The Importance of Opt-In

Laure Haak's picture

ORCID was founded on the principle that researchers should have control over their information.  To honor this principle we have a strong privacy policy, which was designed to take account of local variations in privacy regulations, and we focus on the perspective of the researcher when developing policies and functionality.

One of our priorities has been to reduce the effort needed for a researcher to connect their identifier to their works and affiliation information, while making it possible for organizations the researcher trusts to validate connections or to update information. To this end, we enabled some of our members, specifically those organizations that employ researchers, to use a “Member-Create” license to batch create and populate records for their researchers. These members not only signed on to our privacy policy, they also asserted that they were legally authorized to create records on behalf of their employees and/or students.  Almost 50 universities around the world have used this opt-out method to create more than 100,000 records for their researchers, and, in some cases, have added information about affiliation and publications to those records.  

In practice, this approach has raised some issues.  We initially anticipated that batch create would be a major route for ORCID record creation by employers of researchers, but to date fewer than 5% of ORCID registrations have occurred using batch create. Further, two thirds of records created in this way are currently unclaimed by, and unknown to, researchers. For ORCID benefits to accrue to an individual or the community, a researcher must use their ID; it follows that an unknown and unclaimed iD is helping neither adoption nor furthering ORCID’s mission.  Another issue is that these records were created using implicit consent from the researcher, and information that is moved between systems without an explicit “opt in”, is in conflict with some regional privacy regulations, making the batch process less useful to the community.

To address these concerns, we developed a new process, called “Create on Demand”, for our members who employ researchers.  The Create on Demand process enables the member organization to explicitly request permissions from a researcher (“opt in”) to read and write to that individual’s ORCID record. This process also improves the user experience for researchers with better information flow and fewer clicks to register. It increases the engagement of researchers, prevents the generation of unclaimed records, and reduces the likelihood that a duplicate record is created.  It supports our mission and commitment to privacy.

This process was prototyped in early 2014 and rolled out in September that year, and since then we have been encouraging its implementation by all new members (see this video demonstration by an ORCID member). Due to the success of Create on Demand, combined with a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice that re-asserts the need for explicit opt-in processes, we have decided to formally discontinue Member-Create agreements and bulk create processes. We are currently working with our members (and their system vendors and suppliers, where relevant) to determine their requirements and, as appropriate, help them transition to the Create on Demand process.  When possible and agreeable to the member, we will work with them to close out ORCID records they created that remain unclaimed.

At ORCID we are committed to serving our community, all around the world. Sometimes this means adding new features or functionality. In this case, it means stopping batch create processes and supporting a more effective opt-in process for our members to engage with researchers.