I recently discover the existence of unique digital identifier for researchers (such as the one proposed by ORCID or ResearcherID).

I never really heard about it, maybe because it is not common in my field (biological sciences) and I was wondering about the interest and use of such identifier.

So my question is twofold:

1) What are the interest of using an unique digital identifier as a researcher?

2) Is it commonly used in the scientific community (by publishers, databases, commitees)?

PS: related but not the same question here

  • ResearcherID started as a noble cause, and while it is still "free" to register, you cannot really link your papers unless you have access to ISI's Web of Knowledge, which is so freaking expensive that even the research university that I am affiliated with does not have full access to it.
    – StasK
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 16:42

3 Answers 3

  1. Well, search for publications of a John Smith (no middle name), or a Lee Wang, or any common name, and you'll have a hard time identifying them because of the many homonyms… Publishers and database owners are trying hard to help users, by trying to guess who is who (Web of Science calls this “Unique author set”), but their algorithms don't do very well.

    As an example, I have a colleague who has a paper completely outside her main field. None of these algorithms pick it up.

    Thus, because a researcher’s name is not unique, many people argue that there is need of a unique ID scheme. (Others disagree: “I’m not a number!”). As a researcher, the benefits are:

    • easier for others to identify your articles in databases
    • easier to keep track of your citations, especially for items other than conventional journal articles
    • possibilities for cool web hyperlinks, like DOI has brought
  2. The Orcid registry was launched yesterday, so noöne uses it so far…

My own concern about it is that I don't know in detail on the ORCID consortium will use the data they will be able to mine. In particular, this worries me:

I consent to the privacy policy and terms and conditions of use, including allowing those who access the database to make commercial uses of the public data.

  • ORCID was just an example. I updated the question by adding ReseacherID. Any information about this one?
    – Wiliam
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 8:04
  • 1
    I just registered to try it. Everything apart from name and website has a privacy setting that you can set to "private" if that is a concern. The privacy settings are quite explicit that only "public" data is public (duh) and can be used commercially. So to me their privacy settings look ok. Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 10:37
  • As well, marriages can confuse name based systems, and rob married people (esp. women) of credit and history.
    – Matthew G.
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 18:38

There are several purposes for proper and trustworthy tracking of individual's publications. Whether we as researchers like it or not, we are gradually more and more evaluated on the basis of our publications output. That is, our grant applications/proposals and other means of funds acquisition are rated, at least partly, against our publications track and a future projection thereof. If you want to convince the hiring, or grant committees and other fund holders, you show your list of publications. The more trustworthy, the better. Hence a reason for a centralized trustworthy publication tracking service. Also, people change names (e.g., by marriage), affiliations, sometimes fields. Proper attribution by automatic algorithms, such as those at work at WoS, Scopus, Google Scholar, or Microsoft Academic Search is therefore unreliable. Having a real-world and trusted tag which I could use e.g., on my papers to identify myself among the hundreds of John Smiths is useful.


1) What are the interest of using an unique digital identifier as a researcher?

  1. trustworthy disambiguation
  2. central trustworthy register
  3. semi-automatic tracking of publications, which however should be customisable by the ID owner to fix all the mistakes/misattributions
  4. citation attribution - often e.g., WoS, attributes citations mistakenly to wrong people, because people make mistakes in references/bibliographies, etc. A central register can help with that.

2) Is it commonly used in the scientific community (by publishers, databases, commitees)?

If your name is unique, it's easy for the committees to check your track by simply googling you, then these guys don't care much. If you are John Smith of this world, than they are not able to do that and would ask you to prove your track record. And that can be painstaking. Even with just few dozen papers published, I myself am not able to get my WoS record correct. So to set the answer straight: currently, not many people use it for other than personal purposes, but many (including myself) hope, ORCID will succeed and the academic community will start to use the scheme and life will get a little bit easier.


The biology equivalent is eRa commons. As that system is strongly linked with NIH funding, it provides a robust system to tie a paper with a particular author that is independent of the author's name and the multiple versions that may be associated with the author.

Where it falls short is that eRa commons isn't associated with anything outside of pubmed and NIH.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .