A few questions about author identifiers: the answers

I've recently asked a few questions about author identifiers for scientists. Here are the results (based on 48 responses). The results are also available as .xls file.

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7 Responses to A few questions about author identifiers: the answers

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    Very interesting – I’m not surprised that a lot of people haven’t heard of them.
    This is probably out of scope of your survey, but what of the privacy issues (a unique ID is one thing, its use as an identifer/authentication tool publicly in various systems being another); and also technical issues (different technical systems recognising this ID or set of IDs). For example I have an open ID but it is still a fuss actually using it even on websites that say they recognise it. If I comment on a blogger blog I can now use my open ID, but I can only get follow-up comments emailed to me if I use my Google username/password. Other systems don’t even recognise open IDs yet. That’s only one tiny example, multiply it up and you are looking at costly and time-consuming challenges. (eg see Frank Norman’s recent post about the complications of publishers’ merging – not about open ID but similar issues).
    As is so often the case, the idea is good but the implementation seems very fuzzy. The added complication with a unique ID is everyone agreeing what they personally want to use it (or them) for.

  2. Cameron Neylon says:

    It’s interesting that there is a strong majority in favour of centralized system. I would have thought the sampling bias would have tended towards those with a belief in decentralized systems. Now what would really be interesting would be correlating the views with where the respondent came from (NN, Friendfeed, Twitter etc.). Although I suppose the numbers are too small for that to be viable.

  3. Martin Fenner says:

    Maxine, I think that there is broad consensus that we want a unique author identifier. At the same time there are all these small, but important details (you mention some of them) that haven’t been worked out yet. I think we have to start somewhere – and this will most likely be a journal working together with CrossRef – and figure out these details one by one. I personally have a much better idea of how a unique author identifier should be implemented than 6 months ago, I will for example now use the term Digital Author Identifier based on the survey results.
    Cameron, one could do a second survey with a much larger audience. This could be done at a scientific meeting, a university department and/or a journal. With fewer and less complicated questions.

  4. Maxine Clarke says:

    Apparently there are a lot of people who would like (or have) a unique ID but who don’t want it to be public. This does present some challenges, and the question of whether these IDs are intended to be “behind the scenes” tools for people to integrate their own online activities, or whether they are identifiers for external services and the public to see one person’s contributions.
    Certainly I agree with the broad outlines of your posts – and as you imply it will probably all come about in dribs and drabs as various systems offer options to integrate that users can use or not as they wish – rather than via some top-down, centralised effort.

  5. Darren Saunders says:

    Maxine, I’m having trouble understanding the logic behind some not wanting an author ID to be public?

  6. Martin Fenner says:

    Darren, a Digital Author Identifier would allow to systematically connect publications and other scholarly activities to other information. This is of course the intention, but might not always be desired and can be misused. This is especially true if you do research in a sensitive area, e.g. on serious pathogens such as anthrax or Marburg virus.
    I also believe that a lot of us have fully embraced all these new social networks from Nature Network to Facebook, Twitter or FriendFeed and do sometimes forget the privacy we have given up without too much thought.

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    Yes, I don’t think it is necessarily to do with working in a sensitive area, particularly, though of course that is a factor in some cases. I just understand that in many people’s minds there is a difference between a tool for identifying yourself and a tool for “authentication”, for example in different types of registration systems that organisations have. So, an “open ID” provides a useful authentication tool, but it does not solve problems of identity management in any way – and many of these involve personal passwords and so on. I am not an expert, so I am not the person to ask about all this in detail, but I do know that there are quite significant unaddressed issues.