You’re probably familiar with Linked-in: it is a profile service for many sorts of people and I’ve noticed that outside the UK it is used for academic networking too, more so than inside the UK, at least in the circles I move in. It has 225 million members. You might not know about Academia.edu (nearly 3 million) and researchgate (2.8 million). They are examples of social networks for academics. Google scholar allows academics to manage their publications profile. Flavours.me is one of several personal profile tools that allows you to pull together identity over many platforms.
Now comes ORCID, a researcher identifier scheme increasingly being adopted by big publishers and third party web services alike. In it’s own words:
“ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized”.
The signs are good that ORCID will take off. I hope so, particularly so that innovative third party services can come in and offer new approaches. I am a big fan of the idea of impact story, a beta service that uses ORCID to drive a whole digital footprint approach to tracing the web metrics and social shares of academic online outputs, alongside citations. This broadened attention is fundamental to the altmetrics manifesto.
And at the same time as the growth of a global infrastructure for researcher identifiers, universities are laying more claim to the published outputs of academics, through the “green” open access self-archiving route (which I strongly support). And we have an increased attention to other academic outputs: the data produced within research projects, and the extent to which other digital outputs create impact, or evidence of public engagement.
And yet, as others have pointed out, as the academic workforce becomes more transient, with more part time contracts, more semi-retirements, more people holding multiple contracts, the rights of the institutional employer become less and less.
I feel that the solution to this paradox is in the way the institution relates to an academic’s whole digital footprint, the way it accommodates the academic’s identity. Perhaps we, IT Services departments, should just embrace the reality that academics’ identities live outside the university. Their profiles live outside the university. Their outputs live outside the university. Their impact happens outside the university. It’s long been the case that universities buy and sell “academic reputation”. Maybe it’s time we fully accept that, and embrace a “bring your own identity” concept in IT Services.
I’m not sure I understand the full implications of this possible paradigm shift, but I want to.