Organisation IDs for scholarly communications: where next?

On April 17, as part of FORCE 2016 in Portland Oregon, Crossref, and THOR partners DataCite and ORCID convened a workshop to discuss the current state of the art in organisation identifiers. We discussed this issue previously in a post on the ORCID blog, and we’re pleased to report back to you all that the workshop was a big success. Since then, we’ve been pulling together our notes and thoughts on the issue of organisation identifiers, and we’d like to share the headlines with you.

The community represented at the meeting agreed strongly with our conclusions that there is no solution available today that meets all the scholarly communications community’s needs. It is clear that the community needs a solution based on open data (for a community infrastructure such as this, CC-Zero is really the only appropriate license for the data). We need  a robust, high-volume API if we are to build infrastructure around organisation identifiers. This infrastructure needs to have transparent, community-led governance, and a responsive, properly resourced entity to maintain all of this.

The workshop was underpinned by a discussion document which gathered together existing work undertaken by NISO, Jisc and CASRAI, and others. These outlined the shortcomings of current approaches, and set out core requirements which any solution aiming to provide organisation identifiers for scholarly communications should address. While we acknowledge that there are commercial and community-led initiatives that offer partial solutions to the problems we face, they are focussed, naturally enough, on the needs of their sub-section of the community. For them to broaden their offer or to change their practice might not make commercial sense, or might not be possible (thanks to a lack of staff or technical infrastructure for example). That said, whatever comes next will need to work alongside these providers as a partner facing similar challenges and, with a bit of luck, sharing solutions.

What emerged from the workshop was a consensus that a detailed use-case-driven approach is a useful way to understand the core issues at work with identifying organisations, and more than this provides a good way to spot common issues. By placing these at the heart of a new organisation identifier infrastructure, we can help to create a service that will help to meet the needs of the widest possible section of our community.

We took a number of ideas away from the workshop:

  • There needs to be a collective action plan for the next three years to help to implement an organisation identifier solution for scholarly communications.
  • We need to think about the structure and governance (both for data and the parent organisation) that will best serve the community
  • We need a solid, core ID technology for both the highest level organisation and hierarchies beneath them
  • We need to define a robust, low-barrier, accessible mechanism for organisation to take ownership of their IDs, and to update them (each organisation needs to KNOW that they have an ID, to USE it, and to KEEP IT UP-TO-DATE for it to succeed).

We are starting this initiative by gathering as broad a sample as possible of the use cases you, the scholarly communications community, need organisation identifiers to address.

We invite interested members of the community to read our discussion document and to send their comments and use cases to us using our survey.

We’ll digest and analyse this information, and keep you all up to date. We’ll gather together and support the work of task groups where appropriate, to bring in expertise from the community. We’ll present reports, updates and proposals publicly to gather your feedback, and we will meet again at a co-convened persistent identifier-themed event in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the week beginning November 7. Hold the date, and watch this space!
Geoffrey Bilder, Josh Brown, and Patricia Cruse.