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Research Management Starts with a Persistent Researcher Identifier

Almost all researchers at HKUST have ORCID iD. Do you have yours? ORCID is an example of researcher identifiers, which is one out of three types of persistent identifiers (PID). What are all these identifiers? Why should researchers care?

Researcher Identifiers

A researcher identifier is like your university staff number or student number: it uniquely identifies you within the collective of HKUST. In the case of researcher IDs, the collective is the global research community instead of one organization. With an unique ID, the work of Wendy Chan won’t get mixed up with another Wendy Chan, even if they are in the same research field or even the same lab. Whatever name forms Wendy Chan uses in her published works, be it Wendy Chan, Lai Ming Chan, Wendy LM Chan, Wendy Chan Wong (after she marries Mr. Wong), all these can be properly attributed to the right person. The mechanism of such unique, unambiguous identification of people has become very important as research goes global and open.

To make the best use of a unique identifier, you should maintain one and only one ID. When you leave HKUST, your staff or student ID expires; but your researcher ID always stays with you when you move on with your career.

But Which IDs?

Currently, the most prevalent researcher identifier systems are ORCID iD, ResearcherID and Scopus ID.

ResearcherID is a proprietary system for claiming and tracking research works within the platforms owned by Clarivate Analytics; the most visible platform being the database Web of Science. Similar to ResearcherID, Scopus ID is used within the database Scopus, owned by Elsevier. You can register for a ResearcherID, but not a Scopus ID. Scopus automatically generates your ID using their algorithm, which sometimes fails to collect all your works under one name, resulting in multiple IDs for one author. The two systems, being owned by two different commercial entities, are not interoperable; i.e. you cannot get your ResearcherID and your Scopus ID to talk to each other; but you can connect them via ORCID.

ORCID is a not-for-profit organization; ORCID iD is an open registry adopted by increasing number of publishers, research funders, universities and more. In Hong Kong, the Research Grant Council (RGC) requires all researchers to use ORCID iD in research grant proposals. At HKUST, nearly all faculty members have their ORCID iD connected to the Scholar Profiles maintained by the Library; postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to do the same. Follow this page to create and connect your ORCID iD with the Library.

Some researchers may mix up the use of ORCID with other academic social media sites such as or Google Scholar profile. ORCID is primarily a registry of researcher identifiers. Each ID holder does have a landing page at, on which the researcher can show publications and other information such as affiliation and research activities. Yet, ORCID is not intended as a profiling system; it lacks features such as citation counts, impact metrics, and mechanisms for uploading and sharing files. In short, if you need a profiling page, ORCID is not the best choice; but you should still get your ORCID iD as your unique identification in the global research community.

To find out more about different researcher ID systems, see this LibGuide.

Persistent Identifiers (PID)

PIDs are essential building blocks in the global research infrastructure. Researcher identifier is one out of three types of PID. The other two are identifiers for organizations, and identifiers for research objects and outputs, such as DOIs (digital object identifiers).

PIDs act as both unique identifiers and as connectors. With the mechanism to clearly identify researchers, organizations and research output, we can establish trusted connections between them. Such trusted connections become very important for metrics measurement, open science and research assessment.

A good example of trusted system-to-system connections is Crossref’s auto-update functionality at ORCID: if researchers used their ORCID iD when submitting their work to a publisher, once published and DOI generated, the work can be pushed directly into ORCID records, using information provided by the publisher in the metadata submitted to Crossref. That means, if you use your ORCID iD with your manuscript when submitting to publisher, and you authorize Crossref to access your ORCID account, your paper can automatically appear in your page after it is published.

The use of PIDs in research information system is continuously being developed and improved. Widespread adoption would help to optimize their benefits to researchers.


Meadows, Alice, Laurel L. Haak, and Josh Brown. 2019. “Persistent Identifiers: The Building Blocks of the Research Information Infrastructure”. Insights 32 (1): 9. DOI:

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last modified April 15, 2019

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