Please can you tell us a little about yourself – where you work and what you do?
I live in Birmingham, England, where I ran the city council’s official website from 1994 – a journalist once told me that it was the first local government website in the world. I certainly made it the first to allow the public to report issues like faulty streetlights and potholes. In 2011, I decided I’d had enough of that, and quit my job to go freelance. I thought I’d be doing web management work, but started to be asked to help GLAMs (“Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums”) and other organisations to understand Wikipedia and its sister projects (collectively, “Wikimedia Projects”) and to work with its community of volunteers – of which I was and remain an active member. I’ve been Wikipedian or Wikimedian in Residence with a number of galleries and museums, and with the Royal Society of Chemistry. My work led to me being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and I received an”honourable mention” in the 2014 “UK Wikimedian of the Year” awards, not least for my work persuading the BBC to release, for the first time, content from some of their broadcast programmes, under an open licence, allowing anyone to freely reuse it. I’ve also authored books about Pink Floyd, but that’s a whole other story…
When and why did you get involved with ORCID?
I became interested around the time ORCID launched. As soon as I could, I registered for an ORCID iD, and put it on my Wikipedia user page (the profile page that can be created by anyone who registers for a Wikipedia account). I was already looking at other “authority control” identifiers to disambiguate Wikipedia biography subjects, and realised that ORCID would be very useful for that, too, covering a class of people for whom VIAF, ISNI, and similar identifiers were often not available. I raised a couple of related tickets on ORCID’s “ideas forum”, and learned that ORCID were asking for people to sit on a “works metadata” working group. I signed up for that, and found it a very positive, productive environment, where I was able to make a meaningful contribution based on my experiences with Wikipedia. This led to me becoming an outreach ambassador, and attending the outreach meeting in Chicago in 2012 (where I met other ambassadors and many of the ORCID team – all lovely people!) and then becoming ORCID’s Wikipedian in Residence. As a result I was invited to give a keynote presentation on authority control in Wikipedia, at a library conference in Qatar, from where I flew directly to the outreach meeting in Barcelona. By lucky coincidence, I’ll be giving talks about Wikipedia in Australia in February, so I’ll be giving a lightning talk at the Canberra meeting too.
How do you use ORCID?
As Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID, I help Wikipedians to use ORCID iDs, and help the ORCID team (including my fellow outreach ambassadors) and ORCID member organisations to understand how ORCID relates to Wikipedia. Wikipedians use ORCID in two ways – we use it in Wikipedia articles and on sister projects (such as Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, etc) to identify the people we’re writing about. Mostly, we do that by adding the ORCID identifier to the corresponding item in Wikidata, a linked, open data repository, which feeds into all the other Wikimedia projects, and is available freely for others to reuse. We now have over 845 items with ORCID iDs, up from around 210 eight months ago, and including Nobel laureates and other academic “celebrities”. Obviously, there should be many more, but it’s a slow process of manual checking, by me and a handful of fellow volunteers, It would be far better if ORCID member institutions, or individual iD holders, let us know who has an ORCID iD and a Wikipedia biography! Secondly, as everyone who makes an edit on a Wikimedia project is a “contributor”, I encourage them to consider registering for an ORCID iD, Of course, that’s not always suitable, as they may wish to remain anonymous, for their own safety or for personal reasons. But if they’re editing in relation to a professional specialism, it can be important for them to tie their contributions to their professional profile. There’s still a lot to be done, in explaining this to the community of Wikimedia volunteers.
What impact has ORCID had in your community?
A reader can, after enjoying a Wikipedia article about an ORCID holder, click on a link to their profile and see a list of their works. This furthers Wikipedia’s ambition of “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”.
What can we do to improve our support for your community?
I think great things have been done, to persuade the scientific research community of the importance of ORCID, and while that work must continue, use of ORCID is now established there. I’d like to see an increase in discussion and resources relating to the use of ORCID in the academic humanities, and for content creators outside academia – for authors, journalists, script-writers, and production staff. Also, as mentioned above, we need help identifying ORCID iD holders who have Wikipedia biographies, or who contribute to Wikimedia projects. Actioning this request would help.
As an aside, I know many ORCID folk are librarians, and we’re asking every librarian on Earth to help us to celebrate Wikipedia’s 15th birthday this month, by adding at least one citation to an article.
What’s your favorite ORCID success story?
Getting ORCID iDs displayed on biographical Wikipedia articles, in many languages, obviously!
Which three words best describe ORCID for you?
Important, useful, and open!