Tuesday, 26 March 2013

First successful automated ORCID creation at institutional level

  On March 25th a first successful attempt was made at Universidad de Oviedo (UniOvi) for an automated ORCID creation process for institutional authors. A modest first batch with 10 XML UniOvi author files was fed into the production ORCID API and 9 ORCID profiles were successfully created – with the 10th being identified as a potential duplicate and subsequently reported. A brief description of the process that lead to this result is provided below.

The process

Following extensive ORCID outreach activities in the country, Universidad de Oviedo became the first institutional ORCID member in Spain last December. Once the membership was signed, the decision was made for UniOvi Library and its Bibliographic Information Service Manager Maria Luisa Alvarez de Toledo to become responsible for ORCID adoption at UniOvi. Besides relying on the ORCID technical support service -a big thanks to Catalina Oyler here- UniOvi decided to also contact GrandIR for the purpose. GrandIR had organised the ORCID technical session earlier in September and was very much involved into ORCID dissemination and adoption, so it looked like a good opportunity to put this knowledge to use.

The first step towards ORCID adoption at UniOvi was to define a strategy for institutional ORCID creation and implementation into UniOvi research information management systems. The Library keeps a registry for all UniOvi authors, together with their most frequent signatures and identifiers such as ScopusID or ResearcherID - which are often managed from the Library too. The process involved XML UniOvi author file generation so that these could be fed into the ORCID API.

A testing stage followed: a number of mock ORCID profiles were generated on ORCID OAuth Playground testing environment via the command line. These were successful and allowed to test specific XML configuration with regard to character coding and special characters often found in Spanish names. However, the need to operate from the command line made the ORCID generation process quite a slow one, which would suit the purpose of creating ORCIDs for a few authors, but certainly not for all UniOvi scholars. The decision was then made to develop an application that would allow automated ORCID creation for a large number of authors, and GrandIR took on the challenge. A few weeks later, a first prototype was available for live testing on ORCD production environment. These first tests resulted in 10 XML author files fed to the ORCID API and 9 new ORCID profiles created. Most of these new ORCIDs are still pending claim by authors - and in fact the claiming rate by authors is one of the aspects the Library is looking at before planning further internal outreach strategies.

The challenges

A number of challenges have already been tackled along the way to automated ORCID creation. The main one among these is a consequence of UniOvi being the very first institution to carry out most of the procedures, from requesting and using its credentials to learning how to operate the ORCID APIs. The fact that working together with ORCID was occasionally required to define how specific processes should be carried out was sometimes a bit challenging – but certainly fun as well. Finally, the need to rely on a single-point ORCID technical support service (running on a specific time zone) was also one of the consequences of the pioneering role UniOvi took that will presumably be improved in the future.

One of the big challenges that the UniOvi Library faced – and this will probably be quite frequent at other institutions – was the lack of specific internal technical support for the task. However, this issue could be overcome thanks to the support provided both by ORCID and GrandIR – and it should by no means discourage institutions interested in becoming ORCID adopters, since from now on there will be a growing network of supporting colleagues and institutions available to help.

There are two additional strands in which challenges remain before a far-reaching ORCID adoption is achieved at the University. The first one is cultural, and involves engaging authors into the process of claiming, completing and using their ORCIDs. This should very much be based on a best practice definition and dissemination. The other domain where challenges are still to be tackled is the technical area: first, there is a need for a reliable identification of potential duplicates and possibly for merging ORCID profiles created on different author email addresses, and then, the Library would also wish to have privileges for maintaining the newly-created ORCID accounts and be able for instance to claim publications on behalf of the authors. These are areas where current ORCID work is taking place, and new features will be available in the mid-term that will enable this functionality.

The outcome

The main process outcome has so far been a successful (if humble) attempt for automatically creating ORCID profiles for a few UniOvi authors from the Library. However, once the first ORCIDs were created, extending the coverage to the remaining UniOvi authors poses no major technical challenge. Furthermore, the successful identification by the application for automated ORCID generation of a previously existing ORCID for one of these 10 authors was a first step in putting together a set of criteria that will ensure detection of candidates for duplicated entries at ORCID creation time.

The Library has now the opportunity to test the process for ORCID claiming by authors - together with the opportunity to provide useful feedback along the process, for instance by suggesting that it might be useful to allow the welcome message to be customised by the member institution through an option panel that would allow to choose things such as the language the welcome message is written in. Institutional outreach strategies are already being designed, including a brief guide on ORCID claiming for authors and an institutional ORCID website providing an introduction to ORCID and explaining what its benefits are both for authors and the institution itself. All these contents should very much be re-usable by institutions which join ORCID from now on.

The way ahead

The next steps for completing the work are in the first place extending the pilot to cover the whole set of UniOvi scholars. Once this is achieved, strategies are to be designed for implementing the new ORCIDs on institutional systems, starting with the DSpace-based institutional repository RUO. Ideally, ORCID implementation on the repository will provide a means to engage authors with it and ensure that those authors who have not deposited anything yet in the repository will realise some of the value-added services it may provide them.

Finally, a great deal of the remaining tasks fall into the outreach domain: best practices for ORCID use by institutional authors are to be promoted from the Library as part of an awareness raising campaign about ORCID. Besides this, once the process has been completed, the Library has the intention to disseminate best practices in ORCID adoption at institutional level through a somewhat more rigorous channel than a blog post.

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