Registering Researchers in Authority Files

#oclcresearch #rrafreport

An OCLC Research Report by:

Karen Smith-Yoshimura,  Micah Altman, Michael Conlon, Ana Lupe Cristán, Laura Dawson, Joanne Dunham, Thom Hickey, Daniel Hook, Wolfram Horstmann, Andrew MacEwan, Philip Schreur, Laura Smart, Melanie Wacker, and Saskia Woutersen

Key highlights:

  • While funders and publishers have been adopting researcher identifiers, it is equally important for research institutions and libraries to recognize that "authors are not strings" and that persistent identifiers are needed to link authors their scholarly output.
  • Although there are overlaps among identifier systems, no one system will ever include all researchers or meet all functional requirements, so the ability to communicate among systems becomes crucial.
  • New modes of scholarly communication increase the need to rely on persistent researcher identifiers to attribute output to the correct researcher and the researcher’s institution.
  • Funders are finding persistent identifiers are important to for efficient and scalable tracking of the impact of the research they support.
  • Although interoperability between systems is increasing, approaches used in different identifier systems for formats and data elements are often not interoperable.
  • There is a huge opportunity for third-party reconciliation or resolution services to provide linking among different identifier systems.

Download US Letter .pdf Download A4 .pdf


Written by OCLC Research Program Officer Karen Smith-Yoshimura and the 13 members of the Registering Researchers in Authority Files Task Group comprised of specialists from the US, UK and the Netherlands, this report summarizes their research into approaches to providing authoritative researcher identifiers.

Registering researchers in some type of authority file or identifier system has become more compelling as both institutions and researchers recognize the need to compile their scholarly output. The report presents functional requirements and recommendations for six stakeholders: researchers, funders, university administrators, librarians, identity management systems, and aggregators (including publishers). It also provides an overview of the researcher identifier landscape, changes in the field, emerging trends, and opportunities.

Supplementary data sets document the task group's research and are also available for downloading at the links above: 18 use-case scenarios for the six stakeholders; functional requirements derived from the use-case scenarios; the list of 100 research networking and identifier systems the task group considered; characteristics profiles of 20 research networking and identifier systems; mappings of each of the 20 systems to the functional requirements; and a researcher identifier information flow diagram.

This report and its supplementary data sets will be of interest to everyone who has a stake in identifying the research output of individual authors and institutions.

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OCLC Research encourages the reuse and distribution of our work by providing it with a CC By 4.0 license. For your convenience we have created Power Point slides for the most requested images, complete with suggested citation.  Please feel free to use these slides in your presentations or publications without the need to request further permission.

Researcher ID Information Flow

Download the Power Point (.ppt) Slide

Suggested citation:

Smith-Yoshimura, Karen; Micah Altman; Michael Conlon; Ana Lupe Cristán; Laura Dawson; Joanne Dunham; Thom Hickey; Daniel Hook; Wolfram Horstmann; Andrew MacEwan; Philip Schreur; Laura Smart; Melanie Wacker; and Saskia Woutersen. 2014. Registering Researchers in Authority Files. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.

For more information:

Karen Smith-Yoshimura
Program Officer
OCLC Research