Names Project Blog

Improving Names data with help from institutions

Posted in data, identifiers, institutions by Amanda Hill on 21 July, 2011

The MERIT data has given us a good corpus of UK researchers’ names to use as the basis of the Names prototype. There are around 45,000 and most have institutional affiliations associated with them, too, which makes them a rich data set. What they don’t have, generally, are full names: they’re usually just surnames and initials.

This is where we need help from UK institutions to improve the data and we’ve recently been testing this process with some information supplied by Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen. Researchers at the university were contacted and the aim of the process explained. Having cleared things with their researchers, staff at RGU then extracted information from the OpenAIR  institutional repository for staff that were willing to be involved and sent them to the Names team in table form, listing surname, forename(s), publication title, date and publication type.

Sample of RGU data

This data was then matched with existing Names data. 17 names were found to match with individuals already in the database, based on names and article titles. The other names were not in the database: new Names records and persistent identifiers were created for these individuals. Quality assurance on the results of the matching process was carried out by colleagues at the British Library.

RGU example record

Merged Names record for R. A. Laing

In this example, the record for R. A. Laing has been enhanced with the researcher’s full forenames and with additional publications (only the first listed publication was supplied by the MERIT database). This additional information will assist in the establishment of  future matches with further sources of names data that become available to the Names team.

If your institution is interested in providing similar data to improve the Names records for your researchers, then we’d love to hear from you. You can contact Dan Needham, the project’s lead developer at, or if you have any questions, please email project manager Amanda Hill. We can supply you with a sample email which will introduce the project to researchers in your institution if, like RGU, you want to tell them about it.

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