff profiles and to facilitate transfer of information about researchers’ publications when they move organisation.
What’s next for ORCID?
Alongside examples of where ORCID could benefit universities the report also highlights concerns and makes suggestions about ways to keep the service developing. A frequent suggestion is for ORCID to ensure it has a robust system to prevent unintended duplication of ORCID iDs. This might happen when institutions are seeking to obtain identifiers for their researchers which have already registered for an ORCID iD. In her response to the report, Laure Haak ORCID’s executive director, explains that this problem is reduced by a duplicate detection process which is supported by the ability to link multiple email addresses to an ORCID account.
Another suggestion is to enable universities to validate the claims that are made about for example a researcher’s affiliation to an institution. Steps are already being taken to address this - among the many new features in the pipeline is the opportunity for individuals to link to their affiliated organisations, due out in October, and for third parties to validate the information contained within ORCID records. Watch out for that in 2014.
It’s also important to note that ORCID and the International Standard Name Identifier ISNI are co-ordinating their efforts. ISNI, supported by the creative industries and the library community, is also addressing the author identifier problem but has a much broader scope. While ORCID is targeting active researchers, ISNI is assigning identifiers to any authors for example also to writers, artists or fictional characters. In October at the ODIN meeting in Geneva, ORCID will launch a tool to link ISNI identifiers with ORCID records and will continue to work with ISNI to allow for import/export of information and linking of ORCID iDs to ISNI records.
For ORCID's potential to be realised it will be key to ensure uptake of the service continues. ORCID has recently launched a global Ambassador programme and is seeking volunteers from the research community to spread the word among their peers.
For more information listen to our podcast from Laure Haak, executive director of ORCID, on the benefits and challenges that universities face in taking up and exploiting the registry.