Names are messy - ORCID can help

Alice Meadows, Director of Community Engagement and Support, ORCID
Published 30 May 2016

Names  whether for people, places, or things  can be messy. People can be known by more than one name; we may change our name; we may share it with hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of others; and it may be translated into other languages. All of this can cause confusion and often leads to mistaken identity.

Unique IDs easily link researchers to their work

This is especially a problem for researchers as it makes it difficult to reliably connect researchers with where they work, their funding, and their research contributions – publications, patents, peer review, and more. And, while these challenges affect all researchers, they can be even more of a problem for those working in the developing world. For example, a recent ORCID survey found that respondents in Africa, Asia, and Latin America were 10% more likely to be concerned about misattribution of their work than researchers in the rest of the world.

What is ORCID?

ORCID’s vision is a world where all those participating in research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely connected with their contributions across time, disciplines, and borders. We are working to achieve this by providing researchers with a unique digital number – an ORCID iD – that can reliably and clearly connect them with information about their professional affiliations and activities.

Our mantra is ‘enter once, re-use often’, and one of our key goals is to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the need for researchers to manually update their records. Instead, they can use their iD in the hundreds of systems that already have built in ORCID connectors, to enable automatic updates across those systems without changing the way they currently work. This will save researchers and research managers time, minimise errors, and simplify reporting for everyone.

To demonstrate how this works, let’s look at how ORCID works in the article publication process, which is currently where researchers are most likely to use their ORCID iD (55% of survey respondents had used their ORCID iD in this way). Publishers were early and enthusiastic adopters of ORCID and, as of April 2016, nearly 20 publishers are either already requiring their authors to use an ORCID iD or are planning to do so this year. This includes major publishers such as the American Geophysical Union, IEEE, PLOS, and The Royal Society (for more information see our open letter on the topic).

Many other publishers request ORCID iDs during the submission process. And some manuscript submission systems even allow authors to log in using their ORCID iD so that they don’t have to remember multiple user names and passwords for different journals.

What's in a name?What's in a name? For researchers, having a distinct identity is very important

When researchers use their ORCID iD during the manuscript submission process, the publisher should include it with the metadata they create for the paper, which is passed to Crossref  the organisation that creates article Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). Researchers can then opt to automatically update their ORCID record the moment their article is published, rather than having to remember to manually search for, and then link to, the published article.

Better still, they only have to give that permission once, and Crossref will automatically update their record every time they publish a paper using their ORCID iD in future, irrespective of the publisher. More information about this process can be found in this blog post.

Find out when your researchers publish

Extending the concept of ‘enter once, re-use often’ even further, ORCID members  including hundreds of universities and other research institutions  can also choose to be alerted when one of their researchers publishes a paper. This enables the organisation to update their own systems, meaning that researchers don’t have to worry about updating their university profile system themselves.

This is just one example of ORCID in practice – researchers can also use their ORCID iD when applying for a grant, publishing a dataset (DataCite offers similar auto-update funcitonality as Crossref), in research information systems, repositories, and more.

And signing up for an ORCID iD is quick, simple, and free – the only required information is one version of their name, a valid email address, and a password. Using it is also very straightforward – simply click on the iD icon when prompted to do so, enter an email and password, and confirm the ORCID iD.

So why not encourage your research colleagues to join more than two million fellow researchers?

Register today


Thanks to our 2015 grant from The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust, we are ramping up our outreach efforts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We now have Regional Directors and Community Engagement and Support team members based in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia with language competency in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese. Last year we held workshops in South Africa, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Spain, UK, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, and Australia. More are underway in 2016 – for a complete list, please visit the ORCID events page

And, although we don’t collect information about where ORCID registrants live, it’s clear from the increase in activity on our website that more researchers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East are using ORCID.

China, India, and Brazil are all in the top 10 countries for ORCID registry usage, and we are also seeing increased activity in countries such as Vietnam and Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria, Mexico and Colombia, among others.

We also collaborate with a number of organizations in Africa, including WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network), Sci-GaIA (Energising Scientific Endeavour through Science Gateways and e-Infrastructures in Africa) and TANDEM (TransAfrican Network Development).