Author Identification -- the issues
Journal and article quality assessment both hinge on many factors, but one of the essential pillars of this type of assessment is the ability to reliably connect the correct researcher with his/her own scholarly output. Problems arise in numerous ways: several researchers having the same or similar names, researchers sometimes publishing under name variations, researchers moving from institution to institution, and, now, the increased frequency of researchers crossing strict disciplinary lines to work in other areas or collaborate with those in other areas.
Web of Science Researcher ID
The Web of Science is a significant tool for searching for articles and conference proceedings across a wide array of disciplines and, as such, has long grappled with the challenges of author identification. Its current solution, Researcher ID, supports effective searching on the Web of Science platform while also contributing to the development of ORCID (see box on this page). When running author searchers in Web of Science, take advantage of the Research ID technology as follows:
Searching for an author with a common name
Using the link above, choose the "Web of Science" tab. To search by author, click the "Author Index", a look-up link shown to the right of the search entry box.
Type in the name and initials of your author. Clicking "Add" and transferring this set of records into the search query (use the "Transfer" box found below the listing of author names), brings up approximately 3,600 references, as shown below. However, viewing "Distinctive Author Record Sets" (this link appears in a box just above the first listed reference) starts to show the underlying difficulties. It turns out that there are over 3,500 distinctive author sets for this name -- all are sets of records that have been grouped based on similar discipline and affiliation. Some of these describe the same individual, others do not. Patient and careful checking of the various sets can help in teasing apart the correct "JA Smith" and his/her citations. This one is a painful example.
Author Authority Standards
Efforts to establish standards for author authority continue. Here are some of the major efforts currently underway:
ORCID, Open Researcher and Contributor ID -- A community-based effort by nearly 300 organizations representing some 40 countries to create a registry database of persistent, unique identifiers for individual researchers, allowing for transparent linking between the ORCID registry, other identification databases and scholarly publications, including articles, books, grants and patents. Participating institutions include research institutions, publishers, research funders, scholarly societies, data repositories, and third party entities, among others. Researchers can register for their own ORCID ID.
ISNI, International Standard Name Identifier, is an International Standards Organization standard (ISO 27729) providing authoritative identity for public entities in public databases. It is notably different from ORCID in that it is not limited to scholarly work, but embraces all areas of creative contribution (writers, artists, creators, performers, researchers, producers, publishers, aggregators, and more). ISNI, like other ISO standards, including ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and DOI (Digital Object Identifier), carry global recognition. The ISNI identifier is a 16-digit number. Individuals can register for an ISNI.
VIAF, Virtual International Authority File, is an international cooperative effort amongst nearly two dozen national (and smaller) libraries to facilitate unambiguous identification through linking of author and individual authority records across major bibliographic databases and languages, worldwide.
VIVO, out of Cornell University, is a major open-source platform for researcher profile systems. By providing a locus for individual researcher interests, activities and accomplishments, researchers can be uniquely identified. Profiling systems also facilitate identification of potential collaborators. In addition to Cornell's VIVO implementation, other institutions are hosting VIVO sites providing for cross-institutional searching for researchers at Harvard University, Indiana University, Ponce School of Medicine (Puerto Rico), the Scripps Research Institute, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine College and the University of Florida.