What’s in a Name? Internet2 Community Supports Unique Researcher Identifiers

This piece was originally posted on the Internet2 blog and is reposted here with the kind permission of Internet2.  REFEDS welcomes the collaboration between ORCID and global Research and Education Federations and encourages those interested to join the REFEDS ORCID Working Group.

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What happens when we search for the works of a scholar who has published under various names, for example, Elizabeth Jones, Liz Jones, and Liz Jones-Burns? How do we get a full list of this scholar’s works, and how do we accurately differentiate her work from that of others with the same name? Internet2 and ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) are collaborating to address these issues. ORCID operates a central registry of unique identifiers for individual researchers (iDs), and an open and transparent linking mechanism for connecting these IDs with each researcher’s works, affiliations, awards, and more.

According to Keith Hazelton, University of Wisconsin, and long-time chair of the MACE-Directories Working Group, “In 2011, community discussions began about incorporating a new element into the common set of attributes for research and higher education. The goal was to reflect the growing international adoption of an ORCID unique identifier for researchers.” At the 2015 Internet2 Technology Exchange in Cleveland, the community conversation continued as Keith co-presented with Laura Paglione of ORCID at a session titled “ORCIDs Showing Up on the Campus Commons: What Might It Mean?”

The value of a user-controlled identifier that can be leveraged to disambiguate scholars across the research and education community proved very popular in early pilots. An important aspect of the ORCID identifier is that it is truly under the user’s control from a privacy perspective, allowing users to manage their identifier and associated information (see ORCID’s privacy policy for more information). “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Internet2, and welcome this opportunity for researchers to play a leading role in the disambiguation and association process using an identifier that they own and control,” said Laura Paglione, Director of Strategic Initiatives at ORCID.

The Internet2 MACE-Directories Working Group, as the steward of the eduPerson specification (the common set of attributes for research and higher education), leverages a diverse and expansive community of higher education systems and data architects in its processes. The working group went through its rigorous process for schema updates, reviewing various institutional pilot uses of the ORCID identifier before recommending that the new ORCID attribute be added to eduPerson, which was finalized in early 2016. The open and transparent process allows for a consistent use of the attribute, which is key for its widespread adoption.

Use of eduPerson specification has become a broadly accepted good practice for managing person directory schemas in higher education. Every few years, the specification is enhanced by community initiated updates. Prior to the 2016 update to support ORCID, the previous enhancement to eduPerson was in 2013.

A next step for the trust and identity community involves supporting linking of ORCID identifiers with campus credentials through federated access to online services. This work will most likely take place in connection with publishers, libraries, and research institutions.