ORCID for System Interoperability in Scholarly Communication Workflows

What is ORCID?

If you work in an academic library or otherwise provide support for research and scholarly communication, you have probably heard of ORCID (Open Contributor & Researcher Identifier) in terms of “ORCID iD,” a unique 16-digit identifier that represents an individual in order to mitigate name ambiguity. The ORCID iD number is presented as a URI (unique resource identifier) that serves as the link to a corresponding ORCID record, where disambiguating data about an individual is stored. For example, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9079-593X is the ORCID iD for the late Stephen Hawking, and clicking on this link will take you to Hawking’s ORCID record. Data within ORCID records can include things like names(s) and other identifiers, biographical information, organizational affiliations, and works.

The image is a screenshot of an ORCID record, showing fields for name, ORCID iD, alternate names, country, keywords, websites, other IDs, biography, employment, education and qualifications, invited positions and distinctions, membership and service, funding, and works.
Figure 1: This screenshot shows the types of data that can be contained in an ORCID record.

Anyone can register for an ORCID iD for free, and individuals have full control over what data appears in their record, the visibility of that data, and whether other individuals or organizations are authorized to add data to their ORCID record on their behalf. Individuals can populate information in their ORCID record themselves, or they can grant permission to organizations, like research institutions, publishers, and funding agencies, to connect with their ORCID record as trusted parties, establishing an official affiliation between the individual and the organization. For example, Figures 2 and 3 illustrate an authenticated ORCID connection between an individual author and the University of Virginia (UVA) as represented in LibraOpen, the UVA Library’s Samvera institutional repository.

Screenshot image shows the user interface for the University of Virginia Library's LibraOpen institutional repository, showing the page for an article titled, "Data Management Assessment and Planning Tools." There are two authors listed, both with an ORCID iD icon and URI listed next to their names.
Figure 2: The University of Virginia Library’s LibraOpen Institutional Repository is configured to make authenticated connections with authors’ ORCID records, linking the author to their contributions and to the institution. Once an author authenticates/connects their ORCID iD in the system, ORCID iD URIs are displayed next to the authors’ names. Image source: doi.org/10.18130/V3FB8T
Screenshot shows an ORCID record with several works listed. The source of each work is "University of Virginia"
Figure 3: By clicking on the author’s ORCID iD URI in LibraOpen, we can see the work listed on the individual’s ORCID record, with “University of Virginia” as the source of the data, which means that the author gave permission for UVA to write to their ORCID record. This saves time for the author, ensures integrity of metadata, and contributes trustworthy data back to the scholarly communication ecosystem that can then be used by other systems connected with ORCID. Image courtesy of Sherry Lake, UVA https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5660-2970

ORCID Ecosystem & Interoperability

These authenticated connections are made possible by configuring software systems to communicate with the ORCID registry through the ORCID API, which is based on OAuth 2.0. With individual researchers/contributors at the center, and their affiliated organizations connecting with them through the ORCID API, all participating organizations’ systems can also communicate with each other. In this way, ORCID not only serves as a mechanism for name disambiguation, it also provides a linchpin for system interoperability in the research and scholarly communication ecosystem.

Graphic shows an ecosystem diagram with a researcher at the center with their ORCID iD, and publishers, employers, and funders forming a connected circle showing how they can connect with the research and each other. Text within the graphic reads: "Interoperability, Enter Once Re-use often"
Figure 4: ORCID serves as a mechanism for interoperability between systems and data in the scholarly communication ecosystem. Graphic courtesy of the ORCID organization.

Publishers, funders, research institutions (employers), government agencies, and other stakeholders have been adopting and using ORCID increasingly in their systems over the past several years. As a global initiative, over 5 million individuals around the world have registered for an ORCID iD, and that number continues to grow steadily as more organizations start to require ORCID iDs in their workflows. For example, over 65 publishers have signed on to an open letter committing to use ORCID in their processes, and grant funders are continuing to come on board with ORCID as well, having recently released their own open letter demonstrating commitment to ORCID. A full list of participating ORCID member organizations around the globe can be found at https://orcid.org/members.

ORCID Integrations

ORCID can be integrated into any system that touches the types of data contained within an ORCID record, including repositories, publishing and content management platforms, data management systems, central identity management systems, human resources, grants management, and Current Research Information Systems (CRIS). ORCID integrations can either be custom built into local systems, such as the example from UVA above, or made available through a vendor system out of the box. Several vendor-hosted CRIS such as Pure, Faculty 180, Digital Measures, and Symplectic Elements, already have built-in support for authenticated ORCID connections that can be utilized by institutional ORCID members, which provides a quick win for pulling ORCID data into assessment workflows with no development required. While ORCID has a public API that offers limited functionality for connecting with ORCID iDs and reading public ORCID data, the ORCID member API allows organizations to read from, write to, and auto-update ORCID data for their affiliated researchers. The ORCID institutional membership model allows organizations to support the ORCID initiative and benefit from the more robust functionality that the member API provides. ORCID can be integrated with disparate systems, or with one system from which data flows into others, as illustrated in Figure 5.

Graphic shows one central ID management system connected to the ORCID registry, with arrows fllowing to other systems such as CRIS, SIS, and DSpace
Figure 5: This graphic from the Czech Technical University in Prague illustrates how a central identity management system is configured to connect with the ORCID registry via the ORCID API, with ORCID data flowing internally to other institutional systems. Image Source: Czech Technical University in Prague Central Library & Computing and Information Centre , 2016: Solving a Problem of Authority Control in DSpace During ORCID Implementation

ORCID in US Research Institutions

In January of 2018, four consortia in the US – the NorthEast Research Libraries (NERL), the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), and LYRASIS – joined forces to form a national partnership for a consortial approach to ORCID membership among research institutions in the US, known as the ORCID US Community. The national partnership allows non-profit research institutions to become premium ORCID member organizations for a significantly discounted fee and employs staff to provide dedicated technical and community support for its members. As of December 1, 2018, there are 107 member organizations in the ORCID US Community.

In addition to encouraging adoption of ORCID, a main goal of the consortium approach is to build a community of practice around ORCID in the US. Prior to 2018, any institutions participating in ORCID were essentially going it alone and there were no dedicated communication channels or forums for discussion and sharing around ORCID at a national level. However, with the formation of the ORCID US Community, there is now a website with community resources for ORCID adoption specific to the US, dedicated communication channels, and an open door to collaboration between member institutions.

Among ORCID US Community member organizations, just under half have integrated ORCID with one or more systems, and the other slightly more than half are either in early planning stages or technical development. (See the ORCID US Community 2018 newsletter for more information.) As an ecosystem, ORCID relies not only on organizations but also the participation of individual researchers, so all members have also been actively reaching out to their affiliated researchers to encourage them to register for, connect, and use their ORCID iD.

Getting Started with ORCID

ORCID can benefit research institutions by mitigating confusion caused by name ambiguity, providing an interoperable data source that can be used for individual assessment and aggregated review of institutional impact, allowing institutions to assert authority over their institutional name and verify affiliations with researchers, ultimately saving time and reducing administrative burden for both organizations and individuals. To get the most value from ORCID, research institutions should consider the following three activities as outlined in the ORCID US Planning Guide:

  1. Forming a cross-campus ORCID committee or group with stakeholders from different campus units (libraries, central IT, research office, graduate school, grants office, human resources, specific academic units, etc.) to strategically plan ORCID system integration and outreach efforts
  2. Assessing all of the current systems used on campus to determine which workflows could benefit from ORCID integration
  3. Conducting outreach and education around research impact and ORCID to encourage researchers to register for and use their ORCID iD

The more people and organizations/systems using ORCID, the more all stakeholders can benefit from ORCID by maintaining a record of an individuals’ scholarly and cultural contributions throughout their career, mitigating confusion caused by name ambiguity, assessing individual contributions as well as institutional impact, and enabling trustworthy and efficient sharing of data across scholarly communication workflows. Effectively, ORCID represents a paradigm shift from siloed, repetitive workflows to the ideal of being able to “enter once, re-use often” by using ORCID to transfer data between systems, workflows, and individuals, ultimately making everyone’s lives easier.

Sheila Rabun is the ORCID US Community Specialist at LYRASIS, providing technical and community support for 100+ institutional members of the ORCID US Community. In prior roles, she managed community and communication for the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) Consortium, and served as a digital project manager for several years at the University of Oregon Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center. Learn more at https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1196-6279