Want to be recognised? Update your website publication list!


original image

Well-appreciated problem: It's difficult to be found unambiguously in the scientific literature if your last name is Wang, and your first – and only – initial is X. Lesser appreciated problem (apparently): others want to find out what you've published most recently by visiting your website, but can't. Your name in Chinese characters is much more specific to you, I know, but unfortunately scientific indexing services and their users would find it too hard to implement identification by Chinese characters – beautiful though they are (I once took lessons in Chinese/Japanese calligraphy).

Though the example of a Chinese researcher is particularly stark, the basic problem is manifest across the globe; partly because of the fact that unthinking parents with common surnames don't give their children six first names. OK, I am joking: how can they possibly know that their little cooing and burping infant will one day need that many when he/she goes into science; but the problem is perpetuated because of an apparent lack of interest amongst scientist who are long out of diapers in making people aware of their latest literature contributions via their website. For example, I incessantly stumble across scientists' webpages where the last given entry in the publication list is from 2009 – and I know that very few scientists can survive four years these days without publishing. This lack of attention is no good if you are, for example, David Jones (very common first and last names in Anglo Saxon culture), or, for another, Xing Wang (1,049 entries in the ISI Web of Knowledgesm). The problem is compounded by the fact that often a single first name is represented only by an initial letter in the literature index. And what to a person from one country might seem like a very rare last name, might, in fact, be a very common name in the country of origin: who in the West would think that a search with Srinivasan A turns up at least 1,688 records in the ISI – except, of course, Srinivasans living in the West.

Well, another Jones has obviously thought about the problem in a constructive fashion, and on his website you will read: For a complete search via Pubmed please look here: Pubmed Search And copy and paste the following into the SEARCH field: jones rg[Au] AND (McGill OR thompson CB[au] OR Ohashi PS[au] OR Isenman D[au]); hence achieving specificity via institutional affiliation (McGill University) – which can, in principle, be supplemented by other institutions backwards in the professional career – and via co-publishing authors: specificity by association. Congratulations Dr. Jones! (or was it the webmaster?).

Still, in addition to that, updating a website publication list is a very good idea, and in this context I return to the matter of the webmaster: I appreciate that some institutions or research organisations manage researchers' webpages centrally, and changes must be submitted before being effected. It cannot be expected of a webmaster to update a scientist's publication list: how could they unambiguously identify the latest publications via a literature search? Researchers, I implore you: be more active in updating your publication lists online or asking someone to do it for you.

ORCID to the rescue? We are not quite there yet, but the launch of the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) system of unique author identification (see https://orcid.org/) should make the unambiguous searching for the latest scientific output of a particular author much easier. However, 1. That will take some time to percolate through the scientific establishment, and 2. There remains the question of how, most efficiently – and with appropriate controls for true identity, to apply ORCIDs to literature published before authors acquire an ORCID. ORCID will increasingly tackle the problems I've noted above, but that's not an excuse for neglecting one's website, because many people visit that website to identify you unambiguously in the first place.

I suppose that if all scientists had attended to their website publication lists in exemplary fashion, updating them impeccably, it would have diminished the awareness of the problem for which ORCID was developed, and slowed the implementation of unique identifiers. Still, your website is your showcase to the world – a potentially far more interesting and personal presentation of your work than a dry, technical literature search output; make the most of combining that aspect with a highly up-to-date presentation of your publications. Particularly for our valued Chinese authors, but also for all the Jones, Smiths – and Srinivasans – out there, ORCID is there to help you, but please help yourselves as well…

original image

Andrew Moore