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Researchers – get your ORCID

Posted in UC3

Yesterday I remotely joined a lab meeting at my old stomping grounds, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. My former advisor, Mike Neubert, asked me to join his math ecology lab meeting to “convince them to get ORCID Identifiers. (Or try anyway!)”. As a result, I’ve spent a little bit of time thinking about ORCIDs in the last few days. I figured I might put the preverbal pen to paper and write a blog post about it for the benefit of other researchers.

What is ORCID?

An acronym, of course! ORCID stands for “Open Researcher & Contributor ID”. The ORCID Organization is an open, non-profit group working to provide a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers (from their website). The endgame is to support the creation of a permanent, clear and unambiguous record of scholarly communication by enabling reliable attribution of authors and contributors.

Wait – let’s back up.

What is a “Researcher Identifier”?

Wikipedia’s entry on ORCIDs might summarize researcher identifiers best:

An ORCID [i.e., researcher identifier] is nonproprietary alphanumeric code to uniquely identify scientific and other academic authors. This addresses the problem that a particular author’s contributions to the scientific literature can be hard to electronically recognize as most personal names are not unique, they can change (such as with marriage), have cultural differences in name order, contain inconsistent use of first-name abbreviations and employ different writing systems. It would provide for humans a persistent identity — an “author DOI” — similar to that created for content-related entities on digital networks by digital object identifiers (DOIs).

Basically, researcher identifiers are like social security numbers for scientists. They unambiguously identify you throughout your research life. It’s important to note that, unlike SSNs, there isn’t just one researcher ID system. Existing researcher identifier systems include ORCID, ResearcherIDScopus Author IdentifierarXiv Author ID, and eRA Commons Username. So why ORCID?

ORCID is an open system – that means web application developers, publishers, grants administrators, and institutions can hook into ORCID and use those identifiers for all kinds stuff. It’s like having one identifier to rule them all – imagine logging into all kinds of websites, entering your ORCID ID, and having them know who you are, what you’ve published, and what impacts you have had on scientific research. A bonus of the ORCID organization is that they are committed to “transcending discipline, geographic, national and institutional boundaries” and ensuring that ORCID services will be based on transparent and non-discriminatory terms posted on the ORCID website.

How does this differ from Google Scholar, Research Gate and the like?

This is one of the first question most researchers ask. In fact, CV creation sites like Google Scholar profiles, Academia.eduResearch Gate and the like are a completely different thing. ORCID is an identifier system, so comparing ORCIDs to Research Gate is like comparing your social security number to your Facebook profile. Note, however, that ORCID could work with these CV creation sites in the future – which would make identifying your research outputs even easier. The confusion probably stems from the fact that you can create an ORCID Profile on their website. Note that this is not required, however it helps ensure that past research products are connected to your ORCID ID.

Metrics + ORCID

One of the most exciting things about ORCID is its potential to influence the way we think about credit and metrics for researchers. If researchers have unique identifiers, it makes it easier to round up all of their products (data, blog posts, technical documents, theses) and determine how much they have influenced the field. In other words, ORCID plays nice with altmetrics. Read more about altmetrics in these previous Data Pub blog posts on the subject. A 2009 Nature Editorial sums up this topic about altmetrics and identifiers nicely:

…But perhaps the largest challenge will be cultural. Whether ORCID or some other author ID system becomes the accepted standard, the new metrics made possible will need to be taken seriously by everyone involved in the academic-reward system — funding agencies, university administrations, and promotion and tenure committees. Every role in science should be recognized and rewarded, not just those that produce high-profile publications.

What should you do?

  1. Go to
  2. Follow the Register Now Link and fill out the necessary fields (name, email, password)

You can stop here- you’ve claimed your ORCID ID! It will be a numeric string that looks something like this: 0000-0001-9592-2339 (that’s my ORCID ID!).

…OR you can go ahead build out your ORCID profile. To do add previous work:

  1. On your profile page (which opens after you’ve registered), select the “Import Works” button.
  2. A window will pop up with organizations who have partnered with ORCID. When in doubt, start with “CrossRef Metadata Search”. CrossRef provides DOIs for publishers, which means if you’ve published articles in journals, they will probably show up in this metadata search.
  3. Grant approval for ORCID to access your CrossRef information. Then peruse the list and identify which works are yours.
  4. By default, the list of works on your ORCID profile will be private. You can change your viewing permission to allow others to see your profile.
  5. Consider adding a link to your ORCID profile on your CV and/or website. I’ve done it on mine.

ORCID is still quite new – that means it won’t find all of your work, and you might need to manually add some of your products. But given their recently-awarded funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and interest from many web application developers and companies, you can be sure that the system will only get better from here.


Orchis morio (Green-winged Orchid) Specimen in Derby Museum herbarium. From Flickr by Derby Museum.
Orchis morio (Green-winged Orchid) Specimen in Derby Museum herbarium. From Flickr by Derby Museum.

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