Some authors have an ORCID ID in order to be identified and distinguished in case of authors with similar name, change of name, different name format, etc. However, some sources don’t provide the ORCID ID of the author (if any exists), which causes a lot of problems when someone tries to harvest papers from websites with scholarly resources.

I thought that a combination of some author features such as name, email, and affiliation could be enough to distinguish the authors, but I don’t think this is a robust solution.

Is there any way to uniquely identify every author?

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    ‘Harvesting papers’ - what, really, are you trying to do?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 13:17
  • @Jon Custer Get the metadata of papers provided by different sources .
    – Agelos
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:30
  • 9
    See J. Pfeffer & J. Pfeffer, "Another Article that Makes Bibliometric Analysis a Bit Harder," SIGBOVIK 2015, pp. 79-82. April 1, 2015. *Note: The specific date within that year is not a coincidence; it's a humor venue. PDF page numbers are +8.
    – WBT
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:27
  • Out of curiosity: Have you though of different spellings of the same name yet? E.g. the german family name Schröder might appear as Schröder (umlauts are available), Schroeder ("german" alternative when umlauts are not available) or Schroder ("scandinavian" alternative).
    – Sabine
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:33
  • 3
    Related: How are scientific papers uniquely identified? Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


Aside from ORCID (which by far not every paper and person has), there really is no sure-fire way to uniquely identify an author. Using the name becomes problematic with common names (not unusual anywhere in the world, but a particularly common issue in Asia) or name changes (for instance in case of marriage). Combining with affiliation and e-mail address will also only get you so far as most academics tend to change universities at least once or twice in their career, and both affiliation and e-mail address tend to change in these cases.

For bibliographic research, the most promising approach is probably to combine all of the above with field information (e.g., a Markus Huber publishing in medicine is not particularly likely to be the same as a Markus Huber publishing in philosophy), and train some sort of heuristic classifier. Clearly, false positives/negatives will happen, but if your goal is to holistically assess a larger field of research a few false categorizations are unlikely to impact the overall picture too much.

If your goal is to assess an individual researcher, really the most accurate information is usually to trust what information the researchers themselves maintain (e.g., a CV or publicly available publication list).


This is exactly what ORCID tries to achieve:

ORCID is a nonprofit organization helping create a world in which all who participate in research, scholarship and innovation are uniquely identified and connected to their contributions and affiliations, across disciplines, borders, and time. (from their website)

However, not everybody is aware of this initiative or cares enough to set up an ORCID for themselves. Some journals request ORCIDs upon submission, e.g. for Nature Methods each Corresponding authors needs to have an ORCID. The problem with using other information to identify researcher, is that this information can change as opposed to a uniquely assigned number.

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    I am not sure it's required. It might be encouraged. For example: nature.com/articles/s41592-018-0187-8
    – burger
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 23:46
  • From the link in my answer: 'As part of our efforts to improve transparency in authorship, we request that all corresponding authors of published papers provide their Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier (ORCID) ID, before resubmitting the final version of the manuscript'. I don't know if this applies to all journal of the nature publishing group. And I also can't say how strictly this rule is enforced. But thanks, I changed require to request!
    – L_W
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 6:34

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