By Peter Griffin 17/10/2016 1


Last week saw the launch of the ORCID Consortium which sees 34 New Zealand research institutions back use of a unique identifier for researchers that promises to make keeping track of individuals’ work and evaluation of the research system more effective.

orcididORCID’s New Zealand debut has been funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Royal Society of New Zealand will lead implementation of the system. With around 6,000 researchers currently registered with ORCID, uptake of the system is already significant.

“Researchers, research institutions, publishers and funding bodies routinely face the problem of accurately linking research publications, data and other research activities to the right researcher,” says Royal Society of New Zealand President Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford.

“The use of unique persistent identifiers allows research work to be correctly attributed to its creator, funding sources and also better connect to data systems, supporting best research practice.

“At present, it’s prohibitively expensive to be able answer a question such as ‘15-years on, what have the recipients of a particular scholarship or fund achieved?’. This is because it is very difficult to track down recipients and to see what research contributions they have made in the intervening time. A system like ORCID, once widely adopted, makes answering these sorts of questions routine. This data will support decisions on how to best support the research community in New Zealand.”

With ORCID currently rolling out and likely to reach thousands more New Zealand researchers in the next few years, Sciblogs conducted the following Q&A with Dr Jason Gush, the Royal Society of New Zealand’s programme manager for ORCID.

How will ORCID make life easier for researchers who are applying for scholarships or grants?

The ultimate goal for ORCID in New Zealand is to cut down the continual need for scholars to retype information to interact with our systems; whether that system is the funder’s, the publisher’s, or their own home organisation’s. It’s a waste of time, and people being people, errors get made; neither of which are great for the researcher, the funder, the publisher, or the researcher’s organisation.

A simple shell of how this could work would be a button on an application page which triggers the applicant to either log in to their ORCID record if they have one, and create one if not. Once they’ve logged in and given the funder permission, the funder will read what information the applicant has made available, and pre-populate their application. Ultimately, if the application was successful and with the applicant’s permission, the details of that award would be written to the researcher’s record and have the funder as the source of that information.

Note, we’re intending that these systems will be simpler and easier to use. My strong preference is that we’ll never make ORCID mandatory in New Zealand; if applicants prefer to put the effort in to enter this information manually they should continue to be able to do so.

What information does ORCID track and what control over who sees it does a researcher have?

ORCID currently allows researchers to record biographical information, their education and employment, funding and what they call “works”, i.e., publications, conferences, intellectual property. One of the really nice things about ORCID is how considered they are in how they change their system, but they do make changes. For example, version 2.0 which is expected to go live in January will add the ability to recognize a researchers “peer review” activities. As an aside, the process for how changes are made to ORCID can be found here.

Another nice thing about ORCID is their focus that the researcher is the owner of their own record; they control what’s on it, who can see it, and who’s allowed to make changes on their behalf. Each item, and the record as a whole, can be set to public, limited access, or private. Broadly public is what it says, and can be seen by anyone; limited access needs permission to be given to see; while private is only visible to the researcher.

In practise it’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much. A researcher can designate a trusted individual to manage their profile, and if you’ve given this kind of permission then they’ll see your “private” information. Secondly, if you allow them to, a trusted organisation can write “private” information to your record, and that organisation will be able to see the “private” information that it wrote.

What is uptake of ORCID like around the world and how does it fit into the landscape occupied by ResearcherID, Google Scholar and Academia.edu?

Uptake is in a word, explosive. Although ORICD formed in 2010, the registry has only opened towards the end of 2012, and it looks to me like it’s still growing exponentially.

For New Zealand, ORCID told us in May that there were roughly 5000 ORCID records with associated .nz emails addresses. As of Wednesday 12 October, we’re now at ~6000. Not bad for a total research population in the order of 50,000. Also because ORCID is open, we can see that in approximately half of these records, their researchers are making themselves public.

How’s it different to other ID systems? Well, the main thing is that ORCID is open and really reflects a community effort. ORCID focusses on providing the identifier, and works with other organisations, e.g, ResearcherID, Scopus, Google Scholar etc, to make connections to your ORCID iD. To listen to Laurel Haak (ORCID’s Executive Director), ORCID’s goal is that, apart from their bios, researchers will never have to type anything into their profile: authenticate your ORCID iD with a service, give the service permission, and whatever it knows about you will be written to your record.

Why won’t it be compulsory to have an ORCID ID if you are applying for research funding in New Zealand?

That’s a tricky one. My view is that ORCID works best when the researcher is actively engaged in the process. ORCID had what I regard as a misstep in its early history where it allowed member organisations to bulk create records for their researchers. This was kind of iffy from a privacy point of view, and the majority of those records never got used. Being a pretty rational organisation, they’ve stopped doing that.

It is true that since 2016, a number of publishers have been requiring ORCID iDs to submit publications, e.g.,  PLOSEMBOScience, etc. And from the point of view of the publisher this makes sense; their job is easier, and the visibility of their published research is a little bit better. What’s not to like? I guess I’m comfortable about this because if the author doesn’t like it, they’re free to submit their work to a journal that doesn’t require an ORCID iD.

Although this is becoming a thing internationally, I’m much more ambivalent about mandates for funding.

Apart from dealing damage to the foundation concept that the researcher has control over who can see their record, and running uncomfortably up against Principle 12 of our Privacy Act, it forces people who aren’t engaged with the ORCID concept to participate. A rational response from a ORCID-phobe would be to create a private profile, give the system requiring an ID the necessary permissions to allow submission or whatever, and then once submitted revoke that permission. An empty, useless, record and a disgruntled scholar… let’s not do this.

Is this just to make keeping track of researchers easier or will ORCID data be mined for the purposes of determining performance across researchers or research groups?

It’s not just for this, but actually both those things are reasonable concerns. This is something that the community really needs to think about.

Will it make keeping track of researchers easier? You bet!

Could the results be used to make judgements about a researcher? Sure.

The ease with which bibliometric/infometric indicators can be collated has been steadily increasing, and as a side-effect of the ORCID registry, the data necessary to undertake this kind of analysis will be available to essentially everyone.  Some thought about what kinds of analysis the community finds acceptable is necessary and relatively soon.

Do we want individuals publically given a Hirsch- or m-index? They’re going to be facile to create, so should these metrics be used in making funding and employment decisions?

While infometrics is valuable when applied at the right scales, e.g., our work with Motu on the impact of the Marsden Fund, academic bodies and funders, e.g., the IEEE, NMHRC, Swedish Research Council, have rejected or stepped away from the blind use of bibliometric indicators for the assessment of individuals. The community here needs to decide what its own level of comfort is.

ORCID is open source right? What are the benefits of that? Can ORCID information be repurposed for other innovative uses?

1) Yes ORCID’s code is open; you can see it in all its glory on Github.

2) Well, as an open source project, ORCID benefits from an incredibly enthusiastic sector, and community contributions. You’d be better talking to ORCID, but I suspect openness helps them with their security audits too.

3) ORCID’s systems are about interconnection and reuse. There’s a public, free, API so there’s really nothing but time and interest to stop folk from doing cool things with ORCID data… one of my favourites is this which plots the location of the creation or update of an ORCID iD onto Google Maps.

The other way into ORCID info is their regularly scheduled release of their public data file: it’s a large blob of all the public information in the registry as both json and xml. One of the things I’d like to see is getting some regularly updated New Zealand-centric visualisations of this data up here on the Royal Society’s website. Also to be aware of, because ORCID is providing snapshots of the registry, users should keep in mind that making an item private, or even deleting it, won’t affect what’s present in the snapshot should someone be bothered to look back for it.

How is ORCID useful for researchers in private institutions or companies rather than just universities or Crown Research Institutes?

That’s a great question!

I don’t know but I think we’re about to find out. The New Zealand ORCID Consortium has the most diverse composition of any ORCID Consortium in the world. There are currently four for-profit members (eligible under the consortium license through their membership of IRANZ, and a specific exemption), so obviously they think it is going to be useful for them. I guess we’ll see.

Do I have to do anything manually to keep ORCID updated or will it collate my research papers automatically?

It’s a bit of a mix at the moment and really depends on where you’re publishing/putting your research works, and what kinds of integration they’ve got with ORCID.

For example if you’ve used the Scopus2ORCID to link your Scopus ID with your ORCID iD and update your publications. At some later date a newly published paper appears in Scopus, but it will not automatically get pushed into your record.  You’ll need to visit Scopus and click the item’s “Add to ORCID” button.

On the other hand if the publisher/repository/funder is an ORCID member running a collect and connect integration, then when you authenticate your ORCID iD, e.g,. during submission of a paper, as part of authentication record write permissions are requested. If the permission is given, then once successful, the publisher/repository can write the publication or the funder can declare a contract, directly in the researcher’s record without any additional intervention.

For items without a digital identity, or without ORCID integration, then manual it is. At the moment anyway.

Do you see researchers using ORCID to populate public, web-based profiles or is this mainly for back-office administrative functions in research institutions and funding agencies?

I don’t have a good feel for this, but my belief… So far, it’s been researchers populating their profiles, but organisations using them.  Most major research management systems are ORCID-aware and can be made to read information from ORCID, e.g., Symplectic Elements and if I understand it correctly, openVIVO requires it.

However, the API’s are public, the code not too tricky, so yes cool implementations are being made all the time.  For example, if you want to pull your public works, and have them automatically linked to their web entry you can try this.

It’s pretty cool.

How do I sign up, will it cost me anything and how long does it take?

You can sign up here.

What does it cost? ORCID is, and as I understand it, will always be free for researchers. It does cost money to operate, but this comes from individual organisations and consortia subscriptions.

How long does it take? Bare bones, it’s 30 seconds to claim an iD. You should verify your email, and if most of the things you care about are in system with ORCID integration, Scopus, Web of Science, Publons (the full list is here), then it’s a few minutes to find your works, link to ORCID, and then (usually pretty quickly but sometimes a day or so later) your record will be populated.

Actually this is a pretty good guide.

ORCID is, and as I understand it, will always be free for researchers.


One Response to “ORCID explained – The new, unique identifier for researchers”

  • Why is this not just another reinvention of the ResearchGate wheel, being perhaps only a minor variation thereof?

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