ORCID advocacy so far…

ORCID door-hanger
Door-hanger advertising ORCID

This is an opinion piece reflecting on my experiences so far of advocating ORCID iDs.

We recently started a concerted effort to implement and advocate the adoption of ORCID iDs at Lancaster University. By watching the adoption of ORCID grow among universities, publishers, funders and open science/access enthusiasts, and understanding the benefits it appeared to offer, it suddenly seemed inevitable.

It seemed, from my point of view, that we moved rapidly beyond talking about it as an interesting and potentially useful ‘thing’ that researchers can use if they like, to gaining strong backing from Associate Deans for Research and relevant Heads of Service. A field for adding ORCID iDs was quickly added to Pure, with a Pure to ORCID synchronisation following soon after.

At this point, advocacy for large scale adoption has started. I have been sold on the benefits in theory for a while. Who in the business hasn’t encountered the problem of name ambiguity when trying to match authors with publications? Whether you are searching the literature, building a citation overview, a CV or submitting a list of prior publications, this bit is a pain. If there was a way to use ORCID iDs as some sort of authority register, and push and pull that data (or a subset of it) into different systems, then that would be great.

However, I’ve perceived a few problems in this first period of advocacy. Whether the problem is in the message or in the technology, I’m not certain. I expect these problems will be ironed out by continuous development, and use cases.

1. It’s hard to test

Because ORCID is entirely in the control and view of the individual researcher who has adopted it, we can’t currently help if there is a synchronisation problem. We can’t see beyond the public view, like we can with a CRIS or Repository, so it’s harder to verify the contents, or help our researchers to understand what’s going on with their record.

2. It is another profile for researchers to craft

Despite claims to the contrary, researchers probably need to spend some time understanding how ORCID works. With publication data coming in from different sources and being pulled out to other systems, there are going to be duplicates and discrepancies. So the researcher needs to make choices. Do I want the publication as represented by the Scopus feed, or the Pure feed, or entered manually? We want Pure to be the ‘point of truth’, but if publishers, or aggregators are pushing data into ORCID too, then how will that work?

3. Authors want to use it!

Given the potential benefits, and the problems ORCID iDs could solve, many authors want to use it. However, they are realising that there isn’t an easy ‘export from ORCID’ feature yet. So if they’ve crafted a profile with all of their publications neatly imported from trusted sources, or entered manually, they can’t easily push that information back into Pure.

It’s clear that there’s constant development going on, and interoperability is not an easy thing to achieve.

Thankfully, there’s an active ORCID community, busy sharing ideas, problems and solutions so I’m sure that even if we oversell now, ORCID will deliver down the line.