Tracking Funding, Reducing Burden and Increasing Transparency

HRA Members Meeting Spring 2018

Given the fragmented system of funding and employing researchers, it is difficult to directly and clearly measure the impact of funding. Some government and non-governmental funders are piloting strategies to reduce the burden placed on investigators by providing information in tedious entering mechanisms and to improve funder efficiency by using persistent identifiers.

Managing funding and investigator data

During the Members Meeting in Spring 2018, the National Institute of Health (NIH), ORCID and Crossref described their efforts to better manage funding and investigator data. The ORBIT project, a partnership between NIH and OCRID, expands the existing identifier data model to include faculty profile information as well as assigning Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to grants.

Instead of building yet another identification system, the NIH is collaborating with ORCID and initiated the ORBIT project (ORCID Reducing Burden and Improving Transparency) that expands the current ORCID data model. The goal of ORBIT is to improve the impact infrastructure to better track funder impact, encourage the development of better productivity measures and incentives, support collaboration and expert locator services, and maintain researcher control and privacy, while also reducing the researcher burden.

According to Neil Thakur, Special Assistant to NIH Director for Extramural Research, ORBIT will broaden connections to research and career data that is usually only reported on CVs and will allow to better track funded work, it’s impact, and all interconnections between and across people, funding, and products (see Figure 1). It will also enable to link researchers to funding and professional activities with verified and structured data, which will ultimately minimize the replication of funding efforts.

Laurel Haak, Executive Director of ORCID, emphasized that using such an infrastructure could enable forms of real-time understanding of scientific research. “These unique researcher identifiers have the potential to bring efficiency and transparency to the creation and re-use of research data.”

“Funders want to know what other funders fund”

Why should other funders care about ORCID? Using this system will provide verified and valid information about the author, previous publications, funding, and employment. It not only improves the application data quality, but also enables funders to easily track publications, acknowledgments, and outcomes, regardless of the reporting system used. Additionally, it is easy to import and share ORCID data with other systems such as Crossref and Figshare.

“Funders want to know what other funders fund and publishers want to know what other publishers publish”, says Geoffrey Bilder, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Crossref. “Crossref makes that efficient and frees up the researcher from entering tedious data.” According to Bilder, ORCID is important to disambiguate local identifiers without having to change the current system. Using a pre-registrant number will automatically validate and reference existing data, which will not only make the process of entering data easier, but also more accurate and specific. By adding this pre-registrant number, local funder-specific identifiers will turn into global identifiers, which will improve the whole infrastructure of the meta data.

Funders can improve the value and openness of research

Using ORCID and Crossref is still only optional and the NIH, that already started to integrate ORCID, will not require it legally for a while, but they encourage the use of it. So far, there has been no pushback or problems with compliance or implementing ORCID for either researchers or different grant management systems.

Ultimately, Haak said that “funders wield the power to improve the value and openness of research information,” and using a unique and persistent identification system may help to realize this.