ORCID® Aims for Universal Scholar ID System

Going digital means new types of products are being created, along with new ways to track them and extrapolate useful metadata. University presses have a central investment in product-centered metadata, but in today’s data-driven world, there are an increasing number of other angles to explore.

One important angle is to track the individual scholar. This is the idea behind ORCID—short for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. The ORCID system is new: the nonprofit was formed in 2010, and the identifier system officially launched a year ago in October 2012. ORCID is now in a promotional phase; in order for the system to fulfill its potential, scholars—or their institutions—need to (continue to) sign up. As an introduction, NFAIS hosted a midday webinar on October 23, “An Overview of ORCID: The Unique Identifier of Researchers Worldwide.”

In a nutshell, ORCID is a registry that matches scholars with a unique 16-digit identifier, which can be linked to anything from publications and grant awards to patents and conference registrations. The Wellcome Trust already uses the identifiers in their grant application process; Open Access publisher F1000 will soon request peer reviewers to provide their ORCID identifiers. The ORCID identifier is basically an ISBN for a scholar, providing more reliable attribution than a name, which can be abbreviated, initialized, or otherwise changed, adding to confusion at a time when ambiguities can already be amplified by the increasingly global and virtual elements of scholarly communication.

When attached to the end of the http://orcid.org URL, the identifier leads to an individualized webpage with the scholar’s name and any attached attributions. While the minimalistic profiles are intentionally not meant to form a new social network, they are semi-customizable, with the option to link to a personal website or LinkedIn profile, add a short bio, tag certain keywords. The page details, as with the ORCID identifier, are set up for free by the individual scholar, who can also choose which listings to make public and which to set limitations on or keep private.

But the intent is for the identifiers to serve beyond the ORCID website. The ORCID organization provides tools for embedding the identifier in other systems, to make the identifier a truly universal tool. For example, presses could include an ORCID identifier field in their own databases, royalty systems, and websites.

To speed up the adoption process, organizations themselves—such as a university, or a university press—can also become a “member” of ORCID and, in doing so, receive authorization to proactively enroll the scholars they work with in the ORCID system and start publicly linking their work. However, the ultimate control remains in the hands of the individual scholar: even if enrolled by an institution, they are allowed to go back and adjust the settings of their individual identifier account, such as choosing which attributions remain public. Boston University, for example, is a member and is creating ORCID records for their faculty, on an opt-out basis, and for their students as well, on an opt-in basis. While universities make up a third of ORCID members, publishers follow close behind, comprising another quarter.

To date, ORCID has assigned almost 400,000 identifiers, and records at least 1,000 unique visitors a month each from 66 different countries. (The registry supports multiple languages and character sets.) More information can be found online, on the ORCID website, blog, or Twitter feed.

Have you considered ORCID? Have authors discussed ORCID identifiers with you? Have you considered working ORCID identifiers into your press’s existing metadata? Tell us more in the comments below.