What I want to write about today is this idea, seemingly fashionable
on blogs and FriendFeed (and PLoS editorials) at the moment, of
authors switching from using their names to identify themselves on
papers to using some other form of ID. The so-called unique author ID
Now if your name is Xanthe Unique, you might be wondering what
the problem is exactly – you just write your name and that’s it. It is
indexed in Scopus/ISI/whatever subject-specific repository holds sway
in your field. However, there is a problem where you may not being
credited for your work if any of the following conditions apply:
1 – You share your name with someone else. There is a unusual case in high
energy physics where there are two people called Michel Tytgat working in approximately the same area. Obviously more likely if you
are called John Smith or Jesus Garcia.
2 – Your name is
transliterated. Maybe you are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, or any
of the places which do not use the Roman character set. In order to be
included in the relevant database/journal/website etc your name needs
to be transliterated to Wei He or whatever. Sometimes it could be
transliterated slightly differently (Wei Hei) and sometimes this
can overlap with shared name problem described above in the western character set where it
never existed in the original language.
3 – You have changed your
name. Most common case here is the women who get married and take their
husband’s names. Jayne Smith changes to Jayne Brown, but is still the
4 – You write your name differently. In order to
identify yourself correctly each time, you need to write your name the
same each time on each paper, or make sure your coauthors do. It could
be the case that the same person is identified as (taking myself as an
example) – C. Leonard, C.J. Leonard, Chris Leonard, Christopher Leonard, Christopher J. Leonard, Christopher James Leonard etc.
how to make sure that your work (and citations) are being credited to
you? Well, one idea starting to gain sway is the concept of not
referring to yourself by name, but by some other unique identifier such
as a number.
The advantages are clear. All of the confusions
above could be circumvented and any aliases could be documented on a
unique author homepage.
So how might this happen? Well, this is
something I spent some time thinking about around a year ago at a
discussion about the next generation of bibliographic services in
high-energy physics. I was on a mini team looking at the unique author ID problem and whilst this team was looking at HEP in particular, I was
aware that this was an opportunity to solve the problem for all of
science (note that Scopus has already implemented something like this, all be it not open and behind a subscription wall).
Here, with some image mockups from the time, are some of my thought on the matter.
1 – A central, independent website is in charge of assigning and cataloging all author id numbers.
2 – An author comes to the website to be assigned a unique author id.
3 – The author uses this id in addition to his name on all scientific papers (and publishers publish them alongside the names)
- The author has a homepage on this central repository website where he
can list aliases, former institutions, and we can autogenerate a
bibliiogrpahy (which in itself brings up issues about a&i databases
in future). The author can also link to other identifiers about himself
such as OpenID etc. Photos, links to blogs, homepages etc could also be
inserted here. Could also list old email addresses which no longer work.
5 – Anyone can apply for an author id. Authors of grey literature are also encouraged to use this UAID.
- This website will not try to validate the applicant as being unique.
It is in their own interests to apply once and use only one UAID number.
would operate this website? A cross-publisher body such as CrossRef
would seem to be one candidate, or otherwise it would be a wholly
independent body – possibly funded by publishers. Clearly I need to
work on it a bit more and I am almost certain it has overlap with many
of the other discussions on the web at the moment, but if I read them
all, I wouldn’t be able to get any work done!
I have also decided to share my slides from the time on SlideShare.
Let me know what you think.