Registering Researchers in Authority Files

The Registering Researchers Task Group aims to create a concise report that summarizes the benefits and trade-offs of emerging approaches to the problem of incomplete national authority files.




Karen Smith-Yoshimura. 2014. "Researcher Identifiers—What’s in a Name (or URI)?" Presented at the 2014 DLF Forum, 27 October 2014, Atlanta, Georgia (USA)
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Micah Altman (MIT Libraries). 2014. "Integrating Researcher Identifiers into the Scholarly Record." Presented at the OCLC Research Library Partnership Meeting, 11 June 2014, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
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Karen Smith-Yoshimura. 2014. "What’s in a Name? Managing Researcher IDs & the Library’s Role." Presented at the ARL Research Library Leadership Fellows, OCLC Visit, 5 May 2014, Dublin, Ohio (USA)
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Micah Altman (MIT Libraries) and Karen Smith-Yoshimura. 2014. "Integrating Researcher Identifiers into University and Library Systems." Presented at the CNI Spring 2014 Membership Meeting, 31 March-1 April 2014, St. Louis, Missouri (USA)
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Karen Smith-Yoshimura. 2014. "Registering Researchers in Authority Files." Presented at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, 27 January 2014, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
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Karen Smith-Yoshimura. 2013. "Registering Researchers in Authority Files." Presented at the UC Berkeley School of Information, Information Access Seminar, 6 December 2013, Berkeley, California (USA)
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National name authority files are incomplete. Many researchers—tenured and non-tenured faculty and graduate students—are only partially represented in national name authority files. National name authority files cover poorly authors of journal articles and exclude researchers who do not publish but who create or contribute to data sets and other research activities. Uniquely identifying the academic authors of all publications, including journal articles, and researchers who do not publish, facilitates compiling individuals' scholarly output, especially as their affiliations change over time. The scholarly output is a factor in the reputation and ranking of the scholar's affiliated institution.


Our goal is to identify:

  • the benefits, needs, and challenges for integrated author identification;
  • approaches to effectively integrate multiple author identifier systems, and to reconcile information from multiple sources; and
  • models, channels and workflows for registering and maintaining integrated author and researcher information.

The broader impact of this work will be to make it easier for researchers and institutions to more accurately measure their scholarly output.


There are a number of emerging approaches to this issue, including authority databases, researcher identifier registries, and researcher profile networks. There is potential overlap across these approaches, and uncertainty in the library community regarding the challenges, benefits and trade-offs among each approach.

Currently the major international approaches to identifying researchers include:

  • ISNI. The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) is an ISO standard (ISO 27729) that identifies public identities of parties—the identities used publicly by individuals or organizations involved in creating, producing, managing and distributing content. The ISNI system uniquely and authoritatively identifies public identities across multiple fields of creative activity.
  • VIAF is an international authority database. National libraries plus selected regional and trans-national library agencies contribute their authority files to the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), which links together the authority data provided for a given entity.
  • ORCID. Open Researcher & Contributor ID is an international, interdisciplinary not-for-profit organization seeking to solve name ambiguity in scholarly communications. ORCID aims to solve the name ambiguity problem in scholarly communications by creating a registry of persistent unique identifiers for individual researchers and an open and transparent linking mechanism between ORCID, other ID schemes, and research objects such as publications, grants, and patents. Participating in the ORCID Launch Partners Program are research institutions, publishers, research funders, data repositories, and third party providers, including The American Physical Society, Aries Systems, Avedas, Boston University, the California Institute of Technology, CrossRef, Elsevier, Faculty of 1000, figshare, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, KNODE, Nature Publishing Group, SafetyLit, Symplectic, Thomson Reuters, Total-Impact, and the Wellcome Trust.
  • Researcher profile systems. The lead open system, VIVO, developed by Cornell, is a network of researcher profiles. It has been implemented by over 100 institutions in a dozen countries to enhance the discovery of researchers across disciplines and institutions and will soon cover more than one million researchers. In addition, dozens of researcher profile networks and systems have been created in the commercial sector (e.g., ResearchGate, Google Scholar, Mendeley) and educational sector (e.g. Stanford CAP, Harvard Profiles, Harvard OpenScholar) sectors. (See for an extensive list)
  • Research reporting and administration systems, sometimes called Current Research Information Systems (CRIS), also keep a systematic record of author names. There is a functional overlap with researcher profile systems such as VIVO. But research reporting and administration systems are usually operated by institutions or funding bodies and are more common in Europe. It is difficult to estimate the number of researchers registered in these systems as they are under institutional control. Together they would probably comprise the most comprehensive and most authoritative resource of author IDs as they are often integrated with the institutional authentication-authorization-access and/or identity management systems. They also overlap with digital repositories (ePrints, Fedora, DSPACE, Invenio, Catmandu) as both systems serve similar functions. Examples of service companies are Symplectic, PURE (Atira) and Avedas (Converis).

Other notable national name authority efforts are active. The Names Project in the UK, funded by JISC, is working to uniquely identify individuals and institutions involved in research in higher education in the United Kingdom. The DAI (Digital Author Identifier) system, assigns a unique number to all authors in the Dutch research system. The Program for Cooperative Cataloging's NACO program involves libraries from inside and outside North America that contribute authority records to the LC/NACO authority file, including the Biblioteca National de México, British Library, and the national libraries of New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales. Some OCLC Research Library Partners that are also NACO Contributors are creating name authority records for all their academic faculty who don't already have one. The NACO program also has funnels that are created when individual institutions don't have the resources to make the minimal NACO requirements, which are generally language, format, subject, or area/state/country based.

OCLC Research has convened a task group comprised of OCLC Research Library Partners staff and others who are addressing creating authority records (and thus persistent identifiers) for their academic faculty and researchers, or channeling them to national authority files, or are otherwise uniquely identifying academic authors and researchers that can be shared in a linked data environment. The task group shared their experiences and discussed:

  • Benefits and needs for researcher identification;
  • In a linked data environment, which approaches to uniquely identifying academic authors and researchers are feasible;
  • Trade-offs of all known options for registering researcher names in authority files;
  • Challenges and benefits for linking between identifier systems;
  • Whether existing funnels for researcher names are expandable or new ones are needed;
  • Faculty perceptions, reactions and input;
  • Suggestions for good models or channels for registering researcher names;
  • Mechanisms for linking academic authors and researchers who have multiple identifiers;

Task Group

Micah Altman
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (ORCID Board member)
Michael Conlon
University of Florida (PI for VIVO: Enabling National Networking of Scientists)
Ana Lupe Cristan
Library of Congress
Laura Dawson
Bowker (ISNI Board member)
Joanne Dunham
University of Leicester
Amanda Hill
University of Manchester (manager of the JISC-funded Names Project)
Daniel Hook
Symplectic Limited [UK]
Wolfram Horstmann
University of Göttingen
Andrew MacEwan

British Library (ISNI Board member)
Philip Schreur
Stanford University (chair-elect of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging)
Laura Smart
California Institute of Technology
Melanie Wacker
Columbia University
Saskia Woutersen
University of Amsterdam

For OCLC Research

Karen Smith-Yoshimura, San Mateo Office
Thom Hickey, Dublin Office

See the Work in Progress page for a historical perspective on the work of the task group.



Karen Smith-Yoshimura

Team Members

Thom Hickey