Managing researcher identity and name changes using ORCID

UK ORCID Jisc consortium event report by Monica Duke

In the UK, Jisc leads a consortium of ORCID implementors in higher education, consisting of nearly 100 Universities, research organisations and a major funder. ORCID is an identifier for contributors to research and is intended to help with continuity of identity for researchers across time, disciplines and borders, including name changes. We know that researchers change their names for a variety of reasons. We wanted to find out more about how this is managed within scholarly communication systems. What happens within the organisations that employ researchers? Do researchers have good or bad experiences? Can ORCID help?

Given the role of our community in this landscape, we challenged ourselves to reflect on our experience and knowledge, to answer questions like:

  • Are you aware of researchers or colleagues who have needed to change their name, and their reasons?
  • Did the internal systems at your institution handle this well? Which other service departments or external systems would be involved?
  • Would you know how to reply if you were asked whether ORCID can help in this scenario?
  • What are the implications for the researcher and for the scholarly record?

The following is the summary of consortium event report. You can read the full report on the UK ORCID Consortium blog.

Report Summary

We organised an event for the UK ORCID consortium to learn more about the problems faced by researchers when they change their names, and to investigate how technologies like the ORCID identifier can help particularly in scholarly communication ecosystems.

Researchers change their names for a variety of reasons. Reasons include change of name by deed poll, marriage, remarriage, divorce, gender transition and use of pseudonyms.

It is important to understand the reasons for a name change as this may lead to different requirements. The need to be able to bring together a whole corpus of work is a common factor, and to avoid negative impact on reputation, impact and citation measurements; discoverability is a strong driver; however, in some cases different name versions can continue to co-exist, but in others an old name re-surfacing can have significant consequences (including ones of personal safety) for the researcher.

Organisational barriers for researchers who change their name are significant and include a lack of clarity on who to contact, dealing with a process that is very long and repetitive, and difficulty establishing when the task has been completed.

Systems to handle names at a research organisation are many, both internally to the institution and external ones either used by the university or within the wider ecosystem e.g. publisher and indexing systems.

Institutional policy is emerging with some UK university policies already becoming available. Institutions need to consider name changes and policies and systems that work for all staff, not only researchers and scholarly communication systems. Legal aspects also need to be addressed.

Publisher policy on name changes is growing with many publishers sharing name change processes and policies. A compilation of such policies is available.

There is a need to share sector-wide emerging practices and advice that can then be localised, in particular capturing and documenting the needs of individuals affected, with institutional recognition to take on thinking about this topic.

ORCID is watching this space and monitoring developments, taking part in community efforts and considers itself well positioned to contribute to a solution, once the technical underpinnings have been worked out in the wider community.

Key community activities to monitor in this space include NISO, COPE and ncpwg (see panel in the main report).

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By Christopher Brown

Product Manager (Research) at Jisc.

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