Skip to main content

What is ORCID and why should we care?

What is ORCID and why should we care?

ORCID iDs are unique identifiers for researchers. They provide a simple and standardized way to unambiguously link authors to their publications (and potentially other entities such as organizations), and are increasingly required by publishers and funders.

Let’s start with a couple of definitions:

  • ORCID stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. ORCID is an open, non-profit entity that provides a registry of unique identifiers for researchers, and the means to link the products of research to their creators.
  • An ORCID identifier, or ORCID iD, refers to the unique identifier itself, a 16-digit number, and is associated with an individual person.

ORCID was born of the need to uniquely and authoritatively identify people, to link people to the works they produce, and potentially to other entities such as the organizations for which they work. People with even marginally common names will appreciate the problem, as will those who have changed their names for any reason, have been inconsistent in how they record their names as authors, have multiple family names, or who have published in multiple (and disparate) disciplines. In each of these situations, it can be difficult to tell which person is truly associated with an article, book, or other work, simply based on the author’s name.

If ORCID iDs are widely adopted, there is significant potential to use them to streamline and simplify functions such as faculty reporting, and to leverage the information available for assessment purposes such as understanding how successful Cornell graduates are in their academic careers once they leave Cornell. It’s this potential that has led us to develop a plan to promote adoption and use of ORCID iDs at Cornell.

But before we get too far along with that plan, it’s critical to understand what’s needed to get the most out of the ORCID infrastructure. Not only must individuals register for an ORCID iD, they should also add information to their ORCID record, authorize Cornell to associate their ORCID iD with their Cornell netID, and use their ORCID iD in workflows whenever it’s possible to do so. Possible Cornell applications for ORCID include using it to streamline faculty reporting processes, uniquely identifying authors in our digital repositories, and integrating it into research information systems.

Individuals can also choose to authorize other services and organizations besides Cornell (such as CrossRef, Scopus, and others) to push or pull information to/from their ORCID profile, which can greatly simplify the process of keeping their profile information current. Researchers “own” and control their ORCID iDs, and can decide whether and with whom they share information, and whether any of their information is displayed publicly.

Even before we started formulating a plan, individuals at Cornell were signing up for ORCID iDs. As of fall 2015, there were nearly 2,000 ORCID iDs with email addresses suggesting a possible Cornell affiliation, yet only two to three dozen of these had authorized Cornell to associate their ORCID iD with their netID. This is very impressive adoption for a campus with no organized outreach effort, but we’ll be unable to leverage those ORCID iDs until those iDs are connected to Cornell. This points to the very real need to ensure that adopters complete all the steps needed in order to maximize the potential benefits of ORCID at Cornell. While some institutions have opted to assign ORCID iDs to everyone, the ORCID organization no longer recommends this, and there are no plans to adopt this approach at Cornell. That means we have some work to do.

Here’s a very high level view of the plan (available in full here):

  • Fine tune the application that allows individuals to obtain an ORCID iD and connect it to Cornell (or authorize that connection for an existing ORCID iD).
  • Work with liaisons to prepare them to work directly with faculty to obtain an ORCID iD, authorize Cornell (and optionally other parties), and add information to their profiles.
  • Promote ORCID to administrators and faculty via a communication campaign and direct, in-person outreach by liaisons to faculty to walk them through the steps of obtaining the ORCID iD, populating their profiles, and getting connected to Cornell.
  • Integrate ORCID iDs with Scholars@Cornell.
  • Investigate and possibly implement support for ORCID iDs in CUL’s institutional repositories.
  • Communicate with other Cornell stakeholders about the potential for integration into campus systems.
  • Plan to sustain support for ORCID at Cornell going forward.

Sandy Payette, Gail Steinhart and Simeon Warner form a steering group to move this plan forward. Oya Rieger and Dean Krafft are the Library Executive Group sponsors. We’ll no doubt get help from many more people along the way, and CUL liaisons will be critical to the success of this effort.

In the meantime, if you find yourself discussing ORCID with faculty or staff and want some suggestions as to how to explain its value and potential, here are a couple of talking points. Registering for and using your ORCID iD will help you:

  • Get credit (for your work)
  • Get ready (for increasingly required use of your ORCID iD in processes such as manuscript submission, grant applications and reporting)
  • Get connected (to Cornell) by visiting

We’ll provide periodic updates to CUL staff as we proceed. Please don’t hesitate to contact any team member, or, with questions or comments.

Best, 0000-0002-2441-1651 (Gail Steinhart)


Comments are closed.