Problems with ORCID, or 10 reasons why I don't have an ORCID number

Frank Ritter (, revised 19 Oct 21, drafted while working with a journal that required ORCID -- it only took 4 hours to format a ready paper to submit to that journal.

TL;DNR        ORCID solves problems for for-profit publishers to allow them to sell more and is thus a conflict of interest by them, particularly because they do not disclose clearly why they are interested in it and when they require it. Associated costs are pushed onto authors, and the costs are downplayed. The arguments for it, so far presented, are thin, illogical, misleading, and insulting instead. The use of ORCID appears to support decreasing community and due process by editors, whereas in the past editors would look at the authors and now can just look at a number. It solves some problems, like a universal contact valid across a career, but that is not sufficient to require it. So, it does not take 5 seconds to get, and it is very much an intrusion onto authors increasing their costs, and I show that it supports new ways to take credit away from authors. If it is such a good deal for authors, why require it?

I was reading about ORCID because a journal at the last step of submission required an ORCID number. The submitting author was required to have it to submit the paper, so I found a co-author with ORCID to submit it. I've turned down being an editor-in-chief because it required me to get an ORCID number (from a for-profit publisher). I have been an associate editor at an IEEE and another journal based on a respected society without an ORCID number. I claim a religious and ethical exemption below after noting why.

Not noting up front that a journal requires an ORCID number is a type of deep dishonesty. It is similar to require a social security number for non-tax-related activities.

from a web site with a similar thought: Dr M Barnish says: I am yet to be persuaded by this. It is another example of depersonalisation whereby we become a sequence of not very memorable numbers. With most names, if the name is written clearly and consistently within a field and with institutional affiliations, there is little risk of confusion. In the current climate of trying to combat guest and ghost authorship, I find it dishonest to allow people to publish under different surnames, as well as showing real issues about equality in our society. I think academia should require for the sake of transparency and integrity that academics publish under the name that is the same as on their degree (and ideally birth) certificates, so we can be sure they are not imposers. There is a lot of focus on plagiarism but little on impersonation.

Aaron Sloman, agrees with these points (Sloman, 2022).

So, I looked at a paper on ORCID that a Google search quickly provided called "Ten things you need to know about ORCID right now". I address each of its claims here and show that they are misleading, dishonest, or wrong. Taken as a whole, I do not believe that advocates are proposing the use of ORCID in good faith. I note that publishers really want it as a primary key, like a social security number or a national insurance number, so that they can aggregate and sell data on authors, as Elsevier is currently doing with their Pure and FingerPrint Engine.

In the preamble:

Have you ever tried to search for an author, only to discover that he shares a name with 113 other researchers? Or realized that Google Scholar stopped tracking citations to your work after you took your spouse’s surname a few years back?

No, I have not tried to search for an author only to discover that they share a name with 113 other researchers. If they did, I would also use their affiliation. As for Google, I created an account and use that to link my publications. Google Scholar would work perfectly if you managed your page with them. You should manage your page because the automatic algorithm often makes mistakes. Managing Google Scholar already takes about two hours a year or more. And, we do not require authors to have a Google Scholar page.


"The ten things to know about ORCID" also sounded like they could be not just advantages, but disadvantages.

Levy (1970), the famous Princeton sociologist, noted that without discussion or dissent there is uncritical thinking. The proponents for ORCID appear to be provide only one-sided arguments for it, and no nuance. The arguments appear to be mindless. This raises suspicions about why and how ORCID is needed and how it will be used. It looks like it will only complicate scholarly publication, and fix problems that can be solved by others with their own due diligence. It is an attempt to push further costs onto authors by for-profit publishers.


1. ORCIDs protects your unique scholarly identity

Generally, I'd like people to know where I am and who I am. and what I do. People doing their job also protect my scholarly identity. As the character Number 2 said, "I am not a number, I am a free man."

Brian Wilson and Martin Fenner ( note:

Author name ambiguity creates problems for everyone involved in scholarly communication. For universities and colleges, it means that there is no easy way to identify the publications and other scholarly works of their faculty and students—information they need for their institutional repositories, for expert discovery, for research assessment, and for other reporting purposes. Universities and colleges have several options to obtain this information: they can use library and administrative staff to collect this information, they can ask their researchers to regularly report their publications and other scholarly works, and they can obtain this information from a commercial service. Most institutions use a mix of these strategies, but a lot of information will simply be unavailable because it would require too large an effort. This means institutional repositories that are incomplete, researchers who are unaware of potential collaborators in their institution, and scholarly activities that go unnoticed.

There are numerous incorrect statements in this statement. Name ambiguity does not create a problems for everyone involved -- unless I am not involved, and I am involved. It has not created problems for my students, who I would like to have included as part of the university. There is indeed no easy way to identify the publications and other scholarly works of a university's faculty and students. Period, full stop. You really have to talk with them, read the papers, and read their other papers to understand what scholarly work was done at a university and what was done by a collaborator, and what they were a major contributor to and which publications were not justified as their major work; even if their name is on it; even if their name is off of it.

This understanding does take effort, and takes some sense about who is involved and who is not. Will this movement also require ORCID id's for folks in the acknowledgments? For funders, for previous cited works? My institution does not keep an institutional repository, it has to have folks note what if they wish to be used or seen as experts in what fields, we have seen the problems and warping effects of research assessment, and other reporting purposes is too vague to take seriously. If the information is unavailable because it takes too large of an effort, perhaps it is not worthwhile to have? Or, it is too nuanced to automate? Institutional repositories are already noted as not existing (nor does it feel worthwhile), and researchers who would use an ORCID number to find collaborators are using a much much weaker tool than Google and Google Scholar, which already exist. The amount of hyperbole in this paragraph suggests that there is something else driving this process, and I am thus skeptical of this process.

Oh, and further to this, your number has an associated password, which could be stolen. Then you really have a problem! Now you have to protect something that they have given you.

2. Creating an ORCID identifier takes 30 seconds

This reminds me of a social security number.

So, while an ORCID number takes 30 seconds to get (The Royal Society says, 1 min.), it looks like it takes 30 seconds to get and an 3600 seconds to maintain and 100 seconds/use, so this predicted time to obtain the ORCID number is not wrong, just deeply and deliberately misleading with respect to time. Also, the Royal Society authorship in this case, is by someone who is also the Director of Community Engagement & Support for ORCID. []

Examining this process seems like it solves someone elses' problem, not mine. I know who I cite and I know who I work with.

Oh, and you get a password that you are supposed to protect. if you are protecting it, it is something that is valuable, but you did not pay for it. So, it must be your privacy that you are paying with, and time on the back-end.

And, now you have yet another web platform to manage that you don't own. By manage, they mean keep your password safe and update your profile periodically.

They will want you to tie the number to your publications. I have over 100. If I don't, I won't be 'getting credit' for my publications. Oh, and my grants, and places of work. So, this time cost is greatly discounted, and I suggest deliberately misleadingly so.  But, what I have noticed is that ORCID helps others get credit for your work, which is the opposite of me getting credit for my work.

Their site requires certain browsers, so you should also spend time to get browsers.

So, while you can get it in 30 seconds, it will take hours for you to do their work for them of building their database connections that they can sell.

3. ORCID is getting big fast

At the rate in 2014 "growing every day", it now has 500k/year. so now they have over 2.5M people with numbers.

Most academics do not have an ORCID id, and most that I talk to have not heard of it. For profit publishers do and people who work for for-profit publishers do. It is popular because the for profit publishers are requiring it, not because academics are choosing to get one.

4. ORCID lasts longer than your email address

The people pushing ORCID appear to be greatly supported (but not exclusively) by for-profit publishers. They want more manuscripts, and thus perhaps have created a problem for themselves.

Does it really last longer? who will I have to pay, or who will monitor my traffic? My SSN also lasts longer than an email, but I'm not trading it about.

5. ORCID supports 37 types of “works,” from articles to dance performances

There are more than that number of works, and there is thus some bean counter trying to find all types of work. This reminds me of Activity Insight which has been poorly designed, but Penn State wants faculty to use it to count productivity rather than read and understand the faculty output. It also reminds me of the ontology in Endnote, which is not bad but the ontology breaks down all the time and but can be worked around. With the mindset in this article, I suspect that the 37 kinds cannot be extended or worked around when necessary. I have on my CV an "invited product review mis-published as a letter to the editor". Is that one of the 37? Is there a "conference paper accepted but accidentally left out of the proceedings"? (and I flew to Australia to give the paper!).

6. You control who views your ORCID information

I have done so already by not having one.

But, what if after publication I wish to advertise a paper less. Say I published a chapter with a for-profit publisher and found that the process left the paper much worse off (which I have done, just once). With ORCID, it looks like I'm stuck with that paper being equal to all other papers. Currently, I just don't note it very often.

And, what if I do not want an ORCID id? it looks like that I do not control who views it if journals require it.

What if I would like to retire my number? Do I control that?

If a for-profit publisher requires it for submission, do I still have control?

7. ORCID is glue for all your research services

"And new services are connecting to ORCID every day," so, taking a minimum approach, since 2014 there have been over 1200 services added. I suspect not. This type of hype seems to smell funny.

But, I don't see a need to glue my research services together. They seem quite fine as they are.

8. Journals, funders & institutions are moving to ORCID

This reminds me of the student ID I purchased when I was a student, and the faculty ID I was required to purchase when I was a Fulbright Scholar. The ID in each case was sold by the same "student travel" agency in Ireland. In the student case, the only people who required that student ID was the folks who sold it! All other groups took my university ID. For the faculty ID, which came from the same fine folks with my Fulbright and travel support, it came a as a make-your-own kit where you put a picture in it and used an iron to seal it. My airline that took me to my Fulbright on a ticket that was a 'faculty rate', literally laughed at it. The journals moving to use ORCID seem like the predatory publishers who started it.

Get credit for your work! they note. I already do. The folks requiring it now are for-profit or predatory non-profit publishers.

9. When everyone has an ORCID identifier, scholarship gets better

"How many hours have you wasted by filling in your address, employment history, collaborator names and affiliations, etc when applying for grants or submitting manuscripts?"

Simply, none. I don't have to do this. A solution that advertises to fix a problem I don't have seems like snake oil. And, when I do apply for a grant, I choose what of my experience to note, which of course varies by proposal. Alternatively, I have to keep their numbers and they have to maintain a database for ORCID.

10. ORCID is open source, open data, and community-driven

"ORCID is a community-driven organization. You can help shape its development by adding and voting for ideas on ORCID’s feedback forum.

It’s also Open by design. ORCID is an open source web-app that allows other web-apps to use its open API and mine its open data. (We actually use ORCID’s open API to easily import information into your Impactstory profile.) Openness like ORCID’s supports innovation and transparency, and can keep us from focusing myopically on limited publication types or single indicators of impact.

While you can share, they also mention that their databases can be mined. As we learn repeated and dolefully, if you are not paying for it, you are part of the product.

And, it looks like your university has to pay to provide these. Not a large amount, just $5,000. Across the US's 2000 colleges and universities this is only $10,000,000 (!) per year. Or, over $5/number plus maintenance, to solve a problem for for-profit publishers.

11. Summary: There are other solutions

If the problem is unique names, then the folks without unique names could make their own. Like David Cranfield Smith, or Yu April Apple Yan. Jon King Wong. Or,

Can I have two ORCID numbers please? One for my publications and one for my anonymous publications.

12. Unintended consequences

ORCID is really an attempt to make a primary key for for-profit publishers' databases. This key will support a wide range of activities, mostly benign. But, it will support a wide range of other activities, and will obtain most of the ills that SSNs and driver license numbers lead to because they CAN be used, so why not use them? There is no protection from, as far as I can see, a US agency or foreign government from using these numbers as a primary or secondary key, to, for example, track who publishes inappropriate literature. Or cite malcontents. Or create dossiers of your work, even work you no longer think is relevant for a particular position, diluting the work that is relevant according to the author's perspective.

Also, you can get less credit with ORCID. Here's how: With ORCID the papers can be sorted by university. For example, As you can see, the authors' names are not noted, but the university is. We can see where the authors are located from the URL, but not who the authors are. So, the authors can explicitly do not get credit when ORCID is used. Penn State use the "Pure" system to summarize my work, without asking or even telling me. I thus did not receive credit for my work, or, I am least unsure. Pure was used by Elsevier to get credit and I suspect payment for my work.

Also, as I look at the use of ORCID, the tie to ORCID will help for-profit publishers to find you and your papers on the net. And, then haul the papers down and put them behind pay walls. So, you will get less credit unless someone pays.

So, it is for publications (only)? Already on their web site is the use of ORCID for tracking other outputs and for other uses. It will not be used solely for publications.


At this point I claim a religious, and personal privacy objection. It is an attempt to provide a universal identifier to support both appropriate and inappropriate tracking. I do not submit to or work for publication that require ORCID. IEEE requires them now but I believe that the APA and APS do not. I think it is ok if you want to get one, but requiring it is not acceptable. When is something so good that you have be be required to get it? Vaccinations perhaps, but with commercial goods it is unusual.


Levy, M. J. (1970). Levy's nine laws of the disillusionment of the true liberal. Sociological Inquiry, 40(Winter), 111.


Appendix: Publons, a related problem

Found on Google:

Publons - is it a serious thing

Here is their current web page, which in contrast to the Google+ page you linked to appears to be up-to-date. Although this is the first time I've seen this site, my impression is that it's ethically okay and not a hoax. That said, it also seems quite unnecessary to me, and I would not bother to use it. What will it yield scientists in the long run? -- I would estimate: With about 2% probability, the website will catch on and become popular. Probably this would be at the insistence of university administrators, who are often looking for new ways to measure and evaluate the performance of faculty. The website will yield another hoop for researchers to jump through, and possibly (as the website claims) to increased recognition of researchers who do an unusually good job of peer review. With about 98% probability, the website will largely be ignored, and the net effect on the scientific community will be nil. In general, I would advocate ignoring advice originating from commercial publishers; personally, I would only consider using this site if I were urged to do so by scientists in my field or by administrators at my university. --Anonymous