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Time Flies...

Richard de Grijs's picture

In 2016, when I nominated myself as researcher member to serve on the ORCID Board of Directors, I really had no idea of the rapid pace of ORCID’s development I would witness. Now, as we near the end of 2019, it is nearing the end of my three-year term on the ORCID Board. 

A few years prior to 2016, I had volunteered to become an ORCID Ambassador, as part of a support network that was active from 2013 to 2017. At the time, I was based in Beijing, China, where I was a senior academic at Peking University. I was also deeply engaged in a scientific publishing context as deputy editor of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

In both roles, I had encountered the relative homogeneity of Chinese surnames, which in turn made it difficult at times to find specific researchers. This naturally led me to embrace the key ORCID objective of name disambiguation and so, when the opportunity arose, I was keen to support ORCID’s development, adoption, and integration from a more impactful perspective.

I’m stating the obvious when I say that the transition from active engagement to a more abstract leadership role on the ORCID Board was daunting. I was pretty much thrown in at the deep end, with an expectation that I would be able to contribute from the get-go to high-level discussions involving publishing industry, library, research funder, and repository representatives.

As a senior academic, I am not easily fazed by having to acquire new skills or knowledge, but this learning curve was really quite steep. Other new Board members have since expressed similar sentiments, so we have now established a mentoring scheme for incoming colleagues. Over the course of the past three years, I have witnessed rapid developments in the governance of both the organization as a whole and the Board in particular. From a start-up still finding its niche in the complex research ecosystem, ORCID has now become a mature organization with ambitions to match.

Despite my rookie status, I was invited to chair the important Board Nominations Committee that first year—an induction of sorts. One achievement I am particularly proud of is that my suggestion to add a second researcher member to the ORCID Board was adopted without any serious objections. I felt strongly that, while I could speak to attitudes and developments in the physical and natural sciences, extending my role to represent the arts and humanities was not viable. As an immediate result, we appointed current Board member Karin Wulf to fill the gap. I believe that her active engagement and leadership have already been immensely beneficial to the ORCID mission.

Yet, despite my immersion into high-level policy discussions, I continued to have a hard time coming to grips what ORCID could really do for me as a researcher. That lingering confusion changed fairly abruptly in early 2018, after I took up a more senior academic and Faculty leadership role at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

My new employer turned out to be very keen to make an impact in the international research landscape. As part of the induction process, I was encouraged to link my research output to my ORCID and Scopus IDs, including recording my new affiliation. The University’s research support team proactively added my new affiliation to my ORCID and PURE research management pages as well.

Ostensibly, this makes it easier for our administrators to keep track of research outputs, grants, and the like, but any significant benefits for the researcher of going through these motions still escaped me. However, my indifference changed to excitement when I applied for my first research grant using the Australian Research Council’s web-based research management system at the beginning of this year.

The ARC had introduced a new feature that made my life as a grant applicant much simpler: instead of manually copying and pasting my bibliography into the relevant boxes, I could now pull my research outputs directly into the system by linking to the ORCID repository. Needless to say, this development saved me—and many other researchers nationwide—a significant amount of time, despite a number of lingering inconsistencies that have since been ironed out. Imagine having to copy and paste up to 100 articles one by one…! Whether or not it helped me write a better proposal is yet to be seen; the outcomes of this year’s applications for ‘Discovery Projects’ are still pending at the time of writing.

ORCID has now clearly reached a stage where it’s getting useful to me in my professional life. I hope that my suggestions and input into the Board’s large variety of discussions have contributed to an improved overall experience for all stakeholders. I have, for sure, gained a lot of respect for the dedication, drive, insights, and great personalities of my fellow Board members and of the hard-working ORCID staff alike. It’s time for me to move on, but I hope to remain involved somehow in ORCID’s further development and to keep in touch with the many friends I have made during my stint as ORCID Board member.

Thank you for your guidance, insights, and friendship!

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