Why you need an ORCID

The problem with names…

Years ago, I remember looking at Facebook for the first time to set up an account and typing in “Jenny Cham” to see if there were other people already using the same name.  There were loads of other girls – mostly of Chinese origin actually – with exactly the same name as me, with search results spanning over several pages.  This was a bit annoying, but at least in this context once I set up my account my friends could work out if it was me by other means – such as receiving a direct invite from me, or by looking at my photo thumbnail, or viewing the names of my other friends.  In other situations having a similar, or the same as others, name can be much more problematic, and important.

Who is Jenny Chem?

Another example of the problem with names is a scientific paper I coauthored, where the editor mis-spellt my name (See Mining proteomic MS/MS data for MRM transitions by Chem Mead J.A. et al.)  Admittedly, he could have mistaken me for “Chum“, not “Chem” (apologies if your surname is actually “Chum“) – but it’s still a pain when compiling my work into lists, resumés or reports.  When mistakes like this happen readers may not recognise the author so may be confused if they have the correct article.  And perhaps more worryingly, in automated searches of paper databases this article could be missed entirely.  A previous blog post gives another example (“Did you mean jennychem.co.uk?“)

Using names as reference points can be a problem in many situations…

Imagine if you are trying to organise a conference and invite a speaker, only to find you ended up contacting the wrong person with the same name – awkward!  What about if you are reviewing a grant proposal and want to look up the authors to asses their credibility and contribution to the field, and one of them has a popular name – nightmare!  Simple searches on author name in a papers database such as PubMed or EuropePMC would be hopeless for these scenarios.

Or maybe (which also happened to me): what happens if you get married and decide to change your surname?  How will you ensure your publication record in your previous/maiden name doesn’t get lost going forwards?

For these problematic scenarios there is now a solution at hand…

Tag your works with an ORCID

There’s now hope to sort this out: introducing ORCID!

ORCID is a:

“…community-based effort to provide a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers.”

ORCID basically provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher, which can be useful for manuscript and grant submission, and generally for linking you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognised.

What does an ORCID look like?

Do you have an ORCID?
Not like this!


An “ORCID” is a 16 character identifier which looks like a bit like a credit card number (e.g. Director of the EBI Ewan Birney’s ORCID is 0000-0001-8314-8497, mine is 0000-0002-7446-222X).  Your scholarly works are then linked to this unique number, just like your name, address, bank account details, etc. would be linked to your credit card number.  Only with ORCID you can much more easily see and edit all your details linked to the number, and it won’t expire over time!

What information can you associate with your ORCID?

You can include your:

  • books
  • papers
  • affiliations
  • education background
  • grants
  • citable datasets

It works for any scholarly discipline, although most examples I’ve seen so far are from the life science research community.  In fact, when you submit a manuscript for publication, journals may now ask you for your ORCID to save you time completing your details – and to make sure they have the correct author.

How do you get an ORCID and associate information with it?

You can do this manually at the ORCID website http://orcid.org/ with some simple form-filling.  Also…

The European Bioinformatics Institute provides an ORCID tool

EMBL-EBI provides a three step tool to help you quickly link your works to your own ORCID using the EuropePMC papers database.  The EBI is a pilot organisation for ORCID, where every employee receives an ORCID automatically, but it’s really easy to request one for yourself at the ORCID website http://orcid.org/ .

A sketchnote for raising awareness of ORCID and its benefits

Laurel Haak, Executive Director of ORCID, contacted me after seeing my quick sketchnote from a seminar about EuropePMC’s ORCID mapping tool.   Laure wanted a poster to help get the message out about ORCID and its benefits, the result is below:


New to ORCID?
New to ORCID?

This was my first proper attempt at taking my sketchnote into Adobe Illustrator to give it a more professional finish.  I think the effort was worth it!  Thanks go to EMBL-EBI’s graphic designer, Spencer Phillips, who helped me a lot.  Enjoy!

Why not get your own ORCID today?


Related links

Three step ORCID tool (at the EBI)

ORCID website

ORCID on Twitter

Example public ORCID profile page

Previous ORCID sketchnote

EuropePMC literature database (hosted at EMBL-EBI)


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