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In recent years, several organizations (publishers, arXiv, universities) started pushing for systems of a reliable author identification, gaining considerable traction with the recent launch of ORCID. This works by assigning IDs to persons. In some cases, the person itself can then connect his/her articles to the person ID. In other cases, publishers ask / want to ask for the ID upon manuscript submission.


There are some obvious advantages of a precise and machine-readable author identification. These pros are strongly advocated by the big organizations, which are of course very interested. But what about the cons? Before all researchers become obliged to using such IDs, we should discuss the cons and potential problems, and potentially voice our opinion on this issue.

I don't see a big killer-drawback right now, but somehow being tracked by some never-forgetting ID seems quite intrusive.

The biggest drawback might be a loss of privacy. Your research output could then be identified reliably and used for all sorts of data mining. Algorithmic rating of a researcher's output becomes very simple for anyone interested. People could study the "graph of your collaborators" etc.

Somehow I find it preferable to be able to "publish" my publication list myself, i.e., to keep this data in my control - at least to a certain extent. Persons are changing over time. Are you sure that you will still be proud of your last paper in 20 years time? In some extreme cases you might not want to include a certain article in your next grant/job application.

Perhaps this is a little paranoid, but still. What do you think and what are the biggest potential disadvantages?

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closed as off topic by Igor Pak, quid, Chris Godsil, Alexandre Eremenko, Andy Putman Jan 6 '13 at 14:33

Questions on MathOverflow are expected to relate to research level mathematics within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I think this question is better asked at – Joel Reyes Noche Jan 6 '13 at 14:02
Thanks for the advice. I have removed the wikipedia link. It Was perhaps a little over the top. @Vahid Shirbisheh: No. The point is, 1) that humans can forgive and forget. A database usually doesn't. 2) What are the disadvantages of such a tracking system for the authors? – Craig Peterson Jan 6 '13 at 14:23
@Criag: Honestly, I don't see any disadvantages for myself as an author. But people have different opinions and I'd like to see what others think about this issue. – Vahid Shirbisheh Jan 6 '13 at 14:35
@Yuichiro Fujiwara: There are several (pure) mathematicians active on academaia.SE (one of the highest rep users is a mathematician). So asking it there and getting (pure) maths opinions is not at all mutually exclusive. Indeed, also this co-authorship question cames up there in some form on ocassion, see for example here… – quid Jan 6 '13 at 15:08
The question (in slightly improved form) can now be found at… . – Craig Peterson Jan 6 '13 at 15:30

In my opinion it is crazy (and dangerous!) to compare machine readable author IDs on papers with tattooed ID numbers in concentration camps. A paper already has a printed name of the author on it. What is bad about making the different persons called John Doe distinguishable? You are asking to be able to 'unpublish' things? I find that contradictory to the notion of publishing.

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Thanks for the advice. I have removed the wikipedia link. Back to the question: I don't say that distinguishing authors is bad and I don't ask about unpublishing things. I am asking, what about the (potential) drawbacks of such an ID system that you are forced to use. Why can't authors resolve possible name ambiguities themselves, and the way they want to do it? – Craig Peterson Jan 6 '13 at 14:27
To add on this: If you can freely choose to publish the list of your articles (under some ID, if you like), for example in order to resolve name ambiguities, there is surely no problem with that and many people will be interested. If you want, you can change the list etc. But if all important preprint servers and journals force you to provide a universal ID, that is a different issue - perhaps a bit like imposing a Facebook for researchers. – Craig Peterson Jan 6 '13 at 14:35
Even without any new personal identifiers, and even if I were to publish an incomplete list of my publications, anyone could find a more accurate version of my publication list with an easy search on MathSciNet. That includes a couple of papers that I'd gladly "unpublish" because they present rediscoveries of known results that weren't known to me. So for me, ID numbers would make no real difference. It might be different if my name were "John Smith", but I hope that, even then, I wouldn't try to blame another John Smith for my bad papers. – Andreas Blass Jan 6 '13 at 22:21

Something tells me this thread's going to get closed at faster than the speed of sound unless OP thoroughly edits the question. But I think it's only good to make it easier to identify researchers eisier and don't see any reason not to.

On a related note, I like the policy of the journals by American Physics Society that allows you to use your native language to display your name on your paper, though currently it's only for Chinese, Japanese and Korean. It's quite difficult to distinguish "similar" names when spelled in the very exotic alphabet, namely the Latin alphabet. Often the time, they're similar or the same only when spelled in the Latin alphabet even. I'm already having trouble memorizing very foreign sounding names such as John Smith. It'd be nice if AMS and others follow the example of APS.

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