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Linking ORCID Identifiers to eRA Profiles to Streamline Application Processes and to Enhance Tracking of Career Outcomes

Enter once, reuse often. That’s the mantra of ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Identification), a non-profit organization that promotes the use of its unique digital identifier to connect researchers with their science contributions over time and across changes of name, location and institutional affiliation.

It’s a mantra that ties in well with NIH’s goal of finding ways to reduce the administrative burden on investigators of entering the same information in multiple places when applying to different funding agencies. It’s what propelled NIH and other agencies to develop a tool, SciENcv, to enable researchers to enter their biosketch data in one place and propagate it to multiple places. A researcher can also start the biosketch in SciENcv with information from his or her ORCID profile (see YouTube demo), thanks to a neat integration between the two tools. But more on SciENcv later.

ORCID benefits researchers by providing a lifelong identifier that automatically links them to their past and recent papers, avoids the confusion caused by similar last names, enhances the discoverability of their papers and simplifies creating biosketches for grant applications (as evidenced in SciENcv).

The identifier also allows agencies like NIH to better monitor professional outcomes by tracking the progress of researchers along their career path, starting with trainees and early career scientists. By leveraging the information available via ORCID, we can be more confident about our training program evaluations and more easily obtain data to support data driven policy decisions aimed at strengthening the biomedical research workforce. 

With this in mind, in fiscal year 2020, NIH, joined by CDC and AHRQ, will begin requiring individuals supported by training, fellowship, career development, and other research education awards to have an ORCID iD linked to their personal electronic Research Administration (eRA) account (NOT-OD-19-109).

This iD will be required as part of the appointment process for those appointed to institutional awards and through the application process for those applying for individual awards. Note that xTrain appointments will not be accepted if potential appointees do not have an ORCID iD linked to their eRA personal profile starting October 1, 2019; the same will apply to individual fellowship and career development applications submitted for receipt dates on or after January 25, 2020.

Note that eRA began allowing researchers to link their ORCID iD with their eRA Commons profile back in 2017 (see blog).  The number of researchers linking these two IDs has grown steadily since then to 35,000, a very encouraging sign.  Of these, ~20,000 have applied for a grant and ~10,000 have been awarded a grant as PD/PI.

Figure 1: Growth of eRA Commons accounts linked to the ORCID iD since 2017

NIH is also making efforts to expand the use of the ORCID model beyond publications to data elements typically found on a CV, such as grants, courses taught, presentations and other research products, through a public-private partnership with ORCID and multiple research funders, called ORCID Reducing Burden and Increasing Transparency (ORBIT), described previously on this blog.

NIH is part of a worldwide trend among major biomedical funders committed to adopting ORCID as part of their grants funding systems, including the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and UK Research and Innovation. Several private funders are requiring the use of ORCID and allowing researchers to populate grant applications with data directly from ORCID (see ORCID post).

Today, more than 6.7 million researchers have registered with ORCID for free and nearly 800 research institutions have joined ORCID as members along with more than 100 publishers, allowing ORCID to be an efficient hub connecting researchers and their contributions. Many research institutions are leveraging ORCID in their institutional research profiling systems, making it easier for their researchers to keep their websites, curriculum vitae, and other documents up to date with their latest accomplishments.

Among US federal agencies, the Department of Energy has used ORCID to track the use of its national lab facilities and the resulting publications, and other agencies including NASA, USDA, and Department of Transportation are encouraging or requiring the use of ORCID for investigators.

On the SciENcv front, NSF plans to require the use of SciENcv to create and submit the biosketch for NSF grant applications starting in January 2020.  SciENcv allows a researcher to start from one set of research profile data to create a biosketch that will work for NIH, the National Science Foundation), or the Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences. SciENcv gathers the information in a database connected with NIH’s grants system and PubMed and makes it easy for researchers to fill out the forms. ORCID and SciENcv were both pilots under the aegis of the White House’s National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Research Business Models to reduce administrative and regulatory burdens on research.

As for the ORCID requirement for Ts, Ks and Fs, we expect it will benefit researchers at all career stages across the biomedical research community, as well as NIH. Leveraging ORCID will help investigators, fellows, and trainees focus on moving their innovative scientific research ideas forward, instead of spending time and effort updating federal user profiles with information already entered in other agency systems.  Avoiding the need to reenter information on publications, grants, teaching responsibilities, university service, and other common CV items saves time and reduces errors. Even those early in their scientific career will benefit from sharing their ORCID profiles with others to create new collaborations.

The information that NIH gleans from tracking scientists along their career path will help inform policy decisions to better the biomedical research workforce, a ‘tracking outcomes’ need emphasized by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director and the White House’s National Science and Technology Council.

We encourage everybody, from graduate students to senior scientists, to register today for an ORCID account (if you do not have one already) and link it to your eRA Commons personal profile to ensure a smooth transition.

It’s a win-win for researchers and NIH alike.

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6 thoughts on “Linking ORCID Identifiers to eRA Profiles to Streamline Application Processes and to Enhance Tracking of Career Outcomes

  1. registering for ORCID requires accepting their privacy policy. How can NIH require an individual to accept the third party privacy policy?

  2. Getting information into ORCID is rather clumsy and time consuming. Would be great if there was an option to import from or sync with Google Scholar, which automatically sends an email to confirm new publications. Clicking one button in an email automatically sent to me vs. having to log into ORCID and search for the publication. Plus I have to remember to update ORCID in first place, which I usually don’t. So some of my articles are not included in ORCID, and occasionally I have to waste time figuring out what is in there and what isn’t and then update it. Meanwhile Google Scholar is always up to date without me having to do anything other than click the button in the email. Google scholar is a convenient resource, ORCID is a pain in the butt.

  3. I have my ORCID profile linked, but only my 3 most recent papers. I have many more in my NCBI profile, but there is no way to easily link those to ORCID that I can see… Is there a way to do this? If there is not the utility is limited.

    • Hi Judith,
      I recommend connecting your ORCID iD with your PubMed ID, which you can do while logged in to your account at orcid.org (in addition to connecting it to your eRA account as Mike suggests above). You can then import publications automatically (it’s pretty awesome!). To ensure good coverage, you can also import from Scopus, Crossref, and Datacite, et. al. There are several points at which you need to opt in to connecting to trusted sources of information, which may seem annoying, but it’s about respecting your privacy. I’m working on some guides with my colleagues in the libraries. I am happy to share those (work in progress).
      Best,
      ~Zach

      • Hi, Zach,

        I am interested to know that you are working with librarians at Stanford on a guide covering ORCID and other author identifiers (e.g. Google Scholar). I could not find it/them on the Stanford website. I am very interested in them since we are just starting to work on this at CSU-Long Beach (sure others are too).

  4. This is a bad initiative. ORCID requires manual curation and constant updating. Another useless bureaucratic requirement to satisfy bean counters. This is not an adequate tool to measure the societal impact of scientific research.

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