Tracking scholarly outputs has always been a part of the academic enterprise. However the dramatic increase in publication and collaboration over the last three decades is driving new, more scaleable approaches. A central challenge to understanding the rapidly growing scholarly universe is the problem of collecting complete and unambiguous data on who (among researchers, scholars, students and other members of the enterprise) has contributed in what ways to what outputs (e.g., articles, data, software, patents) with the support of which institutions (e.g. as funders, host institutions, publishers). In short, a full understanding of research requires those involved in the research enterprise to use public, reliable identifiers.
In June, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at the “Twelfth Annual ARIES EMUG Users Group Meeting” that aimed to provide an overview of the major new trends in the area of scholarly identifiers.
The presentation embedded below provides an overview of ORCID researcher identifiers; their role in integrating systems for managing, evaluating, and tracking scholarly outputs; and the broader integration of researcher identifiers with publication, funder, and institutional identifiers.
Most of the credit for the presentation itself is due to ORCID Executive Director Laure Haak who developed the majority of the presentation materials — those which describe ORCID and developments around it. And there are indeed many ORCID-related developments to relate.
My additions attempt to sum up the larger context, in which ORCID, and researcher identifiers play a key role.
It has been widely remarked that the sheer number of publications and researchers has grown dramatically over the last three decades. And it is not simply the numbers that are changing. Authors are changing — increasingly students, “citizen-scientists”, software developers, data curators and others author or make substantial intellectual contributions to, scholarly works. Authorship is changing — science, and the creations of scientific outputs involves wider collaborations, and a wider potential variety of research roles. Scholarly works are changing — recognized outputs of scholarship not only include traditional research articles and books, but also datasets, nano-publications, software, videos, and dynamic “digital scholarship”. And evaluation is changing to reflect the increasing volume, granularity, and richness of measures available, and the increasing sophistication of statistical and computational methods for network and textual analysis.
The tools, methods, and infrastructure for tracking, evaluating, attributing, understanding patterns of scholarship are under pressure to adapt to these changes. ORCID is part of this — it is a key tool for adapting to changes in the scale and nature of scholarly production. It’s a community-based system for researcher identification, based on standardized definitions, open source, an open API, and open data.
ORCID provides a mechanism for robustly identification of researchers – it aims to solve the problem of understanding the “who” in research. Increasingly, ORCID is also integrating with solutions to address the “which”, and “what”.
Effective sustained long-term integration of multiple domains requires work at multiple levels:
- At the abstract level, integration involves the coordination of vocabularies, schemas, taxonomies or ontologies that link or cross domain boundaries.
- At the systems level, integration requires accessible API’s that provide hooks to access domain specific identifiers, linkages, or content.
- At the user level, integration requires human-computer-interface design must expose and domain-specific information, and leverage this to increase ease-of-use and data integrity, and support and document needs to be available.
- At the organizational level, integration requires engagement with the evolution of standards and implementation, and organizations driving these, in other domains. Especially in this rapidly changing ecosystem, one must frequently monitor integration points to anticipate or mitigate incompatible changes.
ORCID is making rapid progress in integrating with systems that address the “which” of research. ORCID id’s are now integrated into manuscript management systems and publisher’s workflows and CrossRef DOI indexing with the result that these id’s are now increasingly part of the core metadata associated with publications.
ORCID now uses standard Ringold identifiers to identify institutions such as employers. (Ringold identifiers are in the process of being mapped to ISNI institutional identifiers as well — which will further integrate ORCID and ISNI.) These institutional identifiers are seamlessly integrated into the ORCID UI which help users of ORCID auto-complete institutional names, and increases data integrity. These ID’s are part of of the ORCID schema and exposed through the open API . And ORCID engages with Ringold on an institutional level so that institutional identifiers can be added on the request of ORCID members.
Similarly, ORCID now uses FundRef identifiers to identify funding agencies and awards. These too are integrated at points in the UI, schema, and API. Search and link wizards can push FundRef identifier into the ORCID registry along with other information about each award.
Full integration of data across the next-generation of the scholarly ecosystem will involve more of the “what” of research. This includes associating publication, institutional, and individual identifiers with a wider variety of scholarly outputs, including data sets and software; and developing standardized information about the types of relationships among outputs, institutions, and people — particularly the many different types and degrees of contribution that members of collaborations make to research and to its products.
ORCID has been taking steps in this direction, including a DataCite – search and link wizard for datasets, working to expand work-types supported in the ORCID schemas, and working with the community to develop and enhance existing schemas and workflows; and working with CASRAI to develop an approach to embedding researcher identifiers into peer review. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, and the scholarly ecosystem has considerable ways to go before it will reflect the many emerging forms of scholarly outputs and roles that contributors take in relation to these.