Early thoughts on ORCID

It was very encouraging last week to see the launch of ORCID, a service which (on the face of it) would seem to offer a solution to one of the key problems of decentralised scholarship and publication: how to connect, in a machine-readable way, all of your published output.

The problem is obvious, really. I have published nine articles over a period of six years: some in journals, some in annual volumes that look a bit like journals, others in collections of essays. At the same time, I’ve published a host of book reviews, some in print journals which exist online, others in online-only publications like Reviews in History. And, I’ve also had a hand in a number of funded research projects which issued in various semi-published reports. And the only means of connecting them together (and distinguishing them from the doubtless admirable work of Peter Webster the oceanographer, and Peter Webster the archaeologist) is this blog, which exists only in unstructured HTML, and so isn’t easily picked up by automated services.

So: a unique identifier for each researcher, managed centrally somehow, seems to make a lot of sense. And so here it is: my shiny new ORCID ID . ORCID will allow you to quickly associate articles that have Digital Object Identifiers with your ID, along with patents. And quick off the mark is ImpactStory, which can then digest your ORCID ID and pull together various impact metrics. (Here’s a first attempt for my own.) It is early days for the service, since it only launched last week; but there is already an issue, even now.
A while ago, I argued in Research Fortnight that the arts and humanities were in danger of being left behind as the pace towards gold open access picks up. And I think there is a risk of the arts and humanities getting left behind here as well. Allow me to demonstrate why.

Of my nine published articles, only one of them appeared in a journal which routinely assigns DOIs. The rest appeared only in print. OK (you might think): that’s because some of them are on the old side, and so the picture ought to improve over time. Answer: yes, up to a point.

Next year this forthcoming article in Parliamentary History should come with a DOI, certainly. However, another paper on Michael Ramsey will appear in a printed volume some time in 2014, which is unlikely to appear as an e-book. Similarly, my book on Michael Ramsey, slated for 2013/14, will appear only in print. And, the book the proposal for which I just submitted (due for completion in 2014 and thus for publication in 2015) won’t either, unless things change very quickly.

Some of this could be solved by allowing the association of ISBNs with researcher IDs in ORCID; but the first release doesn’t support it, which I confess was a source of amazement to me. I also have no fewer than 20 items in  an institutional repository, all of them with structured metadata which could usefully be integrated in some way; but perhaps that is in the pipeline.

But more generally, ORCID seems to me to be a system that suits the natural sciences, where most if not all publication happens in journals that are available electronically, and from publishers of the size to be able to afford to implement DOIs. This simply isn’t how humanities publication works; and I don’t see a clear way in which that will change any time soon.

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