Know Thy Researcher

Conceiving an idea, pursuing its experimental validation, publication, ground trial and finally making it available to human kind takes a lot of paid and generous contributions of researchers. Individual efforts form the basis of any transformative scientific development and become crucial in the evolution of any field of study. It is therefore important to recognize researchers and their contributions. Approximately 1.5 million research papers were published in journals in 2010 alone. At an average of 3 authors per paper, excluding multiple papers per author, the lowest estimate of the number of unique researchers listed would be about 4.5 to 5 million per year. How does one recognize each author and their work? It is a cumbersome job for other researchers, employers and stakeholders to identify each researcher based on some of the current literature citation protocols and formats.

Complications in establishing identity can arise, as in the following example: Jungman, P. R. (2000) and Jungman, P. (2001). The same author has used either one or two initials while citing his/ her name on different occasions. Now Endnote (software for managing references) recognizes it as two different authors leading to inconsistent authorship information being published. Consider another example, wherein two different persons such as Jennifer Doe and Julia Doe with same last name and first initials, from the same institute, publish a paper together with the citation appearing as: Doe, J. & Doe, J. (1999). Upon first glance, it would be hard to distinguish each contributor of this published research. Such ambiguity creates challenges in identifying and recognizing researchers. Apart from digital/physical recognition of researchers, another important issue of crediting the generous work of reviewers without who research publication seems to be impossible.

It is important for the advancement of field that the above-mentioned issues be addressed, and relevant contributors be duly recognized and credited, as these are the pillars of scientific development. Thanks to recent developments in electronics and information technology (IT) sectors, these limitations are now being addressed in multiple ways.

Considering 1.5 million published papers in 2010, and each paper being reviewed by two reviewers, it would require 3 million reviewers to accomplish this feat. Researchers and scientists across the globe, generously perform these herculean jobs of peer-review. They are rarely credited for this peer-review work.

Several recent non-profit organizations and startups have launched web-based platforms to identify, recognize and credit individual researchers for their scientific contributions.

Know Thy Researcher

Recently launched ORCID, an open source web application, launched by a non-profit organization, provides a 16digit unique identifier for researchers at no cost. ORCID enables the user to link all their work and achievements to their unique ID. ORCID is now widely adopted by more than 1000 publishing houses including PLoS, Elsevier and Nature as a way to manage author’s information in publication process. Universities, institutions and funding agencies like NIH and Wellcome Trust are also adopting ORCID for same reason and to streamline their grant management system and progress reports. More about ORCID can be reached here.

Another nascent startup Profeza, addresses the contribution of an individual researcher in one or more papers. Their platform is especially beneficial for authors with identical last names and initials as discussed in the example above. Profeza, a social journal/network, further takes few more steps ahead in the direction of recognizing researchers. Profeza allows researchers to link their publications with data obtained during optimization, raw data, supporting data or repeat data with published work. Profeza also allows researchers to invite colleagues to provide comments and recommendations through their platform, which would further increase the robustness and authenticity of the published work. More about Profeza can be found here.

Publons, a new startup recognizes the generous review work of scientists across the globe. Publons even started rewarding the top reviewers each month or quarter. More about Publon can be assessed here.

Together these platforms are bringing more coherence, excitement and revolutionizing the scientific and scholarly world with periodic innovations and upgrades.



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