Contribution to the IMU-Net 44: November 2010 , by
Librarian, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, and
Professor of Statistics and Mathematics, University of California Berkeley
Few authors can look at their list of publications and see their name represented one and only one way. The variability of author names, especially now as data from different disciplinary databases comes together at the scale of the web, presents opportunities and challenges. Various traditional literature index and abstract services, as well as most major publishers have found it necessary to create internal individual author identifying numbers as they offer search by author. A short overview of this problem is "Author Identification Systems" by A. Ben Wagner (Wagner1).
ORCID is a recently formed non-profit organization dedicated to solving the name ambiguity problem in scholarly research. ORCID plans to establish a registry that would be adopted and embraced as the de facto standard for author identification by the entire academic community. The value of such identifiers has been widely recognized: to allow authors due credit for their work, to assist researchers in navigating the vast universe of bibliographic data, and to facilitate collaborations between authors with similar or complimentary interests. The 14 directors of ORCID include representatives from major universities and library organizations, as well as scholarly societies and commercial publishers (Cornell, Harvard, MIT, OCLC, ACM, J Wiley Inc), the Wellcome Trust (a funding organization with a strong commitment to open access), and representatives of both commercial and non-commercial publishers.
For mathematicians, the major disciplinary services, Math Reviews and ZMATH have strong traditions of bibliographic data management, including establishment of author names. The work of such subscription services would undoubtedly be enhanced through interaction with ORCID. At the same time, as library budgets continue to come under pressure, librarians have noticed and begun to wonder generally about subscription costs associated with these services (Chen1 and Chen2). Some of us find many users satisfied with the "good enough" nature of searching Google Scholar.
Mathematicians should give attention to discussion at their own institutions about cost-benefit of the various bibliographic services. Prior CEIC recommendations concerning posting of author versions of one's individual works remain highly relevant. Is your own web page up to date with your most recent work?
These are early days for the ORCID initiative. There are a number of technical, financial, and legal issues which need to be addressed. More announcements should be available soon on the project web page; and we look forward to wider discussion among mathematicians across the research spectrum of questions arising around the interplay of subscription services and open bibliographic data. According to Tim Berners-Lee, the web is on its way to becoming a web of "linked data" -- data from pages of individuals as well as pools of other sorts of data, such as bibliographic elements.
(Wagner 1) A. Ben Wagner, “Article Identification Systems", Issues in
Science and Technology Librarianship”, Fall, 2009
(Chen1) Xiaotian Chen, "Google Scholar's Dramatic Coverage
Improvement Five Years after Debut", Serials Review", vol. 36, n°4, p.
(Chen2) Xiaotian Chen, "The Declining Value of Subscription-based
Abstracting and Indexing Services in the New Knowledge Dissemination
Era, Serials Review, vol. 36, n°2, p.79-85, 2010