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A Year in ORBIT

Josh Brown's picture

Co-authored by Josh Brown and Tom Demeranville (both ORCID)

Last year, we announced the launch of the ORCID Reducing Burden and Improving Transparency (ORBIT) project. Since then, we have been working hard, supported by our fantastic Funder Working Group (FWG), to deliver on the core project goals for 2018: to automate information flows into grant applications - saving researchers time, reducing duplicated effort and improving data quality; and to explore the ways that persistent identifiers can help to increase the openness and reusability of research information.

The FWG has a remit to oversee the ORBIT project work, and to advise ORCID on issues that are important to the funding community. Eighteen funding organisations from around the world are participating in the FWG, with representation from funders in Africa, Asia/Australasia, Europe, North and South America.  Since some of these funders support research in Antarctica, it’s fair to say we have research in every continent on planet Earth represented in the group! The funders are a mix of discipline-focused (e.g., the US National Institutes of Health and Wellcome Trust both focus on life sciences research) and multidisciplinary funders (like the Swiss National Science Foundation, or the Australian Research Council).

One of the first tasks the group completed was comparing the information typically required to submit a grant application.  We found that, while grant application requirements vary between funders, there is a common information ‘core’ that is collected across them that is also very well served by the existing ORCID record schema.

The FWG also examined the information funders collect from individuals tasked with reviewing grant applications.  We found more variations in the practice of grant review than grant application, from minimal information (name, address and organisation) to a full curriculum vitae, and again a good mapping with the existing ORCID record schema.

To understand whether ORCID record data could be re-used in funding applications, we analysed the 2017 ORCID public data file using the core application fields determined in the FWG analysis (above).  The results are published in a report describing the information connected to ORCID records, mechanisms of connection (always with the researcher in control!), and its provenance.  This report is already proving useful for organisations seeking to re-use ORCID data.

In June 2018, ORBIT project partners met face to face in Edinburgh at the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) conference. We held a ‘kick off’ meeting for the ORBIT pathfinder projects, and presented the ORBIT project  to an audience of INORMS delegates at our ORBIT Community Forum. It was a packed afternoon, with contributions from NIH, SNF and Crossref, as well as discussions and a panel session. INORMS provided a welcoming opportunity to discuss the ORBIT project with the wider research community. Our thanks to our colleagues at the UK Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) for their generous support!

The ORBIT pathfinder projects are forging ahead with their plans to integrate ORCID into grants workflows.  ORBIT supports them through its Technical Advisory Group (TAG), a venue for the exchange of ideas, requirements, and plans between the funder members and the vendors that serve them (Terms of Reference).  Since the TAG was set up, two major grant application and management platforms -- CCT and Altum -- have both started to integrate ORCID and are now offering ORCID integration as a feature to their customers.  Both vendors are focussing on reducing the researcher effort required to providing high-quality information in the grant application process. Funders in the pathfinder group that are developing bespoke solutions are learning from these vendors’ experiences. One such funder, the Australian Research Council, are currently testing their integration, which enables applicants to use their ORCID record to add relevant publications to their applications. ARC expect 15,000 researchers to have benefitted from the integration by the end of 2018.

What’s next in ORBIT?

We have another full year of activities ahead of us!. We’ll be analysing the work of the pathfinder projects to quantify the time savings and other benefits of using ORCID. We’ll also be launching a new project sub-group to explore ways that funders could make their information demands more consistent, easier to automate, and more interoperable (more information about this group soon).  We are starting to explore how the new version of our API can support even more of the information that researchers need to provide to funders.  And, we will be working to extend the information available to funders about identifiers, and continuing to work with the community to adopt of FAIR principles for identifiers and the metadata linked to them.

Open and transparently-sourced research information is at the heart of ORCID.  In ORBIT, our goal is to engage the funding community to make it easy for researchers to share their information now and into the future.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia