Academics: bring your own identity

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 (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. 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.


14 thoughts on “Academics: bring your own identity

  1. Great post Amber and very timely as I will be talking with academics about such matters in London on Wednesday at an HEA event. It is increasingly important to most of us who present our professional identity through the web that we can manage our profiles rather than having them managed for us. I still have a Warwick e-portfolio that, despite the fact it is no longer my eportfolio of choice and is not maintained, still is returned ridiculously high on google searches. I have heard from past students with similar problems too. I guess I will have to request that it is taken down?

  2. I think you make some important observations here, and thanks for the info about ORCID, which is new to me. As a recovering academic who will soon be moving into consultancy I’d like to add one more issue. Must an ‘academic’ have an academic affiliation? There have long been complaints that independent researchers can’t get access to university libraries and this cuts them out from accessing important and expensive journals etc. As you say, the academic workforce is becoming more transient, indeed more fragmented, which means at some point quite a few will inevitably find themselves with no academic affiliation at all, and therefore no access to university libraries or to some types of funding. Yet those people may still be conducting important research. It seems to me that initiatives which seek to strengthen academic profiles etc should be thinking about this, not least because the future of education is predicted to be supplemented by a whole ecology of freelancers and providers. Are you aware of whether this issue is on the agenda? Thanks.

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  4. Reblogged this on Mark Carrigan and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more with this – I’m also fascinated by what this shift entails for the provision of services within institutions. The best answer I can offer is ‘networked facilitators’ though I’m not entirely sure what that means in practice beyond academic technologists proactively engaging with research communities on a range of levels and, perhaps, increasingly supplementing the strategic delivery of services with tactical collaboration on a more ad hoc basis, learning from direct engagement in practical settings and feeding that back into broader strategic questions.

  5. Reblogged this on jbrittholbrook and commented:
    A good rundown of some of the technology available to academics (including altacademics) that raises the question of academic identity. Nice to see an IT person questioning this idea. Librarians also tend to be aware of this stuff — as they should be. I think both university librarians and IT professionals can help reach out to academics to spread the word.

  6. Pingback: Academics: bring your own identity | Amber at Warwick: academic technology | csid

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