Names Project Blog

ISNIs assigned to Names identities

Posted in identifiers by Amanda Hill on 10 September, 2012

The Names Project team have been collaborating with colleagues at OCLC and the British Library who are part of an international partnership developing the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) system. ISNI identifies a wide range of entities, including organisations and individuals. The identifier is based on an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard which was published in March of this year (press release).

ISNIs take the form of 16-digit numbers which are associated with a name and some basic identifying information such as (for an individual) the name of a publication. Over 40,000 individuals who have been uniquely identified in the Names system have now been assigned ISNIs and in the last week those identifiers were imported into the Names database and are now available.

The record below shows how Names records now bring together information on a variety of identifiers. This individual, John Albarran, has three external identifiers associated with him. The MERIT identifier is the one derived from the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise data processed by Names; an identifier within a national system. The UWE identifier is a local identifier from the University of the West of England’s Research Repository, while the ISNI is the first international identifier for this individual. These are all associated with John Albarran’s Names identifier (

Names's information on John Albarran

Names record for John Albarran

The ISNI database is designed to be relatively lightweight, so the information available there is less comprehensive than that in the Names system, as can be seen in the screenshot below:

John Albarran’s ISNI record

As ISNI is interested in organisations as well as individuals, there is also an identifier for the University of the West of England in the ISNI database:

ISNI record for the University of the West of England

ISNI record for UWE

The ISNI database holds records derived from OCLC’s Virtual International Authority File, which brings together data on individuals identified in national library authority files. The Names records, and information from ProQuest’s Scholar Universe system, extend the ISNI data into the realm of identifying authors of articles as well as those individuals who have been involved in writing books.

We have to accept that there will be many identifiers associated with individuals during the course of their careers. For UK researchers, Names provides a place where institutional identifiers can be linked to a national one. On an international level, ISNI provides an equivalent service for linking together national identifiers.

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