ORCID – a digital identity for researchers

Identifying authors clearly poses a recurrent challenge for academic libraries. We have compiled extensive norm files in our catalogues, which helps us to identify authors unequivocally despite different spellings or name changes.

Abbildung 1: Auszug aus dem Normdateneintrag zum Autor Konfuzius, aktuell sind 32 Namensvarianten erfasst

Figure 1: excerpt from the norm data entry on the author Confucius; thirty-two name variations are currently listed

The operators of large bibliographical databases such as Web of Science or Scopus have also established their own identification systems for authors. The use of these author IDs, however, is restricted to the individual databases.

The idea of creating a platform-independent ID for academic authors that accompanies researchers throughout their entire careers therefore carries great appeal for libraries. But other members of the university and research landscape, such as funding organisations, evaluation offices, universities and, last but not least, the researchers themselves also stand to benefit. After all, publications, projects, patents or other research output could then be attributed to clearly identified people across institutions and databases.

A promising initiative backed by scientific publishing houses, research backers and universities has taken shape in recent years in the form of the Open Research and Contributor ID – ORCID for short. It brings us a step closer to the vision of a permanent, digital identity for researchers. An ORCID ID is a sixteen-digit number assigned to researchers when they initially register at www.orcid.org. The ORCID ID is linked to the researcher’s ORCID profile (e.g. http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5109-3700). It may contain name variations, career information and references to publications and other works. The researchers themselves can determine what information from their profiles is publicly visible and what isn’t.

Abbildung 2: Beispiel eines ORCID Profils

Figure 2: Example of ORCID profils

There are countless digital researcher profiles: from Mendeley and ResearchGate to Thomson Reuters’ ResearcherID. After all, ORCID’s potential does not solely lie in the information contained in the public profiles. ORCID also offers possibilities for an automated data exchange between publishers, universities and funding organisations.

Some academic publishing houses have already started asking authors to enter an ORCID ID when they submit a manuscript. If authors add the publisher in question to their ORCID profiles as a trustworthy source, the works they have published there appear automatically in their ORCID profiles. The scientists can then place a link to their ORCID profile on their personal websites, for instance, and thus offer the interested public, not to mention employers and backers, a constantly up-to-date track record.

Abbildung 3: Webseite eines Forschers an der ETH Zürich

Figure 3: Researcher’s Website at ETH Zurich

At ETH-Bibliothek, we’re convinced that identifying ETH-Zurich authors clearly with the aid of ORCID IDs offers great added value for all parties involved. Our services, especially the document server ETH E-Collection and the institutional biography ETH E-Citations, will gain in efficiency and appeal if we are able to import publications from ORCID profiles in future or offer reliable author browsing based on ORCID IDs.

We have already tested an initial example linkage of the ETH E-Collection document server to ORCID. Thanks to a tool from the DOI registration agency DataCite, a work published in ETH E-Collection can be transferred automatically to an ORCID profile. But more about that in a subsequent blog post.

Author: Barbara Hirschmann

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

DOI Link: 10.16911/ethz-ib-1334-en

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