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ORCID: We won't be sold

Laure Haak's picture

ORCID was founded to deliver a specific goal: every researcher who wants to have a unique lifelong identifier should have one, and be free to use it in their daily work. Every time a researcher, scholar, or other knowledge worker shares their ideas, they should be able to connect their identifier to their ideas. Every expression of knowledge – in whatever form it takes – should be connected to the people who created it and the places and spaces where the ideas were developed. This is summed up by our vision of a world where all who participate in research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely identified and connected to their contributions and affiliations across disciplines, borders, and time.

Earning Your Trust

For this vision to become reality, the research community needs to adopt and implement ORCID identifiers. And for that to happen, ORCID must fulfill our charter as an organization worthy of the trust and respect of the community. We need to remain open – both in terms of access to the identifiers and associated data, and in terms of continuance of operations.

Trust starts with transparency and consistency. We make ourselves accountable to those who use and support ORCID activities through our principles, business model, governance, how we handle disputes, and how we involve the community.

ORCID Principles

We are grounded by 10 principles that guide our work. These principles emphasize our commitment to respecting the privacy and data sharing needs of our users and being a reliable, inclusive, and open partner with the research community. Our users control whether their data are shared and with whom; ORCID makes all data made public by users available under a Creative Commons ‘zero’ license, a vital feature for anyone seeking to re-use and build upon data from the registry. The registry itself can be accessed using an open API, and is built using open source code. As a non-profit organization we do not profit from the information entrusted to us by researchers and scholars.

Our Business Model

ORCID is a membership organization. Our goal is to be 100% supported by membership dues and, thanks to community support, we expect to get there in 2017. While we are building our membership base, we have received support in the form of long term community loans (due to be repaid starting in 2021), subawards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the US National Science Foundation, and grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Trust. As a membership organization, we are by design responsive to our community. Our members drive and control our future growth.

By design, we are also independent and cannot be sold. ORCID Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization registered in the United States. As such, we are subject to laws of the US Internal Revenue Service that specify that we cannot be purchased or otherwise managed by a commercial entity.

Our Governance

To ensure we abide by these principles, we are governed by a volunteer Board. The ORCID Board of Directors, as per our bylaws, is elected from our membership and the majority must be from non-profit organizations. We endeavor to ensure that Board membership is balanced by region and community sector, and we reserve a seat on the Board for a non-member researcher. Our first elections will occur this year, in November. If you are an ORCID member please watch your inbox for more information – and be sure to cast your vote!

The ORCID Principle that researchers are able to create an ORCID iD and edit and maintain an ORCID record free of charge is enshrined in our bylaws, and any proposed change to that provision needs to be approved not only by the Board of Directors, but also by our members. Any changes to our bylaws would need to be voted on by ORCID’s membership. At the time of writing, more than 70% of ORCID members are research performing organizations or funders, placing the future of ORCID squarely under their control.

Dispute Management

ORCID offers tools for storing and managing data in the ORCID Registry. ORCID does not edit or curate data; that is the responsibility of the individual in concert with members to whom they grant access permissions. While ORCID does not control the data in the ORCID Registry or individual records, we are committed to supporting a transparent and accurate data environment. We have a set of procedures for receiving questions about the Registry, APIs, and our policies. Most queries are managed by our fabulous help desk. For those queries where data accuracy are questioned, we have a specific dispute procedure for receiving and managing the query. Let us know if something doesn’t look right!

Involving the Community

In my first post-launch blog back in 2012, I wrote about how the O in ORCID stands for open. ORCID is strongly committed to openness. Of our 10 principles, seven deal directly with openness in at least one of its meanings. In addition to providing free access, no barriers to access for individuals, democratic and transparent governance, and open source software, we also are open – to the point of promiscuity! – when it comes to working with the community. We know that, for any standard to be implemented, it must work for any individual regardless of discipline or location, and for any organization regardless of whether it is non-profit, governmental, commercial, etc. We live and breathe collaboration; it is our lifeblood.


ORCID iDs need to be embedded in the systems and services that research depends on: from publisher submission systems to funder databases to electronic lab notebooks to university personnel systems. The ORCID registry is itself a piece of research infrastructure, and ORCID iDs are components in other infrastructures. This interdependency is a strength and a challenge. We need to effectively communicate our plans and problems. We cannot hide. We’ve had an open development board since our launch. We have an international team managing API support, a community suggestions board, and a 24/7 user help desk. When we make a mistake we admit it – quickly. And we fix it – quickly. We rely on the community to do the same.


We recognize that trust is the key to adoption and sustainability. If you decide you don’t like what we are doing, you effectively have an insurance policy. Our openness means that, if circumstances require, the community could re-create ORCID by collecting and re-assembling our parts. You can use our CC0 public data, our open software source code, our open documentation together with the community we are helping to build, to create a new community-led alternative and ensure the continuation of the ORCID vision.

ORCID is open. We are built by you and for you. Together we can achieve our vision for the benefit of the global research community.