Notes From the Library…Author Identifiers

What are author identifiers?

An author identifier is a unique identifier that distinguishes one researcher from another, eliminating confusion in scholarly publication and grant funding.

Why do we need author identifiers?

If you have ever tried to do an author search a database, then you know how difficult it can be to find all articles by a particular author.  An author may have a common surname, publish under variations of the same name, change their name, or different geographical/cultural conventions for reporting their name.  Affiliation and field of study relieve some of the ambiguity associated with author names, but inclusion of this information in a search does completely eliminate the problem.  Two authors with the same name may work in the same field.  Like author names, there are often multiple ways to list the name of a department, school or university, and affiliations change as an author moves from one institution to another.  Moreover, some databases only provide the affiliation of the first author, or allow an author to list only one affiliation.  PubMed/MEDLINE did not include affiliation for all authors until 2014.  For these reasons, a simple search for articles by one author can easily become complicated.

What options exist for author identifiers? 

Over the past few years, one author identifier system has emerged as the frontrunner: Open Researcher and Contributor ID, or ORCID (http://orcid.org/).  ORCID is an open, non-profit community effort that provides unique persistent digital identifiers for researchers.  ORCID partners and members include universities, commercial research organizations, publishers, professional societies and funders, such as Nature Publishing Group and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Several publishers offer the option of including an ORCID ID when submitting an article, and some plan to make an ORCID ID mandatory for corresponding authors (http://blogs.plos.org/plos/2016/01/author-credit-plos-orcid-update/).

A few publishers have their own author identifier system.  For example, when researchers register for Thomson Reuters free online community, ResearcherID, they are assigned a unique alphanumeric identifier that can be used to track their publications and get citation metrics in Web of Science.  Authors of articles indexed in Scopus, an Elsevier database, are automatically assigned a unique identification number.

This sounds like one more account to maintain, do I really need an author identifier?

Yes, an ORCID ID is another account to create and maintain.  However, ORCID has gained traction amongst universities, publishers and funders, and if this pattern continues, then hopefully it will alleviate author ambiguity.

Any researcher can register for a free ORCID ID.  You can use your Tufts username and password to register for, or link to an existing, ORCID ID.  To get started, go to this page: https://orcid.org/signin.  Choose to sign in using your institutional account and search for Tufts.  You will be prompted to enter your Tufts username and password.  Once you do so, select the ‘Register for an ORCID ID’ link.  For more information about creating and managing your ORCID account, see: http://support.orcid.org/knowledgebase/topics/32827-using-the-orcid-registry.

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