A Name Identifier Summit in Massachusetts in November brought together representatives of a variety of organisations with an interest in assigning unique identifiers to individuals involved in research. The impetus for the meeting came from Thomson Reuters and the Nature Publishing Group and from a growing realisation among publishers that the problems associated with unambiguous identification of people cannot be solved by individual commercial entities.
The new initiative, ORCID (which is very hard to type without an H, I find!) stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. The plan is to set up an independent, not-for-profit, organisation to oversee the development of a prototype system. This will be based on the ResearcherID technology and data that are going to be donated to the cause by Thomson Reuters. There is more information on the ORCID website (currently hosted by Thomson Reuters, but due to move to a separate domain shortly).
The Names project and the British Library are represented in the membership of this group and look forward to co-operating with the initiative in the coming months.
[articulate] the problem space that the research community needs to address and identify components of a “Cooperative Identities Hub” that would have the most impact across different target audiences. The group developed use case scenarios that provide the context in which different communities would benefit from aggregating information about persons and organizations, corporate and government bodies, and families, and making it available on a network level. This report summarizes the group’s recommendations on the functions and attributes needed to support the use case scenarios.
Two new namesy things have cropped up since our last post. Academia.edu is a social-networking site, primarily aimed at academics based in research institutions. It has been developed by Richard Price, of All Souls College, Oxford (his details on the site give an idea of the kind of information that can be uploaded) and has been fairly heavily promoted in the last month. The site depends on its users for its content: you have to create a profile before anything can be edited, but once this is done, you can change anything that isn’t part of another user’s profile. For example, I altered the name ‘Manchester University’ to the more offcially-approved ‘The University of Manchester’. Of course I suppose I could have changed it to something more interesting…
The site allows its users to upload papers (this process converts papers into Scribd’s iPaper format). This is a pretty easy process and raises a question in my mind as to whether researchers might end up finding it simpler to do this than to deposit their work in their ‘official’ institutional repository. But I’ll leave that one for time to tell and others to argue about. One thing I’d like to see on the site is a way of having a deeper tree structure than the simple three-level hierarchy that is currently possible. The entry for Manchester (pictured below – click the image for a closer look) shows the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at the same level as the School of Medicine (which is part of the Faculty).
The other new project is called NicNames and is based in Australia, part of the ARROW (Australian Research Repositories Online to the World) project. The project manager, Stuart Hall, has started a blog for NicNames which will hold project updates and findings. The draft project plan for NicNames (based on the JISC format used for our very own Names project plan) is available for review (also via Scribd, co-incidentally), and comments on it are welcomed. Like Names, NicNames is very focused on the needs of institutional repositories in relation to author names. The project aims to produce a toolkit for use by repository managers which will aid in identifying and disambiguating author names.
OCLC are planning to prototype a “Co-operative Identities Hub” which aims to bring information from a wide range of name sources together and make them available more widely. The Hub will build on the work already undertaken by OCLC in the WorldCat Identities service, which takes the names of people and organisations from the Library of Congress/NACO authority file and those found in WorldCat and displays contextual information such as titles of works, associated subjects, publication timelines and book covers. The service also holds links to library authority files and to Wikipedia.
An advisory group has been established and the first conference call for this group took place last Friday. There’ll be a meeting later in the year to flesh out the details of the way that the prototype might move forward, but the approach sounds very promising and there was certainly a lot of interest from the advisory group, many of whom are facing names issues within their institutions.
I note from James Farnhill’s blog that the talks and slides from this one-day workshop are available from the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories website. These include an overview by Basil Dewhurst on the People Australia project. Simon Porter talked about the University of Melbourne’s ‘Find an Expert’ service that has created a profile for each researcher in the university, drawn together from a number of different university systems. This talk was interesting, particularly in the new uses for this data that have been developed since the service was established. The need for feedback from the researchers to improve the data was also mentioned, as errors become more obvious once the information is aggregated. This is something we’re already beginning to find with the Names prototype, just with the data from Zetoc that we’re testing.
Nick Nicholas’s talk on the issues raised by the modelling work undertaken by the PILIN project is very relevant to the Names project, too. I like the idea of pulling researchers out of knapsacks in order to resolve their identifiers. His points about the authority and verifiability of claims are particularly interesting for our context. Thanks to the organisers of this event for putting up audio as well as the slides: it really does make it much easier to understand the context.
The Max Planck Digital Library is currently advertising the post of Scientific Developer for a name authority service that is being developed in Berlin for the Max Planck Society. We look forward to co-operating with the project team when work gets under way later in the year. The closing date for this post is 18 July.
Mimas played host to Basil Dewhurst yesterday. Basil is the Resource Discovery Services manager for the National Library of Australia and is responsible for the People Australia project, which is operating in a similar sphere to the Names project. Basil hadn’t chosen the best day for a visit to Manchester, with inebriated and unhappy Rangers fans rampaging around the city centre on the night of his arrival. But Basil is from Sydney, where cricket fans are known to indulge in the occasional alcoholic beverage, so he took it all in his stride.
I joined Basil, Dan and Vic Lyte in a conference call yesterday to discuss areas of common interest. Basil was able to update us on the recent meeting in Bologna of the EAC Working Group, where the Encoded Archival Context name authority exchange standard was thoroughly analysed and re-written to bring it in line with ISAAR-CPF (the International Standard for Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families). People Australia’s core records will be held as EAC files, whereas for Names this is one of the output formats that the service would need to support, so the standard is an important one for both projects.
The issue of persistent identifiers was also discussed, as this is another area of significance to both projects. The National Library of Australia has its own persistent identifier resolver service and People Australia is also making use of UUIDs in the background. The Names project prototype is also using UUIDS as a quick (and free) way of generating unique identifiers for entities within the system, but this would be likely to be replaced in a production version of the service by another method: possibly the Handle system.
Picture from terry6082 Books on flickr
The main conference tracks ended yesterday. It’s been an interesting conference for the Names project team. The issue of identifiers came up frequently, which was useful as this is something that we’re trying to decide upon right now. It’s also been useful to talk to repository managers and get to know how they see the name authority problem. Most of them expressed delight that we are working in this area, so expectations are high.
Last night I got to talk to Aarjen Hogeenaar and Wilko Steinhoff who work at KNAW (the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), which was really useful as they’ve implemented Digital Author Identifiers for researchers in the Netherlands and have faced similar challenges to those we’re tackling. The NARCIS portal brings together information from Dutch universities and research institutes on individual researchers and on their research and publications.