Author names and authorship in scientific publications
Ambiguity in author names for scholarly publications has long been a problem in science. Several commercial and non-commercial efforts have been launched to counter this problem, where authors are assigned unique identifiers and ambiguities are resolved, in part by enlisting the help of authors themselves. However, the value of these services will be limited unless they can be linked with one another and other services via a common authentication system.
Name confusion: who published what?
Ambiguity in author names for scholarly publications has long been a problem in science. Multiple authors can have the same name and authors sometimes change their name (e.g. women marrying and taking their husband’s family name). This can in result in inaccurate literature searches, the wrong person being to be asked to peer-review a paper, and a host of other problems. This is particularly pronounced for non-English authors from countries such as India or China where a large number of individuals share the same family name, a situation made worse when different names end up being spelt in different ways when converted into English[fn]Jane Qiu. Scientific publishing: Identity crisis. Nature News (2008) vol. 451 (7180) doi:10.1038/451766a[/fn].
Unique author identifiers have been suggested to resolve this problem[fn]Falagas. Unique Author Identification Number in Scientific Databases: A Suggestion. PLoS Med (2006) vol. 3 (5) doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030249[/fn], and two commercial services by major publishers, ResearcherID by Thomson-Reuters (see also comment in The Lancet[fn]Cals and Kotz. Researcher identification: the right needle in the haystack. Lancet (2008) vol. 371 (9631)doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60931-9[/fn]) and Scopus Author Identifier by Elsevier, are attempts at doing just that. The non-profit CrossRef organization, which runs the DOI cross-publisher citation linking system, is also working on a system for contributor identifers, provisionally named CrossReg (G. Bilder, personal communication). Whether run by a single organization or multiple organizations/companies, an open contributor identifier service or multiple linked services (hereafter referred to as simply CrossReg, for convenience) would be valuable on many levels in scientific publishing, just as DOIs have done for the publications themselves.
Contributor identifier service + OpenID
So how may authors benefit from such a system? Apart from the obvious advantage of author name disambiguation, one important answer to this concerns centralized author profile management: given that a researcher has registered with CrossReg to claim his profile (and in the process supplied proof that he is who he claims to be), he could then associate his OpenID (see previous section) with his/her contributor ID. This would enable a host of new possibilities, such as logging on to a publisher’s website via OpenID (e.g. in order to submit a manuscript) and allow the publisher to securely retrieve the author’s current affiliation and other profile information from the CrossReg service. See more on this page.