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

African Art Pedagogy: A Hypertexted Journey

AAP Exhibit, installation view, CCA’s Meyer Library, Oakland, CA

In early fall, our Instructional Designer, Bobby White, who is based in the Library, brought a potential Digital Scholarship project to my attention, a Library exhibit idea with both a digital and physical component. In this article I’ll talk about the idea behind the project, our process, the technology utilized, and our reflections after we completed the exhibit.

Leslie Townsend, faculty member in the Visual Studies and Writing and Literature programs, approached the Libraries with the idea to share her pedagogy for an African Art survey course (part of the Visual Studies Program) with other faculty and the greater CCA community. In addition to displaying material artifacts, she was interested in linking the many types of digital artifacts from the course–images, videos, texts, student assignments, reference materials, syllabus–into an integrated digital display. Bobby had recently seen student work from faculty member Rebekah Edwards’ literature class using the software Twine and suggested Twine for this project. Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories, and is also used for narrative games. Like a labyrinth, it allows viewers to choose different and multiple paths to travel through a particular story. Twine offered a unique way to open up Leslie’s African Art course to reveal layered perspectives–instructor, student, assessment, and reflection–and reveal complex interactions unavailable in a traditional 2-D format. The African Art Pedagogy Exhibit was to be the Libraries’ first Digital Scholarship project and our first exhibit utilizing an iPad.

Bobby and I set about to learn Twine, and began a series of weekly meetings with Leslie to discuss the content and structure of the Twine, as well as to curate a selection of objects and books related to her course. We had already determined that we would use an iPad to display the Twine; the Libraries’ had purchased several iPads in the past year or so, and we have been interested in deploying them for a variety of purposes, including for displays. I began researching a display stand for the iPad, and eventually settled on an iPad floor stand from a Website called Displays2Go, which specializes in marketing displays. The criteria included a locking case, cable management, a rotating bracket to allow flexibility in display, a fit for the iPad Air, hidden home button (to keep users from navigating away from the exhibit), relatively inexpensive price, and last but not least, pleasing aesthetically. When it came time to install, we also utilized the iPad’s “Guided Access” feature, which keeps users in the app.

As for Twine, we discovered there are currently two versions of Twine; we chose to use the newest version (version 2), for what seemed like obvious reasons — newer versions tend to be better supported and offer new features. But in the case of Twine, the new version represents a renewed focus on text, and away from the easy integration of adding images that version 1 offers. Adding images and links to embedded videos were important to this project, to give viewers direct contact with selected course materials. We were able to work with version 2, but it required additional research. For a future project, we would look more closely at Twine 1 and consider using it instead.

The goals we developed going into the project were to

  • Design an integrated physical and digital pedagogy exhibition in the Library
  • Test Twine’s application in an academic environment
  • Share Leslie’s pedagogical process with colleagues
  • Offer an experience of her African Art course to a range of viewers in the Library: students, faculty, staff, visitors
  • Enable Leslie to continue to develop the Twine after the exhibition
  • Explore options and issues with sharing the Twine outside the Library once the exhibition ended

The three of us then began to work as team, and in short order defined our roles — a key component to a successful collaboration, and one that made it easy and enjoyable to work together. These were based on our individual expertise/s: Leslie Leslie focused on providing the content, and input on the flow of the narrative; Bobby focused on Twine and pedagogy development; and I assumed the project management hat, as well as Twine development.

Neither Bobby nor I have a background in African Art so one of our initial tasks was to get to know Leslie’s curriculum, both through her syllabus and in conversation with her. We defined the content areas for our Twine: syllabus, student work, teaching philosophy/learning outcomes, and resources, and created a structure for storing and sharing materials in Google Drive, which our campus uses. At this point we began to re-imagine the course as an exhibit: the content areas would become four paths in Twine, that intermingle and connect, depending on the choices a visitor makes. The content areas are: Curriculum Guide, Students in Action, Teaching Philosophy and Learning Outcomes, and Experience African Art. I built a timeline with milestones, working backward from the exhibition date, and we scheduled weekly working meetings (initially two-hour blocks, though toward the end of the project we had a few full-day working sessions). In addition to our weekly meetings, Leslie spent additional time pulling together coursework, and Bobby and I spent time researching Twine questions and implementation questions. But it was difficult to properly estimate the amount of time we needed, especially since we were engaged in multiple new tasks: learning an open-source software, figuring out how to host the completed work, and turning a course into an open narrative. Bobby reflected after the fact that this type of scenario will most likely repeat itself, as part of what we do in the Libraries now is engage with new technologies. Leslie observed that she could imagine another project in the future taking place over a longer period of time, perhaps over a semester and a summer, as we spent many hours toward the end of the project, and could easily have spent more.

Once we’d identified works for inclusion, we had a variety of media to organize: electronic documents, links to embedded videos, and physical objects. We categorized works into proper folders, selected physical objects to scan or photograph, and hashed out the best way to present the material, to tell the story the course suggested to us. It was a fully collaborative process, which was one of its joys. One of the challenges we struggled with was whether we should map the story out in advance or whether we could build it once we’d added all the ‘raw’ material into Twine. Twine’s premise is simple: create a nonlinear story easily and quickly, by creating passages. At its most basic, each passage contains some text and a link or links embedded anywhere within the text to go to another part of the story. Images and multimedia can also be embedded within passages. When building a Twine, one works in a map where you can see all of the passages you’ve created and how they’re linked to one another. It’s a great feature, to be able to have a bird’s-eye view; one navigates back and forth between the editor view of the passage, a preview of the passage/s, and the map of the whole story. We settled on getting all of our content into passages in Twine and then connecting them into multiple narratives, which we thought would allow us to better see the possibilities that the Twine format offered.

Twine-Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 3.16.24 PM
African Art Pedagogy Exhibit, Twine map screenshot

Simultaneously, Bobby and I began researching where we might host the finished work. A site called philome.la publishes text-only Twines for free, though if you want to include locally stored images or other media, and/or if you have any privacy concerns, it’s not the place to host your Twine. We also looked into using Google Drive and Dropbox as hosting sites but both services have now made it very hard if not impossible to use them as hosting sites. Our solution: we requested a slice of space on one of our Educational Technology Service’s Web servers. This turned out to be ideal, as we now have a space to host future digital-scholarship projects. We still have to grapple with some rights issues for the site: we digitized a few images from books that Leslie uses in her course, which we believe falls under fair use when only shown in the library, but would most likely not be considered Fair Use were we to share the site publicly, as we could not control who would see the images nor what they might do with them. The nature of the digital portion of the exhibit presents opportunities beyond the library exhibit dates, a complicated but exciting aspect of the project. Stay tuned.

Gradually we built out our content into passages and connected them into a variety of paths for the viewers to choose from: we broke up the syllabus into individual passages, with links forward through the syllabus, and links to key course materials, which in turn might take the viewer to other course materials; the Students in Action section is comprised of two assignments, with introductions by Leslie, which offer an insight into students’ interactions with the materials and learning: an introduction to the geography of the continent, and excerpts from a few student papers; Teaching Philosophy and Learning Outcomes offers Leslie a way to frame and share her thinking about the course, one of the most valuable parts of the exercise; lastly, Experience African Art shares a selection of curated, visual course materials, with explications. A map of the continent of Africa is the unofficial hub of the story, as many links across sections radiate to and from it.

Screenshot from AAP, Teaching Philosophy

Physical objects chosen for display were related to images and text in the Twine, and gave the exhibition a tactile presence that was a nice complement to the digital, while increasing the overall visibility of the exhibition. The Libraries’ Assistant Curator (a work-study position), Hannah Novillo-Erickson, worked with Leslie and I on the exhibit installation, another nice collaboration point.

Overall, we consider the African Art Pedagogy exhibit1 (link to Twine) a successful undertaking. The opportunity to work in-depth with both the Instructional Designer and a faculty member was an invaluable, rich, learning experience. It required a significant time investment, but, having lived through it, the Instructional Designer and I now have a ballpark figure to work with going forward, as well as ideas about how to manage and possibly reduce the time outlay. We found examples of writing composition and writers employing Twine, but we did not find any examples of projects similar to ours, which is kind of exciting. The technology, though easy, still demanded respect in terms of a learning curve, both conceptual and technological. I consider our Twine to be more of a first iteration; I wish I had more time to refine it, now that I better understand its potential in relation to our subject matter. Leslie observed that it showed her relationships and things she could do with the pedagogy that she hadn’t seen previously. She couldn’t imagine how she would do something like this on her own; I assured her that facilitating these types of projects is one of the goals of the new Digital Scholarship position.

Lisa Conrad is the Digital Scholarship Librarian at California College of the Arts, in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art and Art History, and an MLIS from San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science. Images from her art work 4 1/2 feet can be seen at fourandahalffeet.


  1. for educational purposes only; no re-use of any of the images in the Twine.