Authority Control: Are You Who We Say You Are?


About the Webinar

In the world of authority control, it is a bit of an alphabet soup of acronyms. ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), which is a system to uniquely identify scientific and other academic authors; ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier), which identifies the public identities of contributors to media content such as books, television programs, and newspaper articles; and VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) a system that combines multiple name authority files into a single authority service, hosted by OCLC, all have their place when discussing identifiers for authority control.

Identity issues and disambiguating authors, researchers, other content creators, and their institutional affiliations are crucial as we move into a world of linked data. In this webinar, presenters will cover the implications and differences between ORCID, ISNI, and VIAF, what is the proper use of each, and some of the benefits that come with using authority files and making that information available on the Web.

Event Sessions

ORCID identifiers in research workflows


Simeon Warner

Director of Repository Development
Cornell University Library

ORCID addresses the name ambiguity problem by connecting unique identifiers for authors with their works (papers, grants, datasets and more), organizations, and other identifiers such as ISNI.

ORCID engages all sectors of the research community, including publishers, funders, universities, and the researchers themselves. Researchers have control over their ORCID record and save time by using their ORCID identifier during manuscript submission, dataset submission, or grant application. ORCID identifiers thus become embedded in the metadata and new works are published with identifiers already attached. This simplifies reporting and enhances discovery. Metadata about new works can also be pushed back to ORCID, automatically updating the researcher's record.

ISNI: How It Works And What It Does


A discussion of the International Standard Name Identifier, its relationship with VIAF and ORCID, its purpose, scope, and usage. ISNI is in use in Wikipedia and VIAF, as well as ORCID (for research institutions). Additionally, Books in Print now has 3 million ISNIs associated with the authors listed there. Bowker recently launched an online application so individual users can apply for and register their ISNIs.

Members of the ISNI International Agency include Harvard Library, Macmillan Digital Science, and ODIN.

VIAF and its Relationships with Other Files


The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) is demonstration of the what can be done to collect and match names from a variety of library sources around the world. VIAF currently manages data from some three dozen sources, consisting of tens of millions of names and hundreds of millions of bibliographic descriptions. Two of the most interesting sources for VIAF are Wikipedia and the International Standard Name identifier (ISNI), since VIAF both pulls and pushes data to them, which can lead to interactions that need to be carefully managed.

One of the main uses of VIAF within OCLC is for collecting bibliographic descriptions into work records. Doing this requires both the identification of authors and their titles, and is now another example of how VIAF both sends and pulls data from a source, in this case WorldCat, the main bibliographic database maintained by OCLC. We have found that managing a database of hundreds of millions of works requires special techniques. We are exposing the results of those as VIAF work and expression records so they can be of use to others.

My understanding is that there's no way to prevent someone for creating an ORCID ID for a fake identity as an author or reviewer. If this is correct, are you thinking of any way to actually validate the identity of the person creating the ORCID ID?

(Simeon Warner): There isn't a mechanism to stop creation of an ORCID iD for a fake identity. However, there is a dispute resolution process (see <>) to deal with cases of misuse. I note that this is the same situation as the current publication world where articles and books are published under alternate identities which may or may not be readily connected to the real person. A key benefit of ORCID in even these situations is re-use of the identity for multiple works, grants, etc. and connections to other systems that might validate or explain that identity.

(BTW, my favorite example a fake identity is "John Rainwater" who never existed but has a fine publication record in mathematics. John's publications were actually written by a number of different people (see <>). I note that John is well described in VIAF <> based on the LC record <>.)

Can institutions capture all the ORCIDS for researchers at an institution?

(SW): Yes, by two means: As a member organization helping to create and link researchers to their ORCID identities, the organization will get validated ORCID identities via linking process (using oauth, see <>). The second method is to extract from ORCID data all entries with the institution names or Ringgold identities the represent your organization (they are quite granular, there are about a dozen identities for different parts of Cornell for example).

What happens to the ID when people pass away?

(SW): If an ID owner passes away the ORCID record will persist and the ID stays "out there" in whatever systems have recorded it. The ID can be used to link to the researcher identity in just the same way as when they were alive. The record in the ORCID registry will remain and any existing permissions for updates will too. Thus, if the record holder granted permission to a publisher or institution to update their record then that can be used to add works that are perhaps published posthumously.

Can ORCID be searched in a database?

(SW): ORCID can be searched directly from the web, and from the public and member APIs (see <>). There are also periodic public data dumps that can be loaded into a local database for query and processing (see <>).

What can members of ORCID and ISNI do to help promote convergence of the two identifiers? What are the barriers being encountered in this discussion?

(Laura Dawson): Assignment criteria is the main hurdle. To obtain an ORCID, you only need an email address. To obtain an ISNI, you need to be associated with some "work" - that's a precondition for assignment - so essentially, you have to be "published" in some way.

(SW): I think Laura's point is important, and illustrates different applications for ISNI and ORCID. For ORCID to be integrated into workflows there needs to be the ability to get an ORCID before publication. ORCID iDs are not designed to handle the kinds of rights management uses-cases as ISNI ids are, and the scope of ORCID is smaller. However, there is obvious overlap between ORCID and ISNI, and the two organizations continue to work together on things like the ISNI2ORCID wizard.

We use NACO to authorize name headings in the bibliographic records we create. What benefits can you see to include ORCI/ISNI/VIAF identifiers as well as NACO control numbers in bibliographic records?

(LD): My own opinion is that bibliographic records should contain as many identifiers as possible for Linked Data to function to its maximum potential.

Is there a diagram available that defines the relationship amongst ISNI, ORCID, and VIAF?

(SW): I don't think that a realistic, simple and tidy diagram is possible. Perhaps the best starting point is the diagram on slide 35 of the presentation by Micah Altman and Karen Smith-Yoshimura from the Spring 2014 CNI meeting: <>. The presentation is also an excellent survey of the space.

Additional Information

  • Registration closes at 12:00 p.m. (ET) on February 11, 2015. Cancellations made by February 4, 2015 will receive a refund, less a $25 cancellation. After that date, there are no refunds.

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