Characterizing the Adoption of ORCID iDs


Persistent identifiers (PIDs) play an increasingly important role in scholarly communication and the electronic storage and retrieval of research outputs. They are set to become even more important as the number of non-traditional outputs such as code, datasets or blog posts increases. Different identifiers exist for entities such as articles, books or datasets as well as for persons, organizations and even funding organizations. In order to function effectively, e.g., as a means for integrating records, PIDs require globally accepted standards, interoperability across system- and organizational boundaries as well as adoption by a range of actors. We are therefore interested in issues of uptake and appropriation of digital identifiers as part of the wider infrastructures of scholarly communication and the broader academic system.

Open Researcher and Contributor IDs (ORCID iDs) are digital identifiers designed to identify authors and are used to link individual researchers to their contributions, while DOIs, for example, identify research outputs. In addition to being unique identifiers for authors, ORCID iDs point to an ORCID record, which can contain data not just about an author’s publication record but also their education, employment, affiliations and funding. Crucially, while authors control the contents of their record, entries can be imported from external sources, including verified information from institutions and other authoritative sources, so ORCID can provide a record in the true sense rather than being a profile for the author. This authoritative nature is what distinguishes ORCID from other systems such as Google Scholar, or ResearchGate. In contrast to other existing researcher identifiers such as Researcher ID (Thomson-Reuters) or Scopus ID (Elsevier), ORCID is non-proprietary and run by a non-profit organization. ORCID iDs can be integrated with institutional systems, for example Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) that populate and verify publication records. In contrast to CRIS systems, the ORCID record is researcher- rather than institution oriented, so can serve as a lifelong record of academic activity. Arguably, it provides the most promising avenue towards establishing an authoritative and open record of researchers’ academic activities and outputs that covers their entire professional careers. It promises to increase accountability and transparency in the academic system and play a key role in linking researchers, research funding, institutions, research outputs and impacts, enabling a range of uses such as assessment beyond the traditional citation metrics.

Our project aims to characterize the adoption of ORCID iDs, the use cases and perceptions of the system among researchers in different research communities, barriers to uptake and possible interventions. This work will deliver unique insights into how the envisaged direct benefits of the use of ORCID iDs are materializing for those stakeholders who, by signing up and maintaining their record, have to carry out the work that is essential for its success.

The project builds on results from a previous survey and interview study conducted at the University of St Andrews, which revealed a principally positive attitude by researchers from all disciplines towards the use of ORCID iDs but also wide-spread lack of understanding of the direct benefits for researchers who often did not make effective use of ORCID iDs’ functionality. This resulted in recommendations for the improvement of communication, training and integration approaches tailored to the local researcher community, which willl help to increase adoption and more efficient use of the metadata associated with ORCID records. We believe that these findings can be translated to other research communities at other institutions and across disciplines not covered by the initial study. However, further research is needed to establish the influence of local departmental, institutional and national factors on these findings and to devise a transferable framework for driving adoption in different environments.