We all know that there are many different ways that researchers contribute to progress beyond just the publication of their own results: peer review of all shapes and forms; serving on editorial boards and as editors; volunteering in their scholarly community or association; helping plan conferences; and participating in promotion, tenure, and hiring committees, to name but a few. We also know that many contributions to research are made by people who aren’t themselves researchers, such as librarians, data specialists, lab managers, and others. And yet, despite the best efforts of initiatives like DORA, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (now signed by over 2,000 organizations and more than 16,000 individuals), metrics that focus primarily on citations, primarily of journal articles, remain the tool of choice for many — probably most — organizations that evaluate research and researchers.
Much has been written about why this is a problem — see for example, these posts by fellow Chefs Phil Davis on the pros and cons of citation-based metrics and Karin Wulf on what citations mean for the scholars being evaluated. But these metrics continue to be used widely, at least in part, because they are so widely available. And because, until recently at least, there haven’t been any meaningful alternatives.
However, the last few years have seen the development of other ways to record and make publicly available other types of contribution to research, opening up the opportunity to use this information as an additional basis for evaluation. In this post, I’m focusing on two of these: CRediT, the Contributor Roles Taxonomy; and ORCID, in particular, their new(ish) service and membership affiliation section.
I interviewed Amy Brand, one of the founders of CRediT, back in 2014. She explained the rationale for the initiative as follows:
I found myself wishing that there was a way for publishers to capture and display structured information about who contributed what to multi-authored works, instead of, or in addition to, the list of author names. Since I was very involved in the ORCID initiative at the time, and had also worked at Crossref for many years, it occurred to me that if it was possible to create a controlled vocabulary of contribution tags, then those tags could be included as additional metadata in association with the DOI and, ultimately, with an individual’s ORCID.
Several publishers and research institutions were involved in the development of the original taxonomy of 14 roles (Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Supervision, Validation, Visualization, Writing – original draft, and Writing – review and editing); a core working group was facilitated by CASRAI (the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information). Cell Press and PLOS were among the early adopters, and CRediT has now been implemented by over 30 publishers and publishing outlets, 10 platforms, and one university.
It has also recently found a new home, with my own organization, NISO (National Information Standards Organization), where we are working with a small working group, led by current CRediT co-chairs (Liz Allen – F1000; Simon Kerridge – University of Kent; Alison McGonagle O’Connell – O’Connell Consulting and DeltaThink) to formalize the original Contributor Roles Taxonomy as an ANSI/NISO standard. They expect to complete editorial changes to the taxonomy language and submit the draft for final approval by NISO voting members and ANSI by September. Once that work is complete, a NISO standing committee will be set up to look at both how to promote the existing taxonomy and also how to expand it to meet the needs of other disciplines and workflows. That’s really important, because there has been some concern in the wider community about the fact that the original taxonomy is so focused on the scientific journal publication workflow. At my former organization, ORCID, we decided not to implement CRediT for that reason; however, I’m delighted to say that because the taxonomy will be expanded, it is now officially on the ORCID roadmap! Which is a great segue to…
The notions of contributorship and enabling recognition for it in every form are central to ORCID. The “C” in ORCID stands for Contributor, and their vision is “a world where all who participate in research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely identified and connected to their contributions and affiliations across disciplines, borders, and time” (my emphases).
ORCID has always enabled connections to a range of “work types,” which were originally based on a CASRAI community-developed work type taxonomy. Unfortunately, this is no longer being supported but, prompted by community requests, ORCID last year added two new work types — for annotations and physical objects — although arguably others are still needed, especially to meet the needs of non-scientific disciplines, for example, in the arts and humanities.
Looking beyond work types, ORCID has offered organizations the option of recognizing individual peer review contributions since late 2015. This information can only be added to ORCID records by a member organization, and it can then be shared by the record holder, for example, in a grant or employment application. Over 2.5M peer reviews have now been added to around 360,000 records, most by Publons, though publishers are increasingly starting to add this information themselves.
Excitingly, in late 2018 ORCID also added several new affiliation types, including one for Membership and Service. Covering membership in an organization, or donation of time or other resources in the service of an organization, this affiliation is intended to help ORCID users record and (if they wish) share their participation in volunteer activities. Information about these activities can be added by the user and/or by an ORCID member organization (the provenance is clear both in the public record and the ORCID API). To date, around 450,000 membership and service affiliations have been added to ORCID records — a whopping 99.9% by the record-holders themselves. It’s disappointing that so few members are currently using this functionality, as it’s a great way to both recognize your volunteers — journal editors, peer review service over time, serving on a conference program committee, and more — and to make it easy for them to share that information with other individuals and organizations.
A Call To Action!
In hopes that readers of The Scholarly Kitchen are as enthusiastic about the possibility of expanding the ways that we can recognize research contributions, I’d like to invite you and/or your organization to get involved in one or more of the following ways:
- Adopt and/or implement the Contributor Roles Taxonomy at your organization. Whether you’re a publisher, a research institution, a funder, or a vendor, if you’re interested in different forms of contributions, this is a great starting point. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that there are already some other contributor roles taxonomies out there, including the CD2H Contributor Attribution Model and the FORCE 11 Contributor Role Ontology (built on the CRediT taxonomy). Once the existing taxonomy has been formalized as a standard, one of the CRediT team’s next goals is to work with the community to support the creation of a best of breed taxonomy, one that will work for as broad a range of disciplines and workflows as possible. To keep updated on progress — and get involved, including sharing your feedback — check the CRediT blog and follow @contrib_roles.
- Add information about all forms of contribution to your researchers’ ORCID records. Yes, they can add that information themselves but, if you’re an ORCID member, why not do it for them? You’re saving them time and reducing the risk of errors, as well as recognizing — and validating — their service to your organization.
- Ingest information about all forms of contribution from ORCID records. Whether or not you’re a member, you can use ORCID’s public API to pull publicly available information from records and use it to help recognize (or evaluate) your researchers’ contributions.
- Sign the Declaration on Research Assessment. If you haven’t already done so, it’s a worthwhile way to demonstrate your commitment to changing the system.
Please let us know of other initiatives that are seeking to expand the options for recognizing and evaluating research and research contributions!
Full disclosure: as noted in the post above, I am a former employee of ORCID and currently work for NISO which is actively working to make CRediT into a recognized standard.