APS News

APS Partners with New System to Create Unique Identifiers

The APS journals are incorporating a new system which lets researchers and contributors clearly identify themselves in their research papers. ORCID, short for Open Researcher and Contributor ID, will give every researcher who signs up a unique user number that they or anyone else can use to track their body of work.

“ORCID is a nonprofit community effort to maintain a record of unique identifiers,” said Laurel Haak, the executive director of ORCID. “By providing that unique identifier, it provides that researcher with a handle to travel around the research world.”

Inspired in part by the CrossRef digital object identifiers which have become ubiquitous for identifying academic papers, the ORCID numbers will let researchers attach their own personal code to their papers. It should also make determining an author’s impact factor easier to calculate.

Making sure the right person is connected with the right paper has long been a tricky problem for publishers and institutions. In addition, anyone trying to track a researcher’s past works sometimes can get bogged down by authors with common names, variations on individual authors’ names, or by those who have changed their names or institutions.

“There’s always been this problem with author names… that really often the only thing we have to go by is the name,” said Arthur Smith, manager of the database group at APS. “The idea [of ORCID] is you can actually generate a CV out of the information you’ve collected about yourself.”

ORCID isn’t aimed only at physics, or even just science, but all academic research. In addition, the organizers hope to expand the program to include grants, patents and any other work that participants create.

“We’re trying to create a switchboard that connects different datasets,” Haak said. “Right now we’re focusing on our very core mission, which is our registry.”

ORCID’s registry first went live in October, and about 8300 researchers signed up in its first two weeks. Authors of APS papers are now prompted to sign up and to include their ORCID numbers when they submit a new paper. Smith said that he hopes in the next year or two to provide the ability for authors to go back and claim past papers.

The system is voluntary, and free to register. It requires an email address to create a profile.

“Once you’ve created an ID, you can use it anywhere that requests an ORCID ID identifier,” Haak said.

Other organizations have adopted the system. The academic publishers Nature and Copernicus have also adopted the identifiers and Elsevier has a system in place for researchers to input past work.

“There’s so much enthusiasm for ORCID throughout the research community. We haven’t had to work ultra hard to get people interested in the system,” Haak said.

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Editor: Alan Chodos