Be who you are: the importance of persistent identifiers
In today's crowded scholarly publishing scene mix-ups with similarly-named authors, variants or name changes can easily happen. How can persistent identifiers help you claim your identity and distinguish you from others with your name?
It won't come as a surprise when I say that the amount of scholarly output and active researchers has exponentially increased in the past years. This abundance of researchers means that there will be more people with the same names publishing and mix ups will increase. I'm lucky, my given name and both my maiden name and married name aren't that common and especially not in combination. So if you google me, it probably really is me. But if your name is John Smith or Lee Wang, it'll probably be far harder for people to find you online and be certain it is you. If you have a difficult name or one that has several variant spellings, not all of your publications might be easily connected to you. One way to ensure people can find the correct you and find all research connected to you is through the use of persistent identifiers. What exactly are persistent identifiers and how can they help you claim your identity and distinguish you from others with your name?
What are persistent identifiers?
A persistent identifier is an enduring reference to a specific (mostly digital) object. One example of this which you've probably come across before, is the DOI or digital object identifier that is attached to most articles that are published in a digital format today. This DOI makes sure that even if the website URL for the journal an article is published in changes or is continued by a different publisher, clicking the link to the DOI will lead readers to the article's homepage, wherever it may be at that point. It is a unique alphanumeric identifier, much like your National Insurance Number or Social Security Number.
Of course these sorts of identifiers can also be assigned to authors to be able to differentiate between same name authors. In the past this was done through author indexes created by libraries and with the advent of the internet we've seen a move from library-driven indexes to institute-driven differentiation through for example DAI and ISNI, to database publisher-driven initiatives such as Scopus Author ID, Google Scholar Citations, and ResearcherID. And with the creation of ORCID in 2012 we've finally moved to author-driven identification and differentiation.
Why is author-driven identification a good thing? Because it allows a researcher full control of their profile and the ability to correct any mistakes or add any missing articles themselves. In addition, claiming your ORCID (and your Scopus Author ID, ResearcherID, and Google Scholar Citations profile, but in a far smaller manner) allows you to create a central place where all of your information, or at least the information you want to share, is collected and can be pushed to trusted partners when applying for a grant or submitting a manuscript. Linking all of your DOI's to your ORCID will ensure that people can always find the right you with the right publications.