When NASA released images from the James Webb Space Telescope in July, the world gained greater perspective on the earth’s planetary existence in the midst of innumerable stars and galaxies. Here at ORCID, as we pause to celebrate and reflect on a decade since the first ORCID iD was created, we can also look around with a new perspective and relish in the wonder of how vast the persistent identifier (PID) infrastructure is today and all that we in this field have created together to generate more trust in research by uniquely identifying people (i.e. ORCID), places (i.e. organizations and laboratories), and things (i.e. research specimens, books, and documents.)
Persistent Identifiers—for People
ORCID was envisioned from the need to create a digital infrastructure that would foster both openness and trust of information shared by researchers around the world. This vision has been made possible (and continues to grow) in large part because of ORCID’s members—the ones who invested early on and believed in our vision, and those who join every month to provide their stakeholders more value from a trusted research environment. Members include research institutions trying to build researcher performance, publishers and journals, funding agencies seeking to quickly authenticate applicants, policy makers, and service providers, among others.
Of course, ORCID did not invent PIDs, which were in use well before the dawn of the internet. For example, the 1960s saw the creation of the Standard Book Numbering, now known as the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, which is assigned to each separate edition and variation of a publication. In the 1990s, the need for PIDs increased, as studies showed that citation links would suffer “link rot” after only a few years, referring to when links no longer work. Then, in 2000, one of the most well-known PIDs came on the scene—the Digital Object Identifier, or DOI, which was in use for 12 years before ORCID’s existence.
The unique thing that ORCID did was borrow the concept of PIDs and apply it to people—the C and R in ORCID stands for Contributor and Researcher. By harnessing code donated by Thomson Reuters in 2010 under a perpetual license with royalty-free use, ORCID was able to build a registry to uniquely identify researchers worldwide and make it available to the public under open-source standards.
While our original intent was to provide researchers with a unique PID for name disambiguation, the ORCID registry has now evolved to become the most well-known tool to disambiguate researchers in the PID universe.
Saving Time and Building Trust
Apart from name disambiguation, two key benefits that ORCID provides the research community are time savings and increased trust for researchers and their outputs. Depending on the system being used, an ORCID record owner may be able to enter information once and take advantage of auto-filling their information over and over on ORCID-enabled systems, like grant applications and journal logins, saving countless hours over time. Hence, our mantra: “Enter once, reuse often.” Additionally, as metadata moves into a record from an ORCID-member institution, it increases the number of trust markers and information that can be used easily in other applications across the research community.
Over the last decade, as ORCID adoption surged among researchers and institutions, we are now at the point where institutions are increasingly recommending the use of ORCID iDs to help them manage administrative workflows, such as PhysioNet does. Likewise, the many uses that researchers receive from having an ORCID record means that they are more likely to request that their institutions become members. ORCID’s obvious benefits extend bidirectionally—to both researcher and institution. However, with more global adoption of ORCID, the entire research ecosystem benefits. With each added trust marker (ORCID’s term for instances where institutions have vouched for researchers’ work and affiliations on an ORCID record) people engaging with that data can feel confident about researcher identity, publications, grants, affiliations, work history, peer reviews, and more.
Statistics Worth Sharing
For more historical context on how ORCID managed to grow over the last 10 years, we recommend reading our new document ORCID’s First Decade: From Startup to Sustainability, which helps show the incredible vision that those in the PID community had to create the first perpetual identifier of people. To further illuminate the incredible growth of ORCID iDs, here are some of the statistics that describe our journey and progress from inception to today:
- By the end of the first year that the registry was launched, 44, 217 individuals had registered for an ORCID iD; We reached 10 million records in 2020; Today there are 15 million records
- We launched with four staff and now have 37 full-time staff among 14 countries.
- We’ve had two executive directors over ten years with nearly 100 years of combined experience in scholarly publishing, digital infrastructure, and organizational leadership.
- In 2012, we had a goal of acquiring 17 members in 2012, and we ended the year with 27. Today there are 1.3 thousand members spanning 55 countries. Members in the Global Consortia now equal 74% of our total members.
- We ended our first year with eight integrations, and today we have completed more than 4,000 live ORCID integrations.
- In 2012, the Support team responded to 625 requests; in 2021 we cleared nearly 70,000 user support tickets, an average of over 1,300 a week. In 2021 we also started to measure user support satisfaction, establishing a baseline of 93% satisfaction with a 24% response rate.
- ORCID had 1,200 Twitter followers in 2012, and today we have 49.1K.
- In 2019, ORCID broke even. In both 2020 and 2021, we posted a surplus.
Looking Ahead: Increasing Participation and Value, Maintaining Trust
One of ORCID’s proudest achievements is the creation of the Global Participation Program, which was launched in May. The premise of it is to leverage ORCID’s start-up loans, some of which were generously forgiven by 10 original funders, with the goal of helping to level the playing field among research institutions in low-and middle-income countries, as defined by the World Bank. This means that more research institutions in the Global South and other underrepresented regions will have access to ORCID membership and integration resources grants to help with ORCID adoption and integrations.
Just last month we launched our first call for proposals for the Global Participation Fund grant program, which offers grants for community development and outreach as well as technical integration. Looking ahead to the next 10 years, we anticipate a more diverse global research ecosystem with healthy participation among researchers from underrepresented countries, irrespective of their country’s GDP.
ORCID is constantly listening to the community and thinking about what our members need, anticipating changes, and incorporating them into our workflows. This is why both Increasing Value for Members and Researchers and Maintaining Trust and Integrity are among our four strategic priorities. Members can expect to see more resources available to them, such as the I’m a Member, Now What?! webinar series that launched this year, adjustments to make the registry more accessible, and tightened security for OAuth sign-ins, and more.
Working with our PID Community
As a community-built organization, ORCID prioritizes working with our community stakeholders in as many ways as we can. Throughout our history this has taken on many different forms, from community workshops, conferences, town halls, and working groups of all kinds.
Perhaps our most notable, and memorable, community event was “PIDapalooza”—an open festival of scholarly research and persistent identifiers—that was developed in collaboration with California Digital Library, Crossref, and DataCite. We believed that bringing together everyone who was working with PIDs for an intense program of discussions, demos, workshops, brainstorming, and updates on the state-of-the-art would catalyze the development of PID community tools and services.
Taking its cue from its namesake, Lollapalooza, PIDapalooza was a fun, energetic, and interactive event with consistently positive feedback from participants. In November 2016, the inaugural event was held in Reykjavik, Iceland, and in subsequent years it was held in Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. Finally, in 2021, as the global pandemic carried into its second year and prevented in-person gatherings, we again worked with California Digital Library (CDL), Crossref, DataCite, adding NISO to the team to transform the highly successful in-person conference into virtual 24-hour event with 1,163 registered attendees, of which 890 attended live from 38 countries, with 92 sessions across three tracks in seven languages.
Currently, staff from ORCID, Crossref, and DataCite have begun working closely together on a regular basis to identify and act on opportunities for closer collaboration in the areas of product development, community engagement and membership, communications and messaging, and operations.
Researchers at the Center
Reflecting on our history is important for many reasons, namely that to see where we’re going, we need to see clearly where we’ve been. Taking time to pause and reflect helps us envision the possibilities for the next decade and beyond.
Just as we are proud of the ways in which ORCID has grown and changed in 10 years, we are also proud of the ways in which ORCID has remained constant and unchanging, particularly in that researchers have always remained at the center of our galaxy. As new use cases of PIDs are constantly emerging, we remain committed to providing a robust platform for uniquely identifying researchers whose contributions can go farther, faster, with full control over an ORCID record that will live on in perpetuity, so that it can serve them throughout their entire careers.
Has ORCID benefited you over the last decade? Let us know by sharing your experience on Twitter. Tag @ORCID_org and use the hashtag #ORCIDat10. We’ll reshare some of the stories from our community to celebrate this milestone. Thanks for being a part of our journey! We look forward to the next 10 with you.