Posted in Tips, useful software, Web 2.0
Unique author identification is a longstanding issue in scientific publishing. Currently there are a number of systems under development that promise a variety of functionalities. I am not going to give here an extensive overview of this wide range of systems, an up to date article can be found here. While a universally recognized standard such as the ISO standard International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) system will undoubtedly be useful as a way to categorize any type of authors, artists and scientists, the practical use of an author identifier will be strongly related to the availability of linked information such as lists of publications.
Writing from my own experience I would like to discuss a particular unique author identification system which has developed into a fully functional tool: ResearcherID. The ResearcherID system has been developed by Thomson Reuters as a feature to their Web of Knowledge database. Although it can be argued that the commercial nature of this database limits its use as a standard, the system has a very clear advantage for scientific research and assessment as the resulting profile is made available in the public domain. Since summer 2011, ResearcherID has achieved arguably the most important functionality of an author identification system, namely full integration with a complete database of publications and citation metrics.
The information obtained from Web of Science can be assembled by a researcher who makes a ResearcherID profile. A limiting factor here is the requirement of access to the services of Thomson Reuters, although it is possible to upload a RIS-formatted file. Most importantly, it is possible to link your ID to all your papers including those with variations in last name and/or initials. Information assembled by the researcher can be accessed through a personal profile webpage which includes an up-to-date publication record synchronized weekly with Web of Science, and a graphical representation of citations per year and h-index. This information is now publicly available, i.e. does not require a subscription to Thomson Reuters services. Here is an example of my own ResearcherID page. Authors sharing the same name, such as James Smith, can be easily distinguished once they have registered their own unique details. These ResearcherID profiles are fed back into Web of Science where they are available as Distinct Author Sets.
So why are not all scientists yet on ResearcherID? Perhaps relatively few scientists are aware of this option, or maybe some are not inclined to cooperate with a commercial company or do not have access to the database. For people with a commonly occurring or otherwise ambiguous name, ResearcherID is probably the best way at the moment for disambiguation of their publication record in one of the major databases. As ResearcherID is now as complete as Web of Science, it can be used for job interviews or grant applications. In my opinion every scientist should get their ResearcherID as soon as possible.
More information about ResearcherID and how it links to other unique author systems can be found here. Other unique author identifier systems which are being developed are the Scopus Author Identifier and the public domain ORCID. I would be interested to hear about other experiences with these systems and what you believe will be the best option in the long run.