Discoverability: How Author Identification Can Reduce Name Ambiguity

As we continue our efforts to make your work more discoverable, we strive to accurately and unambiguously attribute the correct work to our valuable authors and contributors. Doing so ensures that credit is given where credit is due, and that others who wish to cite your work or reuse your research data will accurately identify you as the author and owner.

Name Ambiguity is A Problem


Consider the following:

  • Can we rely on names to identify people?
    • Yu Wang and Yunda Wang are both researchers at Xerox PARC; one has published research as “Y. Wang”. How can we be sure that the published research is credited to the right person? Even “Yu Wang” might lead to mistakes.
  • Can we rely on areas of research to identify people?
    • At Arizona State, there are two faculty members named Michael White who both specialize in the legal field. Again, area of research is not necessarily an effective disambiguator. Not only do they share the same name, they also share the same area of expertise.

The examples above demonstrate the ongoing challenge you may already face in distinguishing your own research activities. Your publications can be difficult to electronically recognize especially if your name:

  • Is not unique
  • Has changed (e.g. with marriage)
  • Has cultural differences in name order
  • Contains inconsistent use of abbreviations
  • Could be displayed differently across the various journals that you’ve published in, as the displayed name often depends on the format used by the journal.

All of the issues above could negatively impact the discoverability of your work. Conversely, when you want to invite a peer to review your work in materials science, you would want to make sure that the Toshihiro Tanaka you seek is the same Toshihiro Tanaka specializing in materials engineering, not the Toshihiro Tanaka specializing in medical oncology.

There is a Solution

One option that helps resolve author ambiguity is the use of a standard identifier to enforce uniqueness and ensure a persistent identity. This approach helps keep authors’ names connected to all of their publications, especially as they progress through their careers.


The Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) is a non-profit, community-driven effort dedicated to solving the name ambiguity problem in scholarly research by assigning a unique identifier to each researcher/contributor.

The ORCID registry is free of charge to individuals, who may obtain an ORCID identifier, manage their record of activities, and search for others in the registry.

Through the embedding of ORCID identifiers in key workflows, such as research profile maintenance, manuscript submissions, grant applications, and patent applications, the ORCID registry links researchers to their work. More than 50 organizations have already integrated ORCID identifiers into their workflows, including CrossRef, Researcher ID, Pub-Med Central, and Scopus.

The ORCID profile of an author or contributor provides a list of all publications, reports, grants, datasets, articles, and other IDs in a central repository that can be easily updated by the author/contributor.

For example, the ORCID for John Wilbanks is, but it is common to see it referred as “ORCID: 0000-0002-4510-0385”.

John Wilbanks in the ORCID registry:


John Wilbanks’ Wikipedia page includes his ORCID identifier:


How Elsevier Integrates ORCID

Elsevier is an active member of the ORCID organization and uses ORCID identifiers as one part of our process to uniquely identify our individual authors and contributors.

As previously mentioned, publishers have the option to embed ORCID identifiers in key workflows. Elsevier’s Publishing group has already integrated ORCIDs into the journal manuscript submission process, and is working on implementing the same process for book manuscript submissions.

ORCID is also interoperable with our Scopus platform. Users can associate their Scopus profiles with their ORCID identities, allowing Scopus to automatically keep their ORCID bibliographies up-to-date.


In 2015, Scopus will incorporate ORCID data into the Scopus author profiling process to increase the accuracy of the Scopus profiles and automatically propagate work that researchers do to clean up their ORCID profiles.

How You Can Help

Create an ORCID profile! Register for free at

If you already have an ORCID profile, congratulations! We highly recommend that you link your ORCID profile to your profile in our manuscript submission systems. An ORCID linked to an accepted manuscript submission will be transferred to ScienceDirect and CrossRef, and the published article will be automatically added to your publication record in your ORCID profile. This means you won’t have to manually update your ORCID publication record.


Similarly, if you also have a Scopus profile, you can link your Scopus information to your ORCID profile. This will help facilitate your ability to identify and claim your publications. Simply follow the steps listed here. Working together, we’ll make sure you get the credit you deserve for your valuable research and contributions.


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