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Signing the ORCID Funder Open Letter

Co-authored by Christian Gutknecht and Michael Hill, respectively Specialist for Information Systems and Deputy Head of Strategy Support at the Swiss National Science Foundation 

Today, the Swiss National Science Foundation has signed the ORCID Funder Open Letter as part of our commitment to expand the integration of ORCID across funding data management systems (see press release). We believe ORCID can add substantial value to the data infrastructure of funders and hope that more will join this important initiative.

ORCID Integration at the SNSF Today

In 2017, 16,000 researchers were associated with 5800 ongoing Swiss National Science Foundation projects. Managing this amount of personal, academic, and financial data requires substantial infrastructure and resources. At the SNSF, our own in-house software called mySNF, lies at the heart of this infrastructure. mySNF can manage the full administrative life-cycle of a research project, from the submission of CVs and research proposals to the final collection of project output data.

This infrastructure is vital to efficient management of research funding data, and most funders rely on such systems. The systems and their underlying requirements are, however, different for different funders and, as a result, they are rarely directly interoperable. This means that researchers still need to submit separate CVs to individual funders because the requirements or submission formats vary; grants can still be difficult to identify and track online; funders cannot easily and systematically verify or share relevant information; and, accordingly, they cannot track research activity beyond their own infrastructure making longitudinal studies difficult.

Individually, many funders have embraced digitalisation. On a global scale, however, end-to-end data curation and exchange are still lacking due, at least in part, to the heterogeneity of CV and grant data. The SNSF is committed to improving this situation and, by signing the ORCID Open Letter, we encourage other funders to join the effort.

Already today, over 4,000 researchers have entered their ORCID iD in mySNF, which is then also mirrored in the SNSF’s public project output platform P3. mySNF also allows for researchers to import dataset and publication metadata directly from ORCID, and funded projects can in turn be exported to ORCID, albeit indirectly. Following the best practice guidelines for funders, the SNSF is furthermore committed to increasing integration of ORCID in mySNF through three separate initiatives.

Future Initiatives

The first initiative pursues the goal of developing a way for researchers to easily add their SNSF grant information to their ORCID records directly. Crossref’s aim to register DOIs for grants is obviously highly relevant in this regard; accordingly, the SNSF also participates in Crossref’s funder advisory board to define metadata attributes for grants. By providing grant data directly to Crossref and ORCID, researchers’ track records could be auto-populated and funding institutions could simplify the reporting and monitoring of applicants’ overlapping grants across funders.

The second initiative aims at crediting the work of peer reviewers and evaluation panel members by offering the option to easily add these efforts to their ORCID profile. As described by Jason Gush from New Zealand’s Royal Society Te Apārangi, the latest extension to the ORCID metadata model offers the opportunity to implement such a service. The SNSF is hoping to provide its reviewers and evaluators with this service, not only as an incentive but also as honest acknowledgement for their valuable work.

The third initiative was inspired by the ORCID Reducing Burden and Improving Transparency (ORBIT) project, where a group of funders investigated various ways of facilitating and increasing the integration of ORCID in their data management infrastructure. At the SNSF today, researchers still upload their CV in the form of a PDF formatted according to our specification. Based on the work initiated in ORBIT, we are now investigating how much CV data might be imported directly from ORCID into mySNF in the future and how such an import could best be implemented.

CV Data Alignment and Evaluation

All these efforts aim at improving the standardisation, reliability, and value of data and at facilitating its management. The actual data itself and what we do with it, however, is — at least to some extent — a separate matter. In an independent project, in close collaboration with ORCID and other stakeholders, we are therefore also investigating what actually constitutes valuable data in a CV. What do we as funders really need to know about the track record of applicants, and how can we best use this information to ensure fair evaluation procedures? If we can find some answers to these basic questions, then we might also have a chance at developing some common standards or guidelines for CVs and their evaluation.

More widespread ORCID integration on the one side, and more closely aligned CV requirements on the other, have the potential to truly transform how we think about and manage track record data in funding institutions. At the same time, global, end-to-end interoperability of CV and grant data would also allow for new ways of sharing and interacting with such data, providing valuable research opportunities and insights. The SNSF is proud to be a co-signatory of the ORCID Open Letter, which promotes these goals, and we encourage all funders to join this initiative.

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