“Can’t Get Excited About ORCID”

Initial thoughts on ORCIDOn Friday (4 September 2015) I took part in an interesting discussion about ORCID which began when I came across the following tweet which provided a link to an interesting post about ORCID, a standard for IDs for researchers:

Why I’m not jumping on the ORCID bandwagon … in which I nearly wholesale adopt ‘s perspective

I have had a long-standing interest in ORCID, having published blog posts on “Observing Growth In Popularity of ORCID: An SEO Analysis ” and “Why You Should Do More Than Simply Claiming Your ORCID ID” in November 2012. I was therefore interested in this post in which a researcher gives reasons why he isn’t “jumping on the ORCID bandwagon”. The reason, it seems is that:

for me, ORCID is just another place that I need to keep my profile up to date, and it’s not even a very good one.  It’s not the standard, it is just one of many competing standards for presenting my academic life to the world (in addition to those below (PURE; Google Scholar; ResearchFish; EndNote), there is Scopus, My NCBI, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Mendeley, Microsoft, etc etc etc – the list is almost endless. 

The post, published on the opiniomics blog, was long and provided a useful summary of the benefits provided by researcher profiling services, in particular, the benefits the author gains from his institution’s provision of the PURE service.

But whilst I’ll not dispute the benefits of researcher profiling services (and I’m a happy user of Researchgate – a service which is particularly important to me now that I am no longer affiliated with a university), arguing that the ORCID web site doesn’t do a great job of providing a profile of a researcher’s publication is missing the point of ORCID which is that ORCID, the Open Researcher and Contributor ID, is primarily about providing a standard identifier for researchers which can be used across a variety of workflow processes, with the aim of saving time for the researcher and those involved in research administration.

ORCID Is (Primarily) An ID!

As described on the ORCID home page “ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized“.

As an example of why I decided to claim my ORCID ID (strictly my ORCID, but many people refer to an ORCID ID to save confusion) clearly my name does not provide a unique way of identifying my research contributions, even if used in conjunction with my host institution. My email address provides a form of identifier, but this changes as I move to different institutions (b.kelly@bolton.ac.uk; b.kelly@bath.ac.uk; b.kelly@newcastle.ac.uk; etc.) and even different variants in the same institution (e.g. b.kelly@bath.ac.uk; b.kelly@ukoln.ac.uk; lisbk@ukoln.ac.uk).  My ORCID – 0000-0001-5875-8744 – provides that unique identifier which is independent of my host institution.

A reason for the confusion in the blog post is that the online representation of the ORCID, http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5875-8744, can also include details of my research publications. And, to be honest, as a service providing information about my research publications it is not as useful as my Researchgate profile or my Academia.edu profile. But that’s not a problem, as the researcher identifier service (ORCID) has a different role to play to the researcher profiling services I use.

Modifying My Practice for Using ORCID

However that last sentence is only partly true, as my ORCID page also includes details of my research papers. This was a personal choice – your ORCID profile page does not have to include your papers. I chose to include a partial list of my papers which were automatically added when I connect my ORCID profile to my Scopus ID (another research identifier, which is proprietary).

Brian Kelly: ORCID profile As a consequence of the discussion  on Twitter I realised that some researchers may think that ORCID is primarily a hosting service for information about a researcher’s publications. In light of such misapprehensions, I decided to update my ORCID profile so that the biographical details contain information on where to find the most comprehensive list of my publications. In addition the series of links provided in the profiles have been updated to provide links to other web sites relevant to my research activities, including this blog, my LinkedIn profile, my papers hosted on the University of Bath repository and my research profile on Academia.edu.

Reflections on the Discussion

I have archived the Twitter discussion as I feel that it provides a valuable example of the benefits of open practices. To summarise Mick Watson published a post on why he thought ORCID was flawed and was willing to argue his position on Twitter. However the conversion concluded:

Mick Watson: @briankelly @genetics_blog but it’s a little insane having an empty ORCID profile

Brian Kelly: Disgree. ORCID is an ID; web site is value-added service. You can create ORCID & point to other profile(s).

Mick Watson: . @briankelly I’d never thought of this, that’s actually a great idea

Brian Kelly: 🙂 Has a series of tweets changed your mind?! BTW I changed my ORCID profile based on our chat. Thank you!

Mick Watson: @briankelly it has!

I hope the Twitter discussion on the original blog post has helped clarify the main purpose of ORCID and identified a practice for using ORCID which can co-exist with use of researcher profiling tools. However a comment on the blog post that “Unfortunately, one doesn’t always have the choice not to use ORCID” and the reply that “Nothing will make me hate a platform more than being forced to use it” suggests that there are still misunderstandings. But perhaps I should leave it to ORCID to update their FAQs to address such misunderstandings!


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