In the early days of the Antibody Registry, we interacted with a researcher who had made a really useful antibody, which she believed had been used in “hundreds of papers.” She sent the reagent to numerous colleagues, some of whom thanked her in their papers — but each in a different way — while others didn’t acknowledge her contribution at all. So, when asked to produce a list of the papers that used the antibody she was at a loss. Our system for crediting producers of scholarly artifacts — often quite useful ones — other than papers, was quite broken.
Today, the Antibody Registry enables researchers to universally identify antibodies used in their research, by assigning unique persistent identifiers (Research Resource Identifiers or RRIDs) to each antibody. This enables the antibodies to be specifically referenced, for example, in the methods section of a paper and easily discovered by humans and search engines.
Before the Antibody Registry started, there was no way to answer a simple question such as “how many antibodies are out there for me to use?” or “what percentage of the genome is covered by antibody reagents?” It was also very difficult to track down which antibodies were being used in a particular paper. Although the answers to these questions are still not perfect, they are closer to “the truth” than was previously possible. As you can imagine, “the truth” changes each time anyone makes a reagent either in a lab or a company, however, when those reagents are published to websites by companies or in papers by researchers, the Antibody Registry can come into play, by registering the antibodies created by those researchers. Many journals now insist that, if you reference an antibody in a paper, it should have an RRID, which then enables that antibody to be tracked throughout the literature.
However, this does not solve the credit problem. That’s where ORCID comes in.
The Antibody Registry has now added ORCID identifiers to our user interface, enabling the researcher who made the antibody to claim credit for it. ORCID already supports RRIDs, which means that the Antibody Registry can connect a particular reagent (e.g., RRID:AB_528484) with a specific researcher. The screenshot below shows how the Antibody Registry displays ORCID iDs and, in future, we plan to also post antibodies to ORCID records.
We hope that, in the not-too-distant future, our original researcher will be able to make an antibody, register it with an RRID linked to her ORCID account, and get credit she deserves when that antibody is used by her colleagues, and their papers include both the RRID AND her connection to it as the antibody creator.