Few initiatives enjoy the widespread admiration of multiple communities within scholarly publishing. As funders try to keep track of the money, universities try to keep track of work done on their campuses, and publishers want to disambiguate the universe of scholarly authors, ORCID , the Open Researcher and Contributor ID is the “killer app.” Now is an important time for all of these communities to support ORCID with user education, membership, and integration.
Conversations about ORCID (when to use, how to implement, when to support) are reminiscent of conversations years ago regarding CrossRef. Will enough publishers integrate and pay for membership? Will researchers use DOIs? Will the technology become the standard? Of course, we know the answer today because it is hard to imagine what things would be like without DOIs and other services provided by CrossRef.
Laurel L. Haak, PhD, Executive Director, of ORCID answers questions about the current status of ORCID implementation as well as the financial viability of the organization going forward.
Disclaimer: I am an ORCID Ambassador, which for me means that I promote the use of ORCID to engineers affiliated with ASCE. I am not an employee, nor am I compensated in any way, other than ORCID pens and laptop stickers to distribute.
Can you provide a current snapshot of where ORCID is as far as uptake of users, members, and new features added in the last 6-12 months?
ORCID launched its Registry in October 2012. We are on track to reach 1 million registrations at our 2-year anniversary. We have grown to over 150 members, almost half from academic or government research institutes, and one-quarter from the publishing sector; the remaining quarter is made up of research funders, professional and disciplinary associations, and repositories and research services companies.
Our core mission is to provide an open registry of unique, persistent, and resolvable person identifiers, coupled with Web services to enable research data exchange interoperability through integration of identifiers into research data systems and workflows. Our 1-year milestones are detailed in this blog post. In our second year, we have added functionality to enable connections between researchers and their degree-granting and employment institutions, connections with their funding awards, connections with ISNI, improvements to the user interface, ability to log onto other sites using ORCID credentials, and a public API that enables the community to obtain an iD in an authenticated way, allowing them to integrate ORCID iDs responsibly, regardless of their ability to pay a membership fee.
Several large universities have partnered with ORCID and are assigning iDs to faculty and students. Can you explain what the benefit is to a university in partnering with ORCID and how this will help the research community in general?
As mentioned earlier, universities and research organizations make up half of our membership. They are using ORCID to enable a variety of workflows, including linking graduate students with their theses and the degree-granting organization; populating and updating institutional repositories and faculty profile systems; and supporting institutional reporting. They are integrating ORCID iDs into publication and grants workflows, and adding the ORCID iD as an attribute into institutional human resource and identity management systems.
Either by creating records or facilitating their creation, universities can request permission from their faculty, staff, and students to both write information into records and to make assertions about information in an ORCID record—such as an assertion that the person is affiliated with the university. This assertion becomes a piece of the provenance on an ORCID record and helps to build up trust in the links in an ORCID record and further supports the use of these links in research and administration tasks. A number of universities presented on this work at our Outreach meeting last May. Presentations are available online.
Individuals may register for an ORCID and use the registry free of charge. What is the business model for ORCID? Where does the funding come from?
ORCID is an independent non-profit organization that provides a “public good” to the research community. As Josh Greenberg of the Alfred P. Sloan foundation noted at our May Outreach meeting, it is notoriously difficult to support these kinds of organizations. Many start out as projects supported by grant funding, but have no model for financial independence and sustainability. The ORCID Board very intentionally developed a sustainability plan for ORCID, and with support from the Mellon foundation developed a business model based on organizational membership. To realize this public benefit, we have to balance the need for sustaining revenue with the need for broad adoption, and work to keep barriers very low for individuals to register for and use an ORCID iD, and for organizations to take the first steps to integrate ORCID iDs using our APIs.
The ORCID membership model is fairly straightforward and is based on access to specific API data exchange features. The Basic category is the same price for any size organization, and a two-tiered Premium category provides enhanced benefits (described in detail on our membership page). We also have local and national consortium agreements, discounts for non-profit organizations, and deep discounts for small or start-up organizations.
All that said, membership takes some time to develop. Our goal is to generate annual revenue to support $2.5M in annual expenses by 2016. We are encouraged to be at about half of that now.
To supplement our revenue as we grow our membership, we have sought grant and loan opportunities. We got an initial boost in the form of loans from sponsor organizations, which enabled the hiring of ORCID staff. We benefited from a National Science Foundation sub-award, which supported the initial phase of software development for the launch of registry, and last year we were awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that supported a set of demonstration projects in the university and association communities.
ORCID seems to enjoy a universal acknowledgement of support. Researchers, publishers, societies, and universities all struggle with disambiguation, keeping track of users, and making sure everyone who deserves credit on a project gets credit. Even with this support, I have heard that there are some financial strains on the organization. What is the current financial status of ORCID?
ORCID has not yet reached financial sustainability and is in fact under a financial strain. We are very pleased with the “mindshare” and growing community support for ORCID, and are working very hard to translate mindshare into new memberships. We believe that we have the right business model: that the organizations that benefit from the added value of ORCID will pay fees to sustain ORCID. We are confident that we will reach financial sustainability, however, membership growth is slower than we had anticipated. We underestimated the time it takes for a university, for example, to make a membership decision.
We have grant applications in the works to support ORCID while we move to sustainability, but again, this takes time. We are in a typical start-up situation: build the system and get people using it, which requires up-front funding, and at the same time implement the business plan during the period when revenue doesn’t cover costs. Financially we are definitely not comfortable yet, but the momentum is there and we will be successful, even if we may be working with less funding than we would like during these first years.
“Start-up” initiatives do often hit a period of financial uncertainty. What is the plan for improving the financial viability of the organization?
We are very fortunate to have an active and committed Board and community Steering Groups. They are working with staff to bolster membership recruitment activities. We have refocused our community outreach on supporting member integration activities. We’ll be putting out new integration “how-to” guides to more clearly lay out what it means, for example, for a journal to fully integrate ORCID into its publishing workflow. We’ll be hosting more frequent webinars. We’ll be providing more information on new and coming features to our members. And, we are working on new features. All of these actions are aimed to help to articulate the value of ORCID and support membership in the organization.
What is next for ORCID in terms of development?
Before the end of this year, we will be releasing functionality to support grouping of works by identifier, better management of duplicate works, several social features (get your ORCID QR code!), and the ability to import Bibtex bibliography files.
Perhaps most importantly, we will be releasing the ability to “round-trip” information on published papers and awarded grants so that researchers can give permission for publication and grant information to be automatically added to their ORCID Record by trusted organizations. This last feature demonstrates clearly the specific and unique benefit of ORCID in supporting interoperability: a database field that is being integrated into research systems, enabling machine readability of name information, and APIs that support seamless exchange of information across data systems.
What can the community of ORCID fans do to ensure that this program reaches its full potential in a financially sustainable way?
Talk us up! Become a member and encourage other organizations to join. Always display your ORCID iD prominently if you’re a researcher, or those of your authors and reviewers if you’re a publisher. Be part of the community supporting ORCID through integration into key workflows and data systems. For interoperability to move from a dream to reality, we all need to take on the responsibility of investing time, effort, and funding in public good organizations such as ORCID.