Using Identifiers to Capture and Expose Facilities Use

Laure Haak's picture

User facilities - from research facilities housing specialized equipment, to repositories and field stations that house physical collections - and their government sponsors stand to benefit from improved acknowledgement of their use and a better understanding of the impact generated by work undertaken with their support.

Working Group

The User Facilities and Publications Working Group was convened by ORCID in 2017 to investigate how user facilities, publishers, and scholarly infrastructure providers can collaborate to streamline the sharing of information between researchers, user facilities, and publishers, to improve the capture of outputs from these facilities, and to lessen reporting burdens on researchers. The ad hoc group grew out of a number of community conversations with the US Department of Energy (DOE), Society for Science at User Research Facilities (SSURF; formerly, the National User Facility Organization), CHORUS, and user facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

The group had three objectives: to bring together publishers and facilities to better understand research, publication, and reporting workflows; to define terms to enable conversation; and to identify opportunities for working together to streamline and, where possible, automate impact reporting.


The group first met in May 2017, with representatives from four DOE National Laboratories, publishers, US federal agencies, and infrastructure providers. Together, the group analyzed workflows, technologies, and standards in use by user facilities and publishers, and identified key points at which information could be shared or made available to other systems.  We shared our work with other facilities including CERN, the Smithsonian Institution, and the US Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, for their input on our findings. Taken as a whole, the work of the group suggests a route to improved attribution and acknowledgement of research support, and better tools for the capture and analysis of that information.

The core findings of the group were that:

  • Researchers do not often report on their use of facilities or specialized equipment when they are publishing papers, datasets, or other research results. When they do, it is usually in the acknowledgements section of a paper and not in a standardized form.
  • Publishers do not often collect information on user facilities, instead focusing on funding sources for the published work that are related to journal article access policies.
  • User facilities require researchers to acknowledge use, but there is both a lag between use and publication and no general standard for citing usage.
  • Differing understanding of terms such as “author”, “user”, and “funding” among stakeholders present barriers to effective reporting.
  • All of the stakeholders see value in using APIs and persistent identifiers, including ORCID iDs and DOIs, to enable reporting processes.


The group identified several opportunities for user facilities and their sponsors, publishers, and researchers to improve the current capture and assessment of the impact of these facilities on the research enterprise. These are articulated in a report that specifies actions that each stakeholder group could take to move the research community toward this goal. The working group recognizes that the greatest impact will come from stakeholders working collectively and collaboratively. You can learn more at our presentation at PIDapalooza in January - slides will be available after the event.

Pilot Projects

The group has defined two pilot projects, to which we invite community participation!

One project targets processes at facilities, to integrate identifiers into user facility proposal submission or site access requests. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Brookhaven National Laboratory have already begun to integrate ORCID into their proposal processes.

For example, The Neutron Sciences Directorate (NScD) at ORNL has been using ORCID since October 2015, starting with requesting the identifier from users and workshop participants.  The NScD User Program awards beam time for ORNL’s neutron sources, the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and Spallation Neutron Source (SNS). All current and potential SNS and HFIR users are asked for their ORCiD when registering at the ORNL User Portal, which they must do to submit a proposal for beam time or request facility access when coming on site.  Researchers participating in sponsored schools, meetings and workshops are also asked to provide their ORCiD when registering for an event. These efforts have enabled NScD to develop a database of users and their unique identifiers. This information has given NScD the ability to push beam time award notices to a user’s ORCiD record under funding and track the return on investment of researchers attending workshops and schools and returning as facility users.



In the near future, the NScD User Program plans to push notices to a user’s ORCID record for distinctions and services to ORNL including the NScD Scientific Review Committee, SNS HFIR User Group (SHUG) Executive Committee, and Neutron Advisory Board to a researcher’s profile, and to link instrument publications to the facility through a researcher’s ORCID iD.

The other project targets manuscript submission processes to integrate award and facility IDs into the manuscript publication process. As a first step in supporting capture of facilities information in journal publication processes, the group has submitted a request to the JATS working group to extend the XML metadata specification for journal submission, a first step in supporting capture of facilities information in journal publication processes.

We invite you to comment on the report, and join the group in testing out the proposals in a series of pilot projects.

Please contact me if you’d like more information.