Nature News & Comment recently published an article that focused on some of the ways that the scholarly community could benefit from the creation of a unified identity system for researchers. Researcher disambiguation might be able to simplify the process of applying for grants and submitting papers for publication. It also opens up a whole range of possibilities with regard to measuring scholarly productivity, tracking new forms of scholarship, and using data to learn more about scholarly communications. But an identity disambiguation system  could also have important benefits for  universities, as well.

Why would an academic institution need an identity disambiguation system? Universities already track faculty members, researchers, staff, and students all the time—in payroll systems, health records, enrollment management software, grant management offices, and more. Institutions with medical centers also have an immense amount of data tied to the IDs of doctors, staff, and patients, and some of this data has to be carefully controlled to ensure individuals’ privacy. The proliferation of IDs has created a problem for institutions, which now have to untangle a web of different systems. Some institutions have already undertaken extensive projects to create unified ID systems for their campuses.

In addition, research metrics are very important at the institutional level. Universities are becoming increasingly sophisticated about the way that they track grant funding and research productivity. There are already a number of software systems that they use to do this. However, universities run into some of the same problems that plague the academic community as a whole because when they try to match faculty members to their publications they rely on outside data. If they have better data, these institutions can provide more accurate information about the scholarly contributions that their faculty members are making to their respective fields. In an era when higher education faces tougher budget scrutiny than ever, this can be vital.

One of the leading efforts to create a unified open source identity management system is ORCID, which is being developed by a consortium of funding agencies, foundations, publishers, and universities. You can read more about ORCID and Ithaka S+R’s work with the organization on our client page.