Chances are there is at least one other person in the world that shares your exact same name. You might have used multiple names during your lifetime, and you may have experimented with writing your name in different ways, perhaps using just first initials, or some other variation. You might even have a stage name or a pen name. The issue of name disambiguation comes into play in various arenas, but especially in academia and scholarly communications. For example, if two different people with the same name have published articles on the same topic, how will anyone know who did what? Similarly, if you wrote an article using one name, and then changed your name and wrote a different article, how will anyone know that both were written by you?
Regardless of where your scholarly interests lie, all current or prospective graduate students should know about ORCID, which stands for Open Researcher and Contributor Identification. A relatively new technology, ORCID is a global, open, non-profit, community-driven initiative to create and maintain a global registry of unique identifiers for individuals, especially for individuals who are doing scholarly research, producing and contributing to collective knowledge. Anyone can register for their own unique ORCID iD, a 16-digit number in the form of a unique resource identifier (URI), for free at https://orcid.org. ORCID iDs serve as digital identifiers that distinguish individual researchers from other researchers to ensure that you get credit for your work throughout your career, and since ORCID iDs are formatted as URIs, they work in linked data environments. For example, here is the ORCID iD record for the late Stephen Hawking: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9079-593X
Once you register for your own unique ORCID iD, you will be able to populate your iD record with information about your education, employment, whether you have received any grant funding, and any works that you have produced, including articles, conference papers, presentations, and more, similar to a resume or CV. As an individual, you have full control over the privacy of your ORCID iD record and whether you want certain information to be public, private, or only viewable by “trusted parties.” Trusted parties are any organizations that you are affiliated with that have integrated ORCID into their workflows, and they will ask for your permission to read from and add to information in your iD record. Through linkages with other systems, ORCID improves discoverability and reduces repetitive data entry.
When it comes to applying for student loans or scholarships, submitting an article to a journal, and applying for jobs, we have become used to filling out forms again and again, asserting our identities and achievements over and over in a repetitive fashion. Even online forms are reminiscent of the paper-based workflows that have dominated administrative functions for decades. We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift, as digital technology can now enable us to “enter once, re-use often” through ORCID. Increasingly, publishers are starting to require that authors submit an ORCID iD along with their article, and organizations that provide grant funding for research are increasingly requiring ORCID iDs as well. Universities across the globe are also integrating ORCID into their campus workflows to save time and hassle. Essentially, ORCID provides a digital framework for trustworthy identity management by linking research contributions and related activities across the scholarly communication ecosystem.
Not only do library and information science professionals need to know about ORCID for our own individual benefit and the scholarship that we are producing, but ORCID is now an increasingly important component of the information landscape, especially in academic libraries at research institutions, that will be invaluable for helping faculty, students, and other patrons once we are out of library school and working in the field. The sciences have taken the lead in using and requiring ORCID, but ORCID is meant for all types of research and contributions. Chances are your university is already working with ORCID and may already have information about ORCID at your institution available online. For example, the University of Washington Health Sciences Library has a LibGuide for ORCID geared toward health science students and faculty. A wealth of information about ORCID and its benefits for individuals, research organizations, publishers, funders, and more can be found at https://orcid.org. To learn more about ORCID for individuals, watch this short video.
The possibilities for taking advantage of ORCID and streamlining identity and contribution management are endless. ORCID can be integrated with any digital system. For example, LinkedIn is not yet integrated with ORCID, but how cool would that be? As platform users, we need to contact these kinds of services to ask them about ORCID integration. Can you think of any other platforms where ORCID could be helpful? Contact them!
Follow ORCID on Twitter @ORCID_Org
Editor’s note: this article was originally published August 13, 2018.