Improvements to the ORCID Researcher Identification System

Telling Jane Smith from John Smith might be easy in person, but when you're searching academic libraries, it can prove a little trickier.

The Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) system (of which the Wellcome Trust is a member) aims to help solve this problem, and lots more besides. Jonathon Kram, from our Evaluation team, explains more.

There are a lot of busy and productive scientists out there, generating a vast amount of information as they document their research. In the Evaluation team of Wellcome's Strategic Planning and Policy Unit this leaves us with a bit of a challenge (albeit a pleasant one) – how do we go about monitoring and evaluating this wealth of information?

One of the many problems is with disambiguation, which can make it hard to see which research belongs to which researcher. How can you tell whether two 'J Brown's' are the same person?

ORCID, the Open Researcher and Contributor ID, is an answer to that problem which is growing in popularity – over 700,000 live ORCID IDs as of writing. Researchers take ownership of a single online profile detailing their works, keywords, affiliations, other names and funding which can then be used to pre-populate services such as FigShare.

The list of organisations which incorporate ORCID identifiers keeps getting longer as the importance of unique and open IDs is realised throughout the field.

The ORCID team and community have been working hard over the last year adding new features to their system, a few of which are:

  • The ability to list funding. This is exceptionally helpful for us as a funder as it lets us see what happens to researchers we fund after their Wellcome Trust award has completed, letting us start asking and answering questions about how we fit in the landscape of funders.
  • ÜberWizard, created in collaboration with ÜberResearch, makes listing funding straightforward, fetching all grants associated with your name and letting you pick the ones which are yours. The tool indexes grants from these funders and the list keeps growing.
  • Education and employment affiliations. A growing project here at the Trust is the Career Tracker, an annual online survey that researchers generously answer, informing us of whether they've moved countries, taken maternity leave, stayed or left academia and their reasoning. Now that researchers can add information about their universities and research institutions it's increasingly possible to perform this kind of analysis on a much larger cohort, unrestricted by the limitations of a survey.
  • A richer taxonomy for work types and improvement of de-duplication checks: information regarding language and country of publishing can now be included with works.

One of the main bottlenecks in any bibliometric analysis we perform is in the disambiguation of authors, which becomes more and more of an issue as we look towards more holistic methods to evaluate impact.

Although we might have the complete set of publications associated with a researcher's Wellcome Trust award, one aspect of assessing the impact of grants is looking at changes in the careers of those we fund, and whether our money goes towards establishing lasting infrastructure and research groups.

Consider the question 'do collaborations continue after the award has been completed?'. In attempting to answer this we would look at the publication histories of individuals and groups over a period of time, but this increases the chance of accidentally including publications from unrelated individuals of the same name.

It’s obvious that ORCID IDs can help us as a funder, but what about the researchers themselves? We believe the administrative burden on science should be reduced as much as possible and we've been attempting to find the balance between getting the right information about our researchers to better inform our strategy and the time cost to the scientists in providing it.

This has prompted us to begin developing new integrations for ORCID to reduce the amount of time scientists spend self-reporting. The ultimate, and realisable, goal is that people will fill out information once, in their ORCID profiles, and then never have to type it all out again.

We anticipate that ORCID adoption will increase at an even faster rate in the UK following the Jisc-ARMA ORCID pilot project launch. In this pilot eight universities will embed ORCID in a number of ways, such as in their HR systems and researcher profiles, assigning identifiers to staff and connecting the API to their thesis submission systems.

It is hoped that this trial will produce valuable information about integrations and the pilot will be studied closely so that other universities can learn lessons from these forerunners.

Due to the increasing adoption of ORCID, and the rise of Open Access publishing, there's a rich corpus of information out there, making it an exciting time to be involved in the world of scholarly literature. We hope that some endemic problems in assessing academic literature may be about to become significantly less problematic

If you would like to create your own profile you can sign up for an ORCID ID.