As announced in December 2014, the Austrian Science Fund FWF will mandate the use of an Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) as part of its grant application process. Starting from January 1st 2016 all scholars are asked to have an unique ORCID identifier, register requires only one minute at

What is ORCID?

ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized. (see the introductory video).


  • In its workflows, FWF has to ensure a clearly identifiable link between grants and grant-holders. ORCID provides such unique identifiers.
  • FWF is obligated to document its investments in basic research. ORCID enables researchers to create records of their publications and a variety of other forms of scientific output. The identifiability of their work is a fundamental prerequisite for any assessment of the impacts of science policy.
  • FWF wants to optimise its processes and make them as simple as possible for scholars. ORCID provides a basis for such simplicity.
  • ORCID is simple; it uses open-source data interfaces; it is free of charge for scholars; community driven, it has been created by scholars for scholars; it is a non-profit undertaking and on its way to becoming the international standard.
  • ORCID replaces and/or integrates any existing ID system.

From scholars for scholars: ORCID

The Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) is an alphanumeric code to uniquely identify scholars – just like a DOI or ISSN number clearly identifies scientific articles or books. The system thus provides a clear distinction between the many scholars sharing identical surnames, such as Gruber, Maier, Li or Johansson. The system also takes into account name changes, diacritical signs, different spellings or inconsistencies resulting from abbreviations.

Striving for unique identification: Gruber, Maier, Li, Johansson et al.

The system facilitates the work of the FWF when it comes to linking projects or publications to scholars or distinguishing between scholars. This is not a trivial thing: the ten most common Austrian surnames occur in the FWF database no less than 2,400 times.

It is inevitable for the daily workflows of funders to be able to clearly identify which individual received which grant, to delineate projects unambiguously or to ensure that individuals or publications can be linked to the right projects. Until recently, the FWF had the possibility to request the social security ID of grant-holders and thus ensure reliable identification. For legal reasons this is no longer possible. ORCID now provides an alternative from the world of science created for scholars.

Legitimation and accountability

FWF is Austria’s central funding institution for basic research. In the fulfilment of its task, FWF disburses taxpayers' money to researchers. FWF has to work with lean structures and processes that are transparent, fair and identifiable. FWF is accountable to the Austrian Parliament, to ministries, regulatory authorities and the general public. In order to be able to meet these requirements of legitimation, transparency, traceability and openness, the FWF needs the help of applicants and grant-holders.

Taking decisions for the future

The FWF constantly reviews its processes and programmes (see FWF evaluation studies), but it also actively participates in discussion processes on science, innovation and research policy, both on the national and international level. The contributions made in this context will be valid only if based on solid empirical evidence.

Evidence: Garbage in, garbage out!

As the adage “garbage in, garbage out” so succinctly indicates, the quality of the data used as a basis for decision-making is essential. Hence, data maintenance is an important task involving a great deal of time and effort. Data cleaning can account for up to 80% of the time allocated to data analysis (OECD 2015). The analysis of acknowledgements in FWF-funded publications provides a nice example of the unexpected challenges in analysing the impact of grants: the acknowledgement linking a publication to the FWF exists in 80 different versions which have had to be harmonised in painstaking detail.

Furthermore, the FWF has advocated for years the correct use of metrics to assess scientific achievements (see San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment). This presupposes traceability, a quality that can be materially improved with standards such as ORCID. This fact was explicitly highlighted by a recent study, The Metric Tide, which critically examined the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF).

ORCID: a step forward

Collecting necessary information about science and research, whilst ensuring data quality, uniqueness and attribution, cannot be achieved in isolation. It is rare for scholars to be supported by one single funding institution. What is required to ensure better usability of information about research outputs, are not institutional or national solutions, but international standards. While not the only existing approach, ORCID is an elementary initiative that raises expectations for vital improvements. At this point in time, for instance, all FWF projects since 1994 can already be identified via ORCID.

Standard? Standard!

ORCID was initiated by scholars and has been supported by renowned institutions: publishers (e.g. Nature Publishing Group or Wiley), universities, labs (e.g. Imperial College, Oxford, MIT or CERN), professional organisations (e.g. AAAS, ACS, IEEE) and funding organisations (e.g. Wellcome Trust, NIH, Swedish Research Council). Some countries, including Australia, Sweden, Italy and the UK, have started national campaigns to introduce ORCID at the national level.

Meanwhile almost 1.8 million scholars have registered free of charge and more than 300 institutions (more than half of them in Europe) are supporting members.

Potential criticism: internationality, data protection, administrative effort

Here is a number of arguments we would like to put forward in answer to people who have doubts about ORCID:

  • Openness is the normative essence of scientific research.
  • Scholars who register for an ORCID ID can control at any time what information is linked to that ID and what information is publicly available. 
  • ORCID bundles only information already publicly available on the internet.
  • The data protection rules and privacy policy of ORCID have been checked by FWF’s legal experts and are subject to annual review.
  • It does take time to obtain an ORCID ID. That time pays off, however, because already now many publishers use ORCID as standard and it is to be expected that other funding organisations will also introduce it.
  • ORCID intends to help scholars to accomplish their reporting duties in a much simpler way than before.
  • The ORCID Registry is available free of charge to individuals.

Klaus Zinöcker

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