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An identifier is a unique expression in a written format either by a code, by numbers or by the combination of both to distinguish variations from one to another among a class of substances, items, or objects. For living organisms and the structural identifications of objects, identifiers could be more complicated. In computer science, Identifiers (IDs) are lexical tokens that name entities. The concept is analogous to that of a "name." Identifiers are used extensively in virtually all information processing systems. Naming entities makes it possible to refer to them, which is essential for any kind of symbolic processing. (Excerpt from Wikipedia article: Identifier)

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Digital identifiers are central to information retrieval and management, so they are consequently crucial to the operation of the World Wide Web. In particular, the ability to identify a digital or real-world, physical resource and/or a description of such a resource relies on its unique identification.

Why should universities care about identifiers?

Why do identifiers matter for research?

Imagine that you are a senior manager in an institution within the UK Higher Education sector with responsibilities for research: you have read some basic details about unique researcher identifiers and perhaps institutional identifiers. However, it may not be immediately apparent just how important these issues are, which may seem on the face of it to be a relatively superficial and/or trivial organisational matter. Clearly, any such strategic decision-maker will long have been aware of the demands of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and its predecessor the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), in which successful reporting of the best research outputs of university departments is crucial to the on-going funding of the institution. This is particularly central to the work of research-led universities, which is an increasingly competitive sector: even universities that formerly focussed more on teaching than research are increasingly aware of the need to drive up standards of quality research in order to secure additional funding.

The business of unique identification

What need is there for unique identifiers?

Put in relatively non-technical language, there is an increasing concern in information science in general to uniquely identify different things, organisations or people that could otherwise be confused, whether on the Internet or in the physical world. In technical terms, these are all referred to as resources (even if people might find it vaguely demeaning in normal language to be considered as such).

ORCID Outreach Event at CERN


10:00 Welcome and what’s new – Howard Ratner, ORCID Chair (Slides [PPTX 2.55Mb])

Talk discussed:

Key quote “ORCID will work to support the creation of a permanent, clear and unambiguous record of scholarly communication by enabling reliable attribution of authors and contributors”

Re-statement of the 10 ORCID principles

Various demographics and participant statistics

ORCID Executive Update (Sept 11)

ORCID in a nutshell (current strategy):

  • ORCID is a registry of profiles for people involved in research – a profile can be created by the person themselves (self-registry) or by what is termed a Trusted Partner, such as a University or Publisher.
  • The people using the system decide who is and is not a researcher, not the system itself.
  • A self-registered profile, for “John Smith” for example, can state that it is the same ‘John Smith’ in a profile created by a Trusted Partner and vice-versa.

ORCID – a taster of the API

As the official draft API (googledoc) is both in flux and read-protected so that only those invited can see it, I am unable to give you a complete view of how things are shaping up.

However, I can relay a number of key points that everyone involved is concerned about:

ORCID: some questions and answers

The following is from an email exchange with Nicky Ferguson. These are my answers to the questions
he posed, and as such shouldn’t be considered the opinion of the ORCID project itself. They are the
answers I believe are correct, based on the meetings and discussions I have been part of on the
technical advisory group.

If any other member of the advisory group can correct any inaccuracies in the comments, I’d be
most appreciative.

Confidence, and the business of persistent identification

The persistent identification of resources is a foundational element of the JISC Information Environment. There are several schemes and technologies available to support this, with one of the most prominently used in the JISC IE being the Digital Object Identifier (DOI). Built on the Handle technology, the DOI, under the stewardship of the not-for-profit International DOI Foundation (IDF), adds the important element of collective commitment and management, based on straightforward business interests.

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Dr. Radut