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If you have ever been involved with research – finding it, writing it or collating it for someone else, you’ll know that accurate categorisation can save time, money, and reduce stress for all parties involved. It's essential that researchers are quickly able to find the information they need, and thanks to an innovative new scheme called ORCID, that is about to become a whole lot easier.

If you read a scientific paper, academic treatise or other article, by William Smith, how do you know whether that’s the William Smith whose reputation you trust, or a namesake you don’t, or one you’ve never heard of? How can librarians associate and catalogue works by “William Smith”, “W. B. Smith”, “Bill Smith” and so on, when they’re all by the same person – indeed, how do they tell whether or not they are by the same person? What happens if he becomes William Smith-Jones upon marriage, or takes a completely different name, say on changing religion?

These issues have been problematic for authors, publishers, archivists, and funders, for some time, and the answer is ORCID: the Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier. ORCID is a non-profit, transparent, community based effort to give all research activity a unique identifier. Think of an ORCID ID as being like an ISBN, but for a person. By including their ORCID identifier in their by-lines in journals and online, content creators can assert their identity as an author or other contributor.

That isn’t just for writers; it applies to editors, illustrators, film producers, audio producers, and even choreographers. The scheme is intended to be inclusive, not exclusive and it is unique in its ability to reach across disciplines, research sectors and national boundaries and cooperate effectively with other identifier systems.

Anyone can register an ORCID ID, free, on the ORCID website and they may then use their profile to maintain a list of their publications. Automatic import is available from some other indexing systems and they can also include links to their own website, professional profile or social media presence - useful for confirming the owner’s identity

ORCID works with researchers to look for opportunities to integrate ORCID identifiers into existing processes such as manuscript submission and grant applications. Their board includes publishers, academics and other interested parties, with non-profits in the majority and the data is available openly, via an API, (subject to individual users’ privacy settings).

So far, over one million have already been registered and many publishers, academic institutions and funding bodies are including ORCID IDs in their personnel, publishing or outcome-recording systems. Some are requiring them. The British Library is including them in its index of doctoral theses, EThOS – an easy way for early-career researchers and academics to ensure their work is easily findable.

Finally, as I am ORCID’s Wikipedian in Residence, it would be remiss of me to not mention also that Wikipedia editors may include an ORCID in their user profile, and that people who are the subject of a Wikipedia biography may have their ORCID ID added to the article about them; feel free to drop me a line if that applies to you.


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