Persistent Identifiers

Persistent identifiers are unique alphanumeric codes that signify permanent reference to something that can be linked on the web.  


A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a persistent link to a digital object. This can include a research paper, or a data set or anything in between. All published research data is assigned a DOI. The process is managed by the International DOI Foundation.


In order to disambiguate oneself from peer researchers with the same or similar names, it is recommended that all researchers register for a researcher identifier. Simply put, these are unique and persistent codes that identify an individual researcher and protect unique scholarly identities. 

Importantly, these identifiers are institution-agnostic, and remain with a researcher throughout the life of their research. Moreover, they are interoperable across systems and networks of publishers, funding organizations and research institutions. A researcher identifier helps to ensure that research outputs are correctly attributed, and can also connect researchers with contributions and affiliations. Ultimately, researcher identifiers can improve discoverability for researchers (and their research output) for funders, publishers and collaborators.  

The UWC eResearch Office recommends that all researchers register with a non-proprietary researcher identifier (ORCID). This can easily be connected to a Google Scholar profile, and to other identifiers that are linked to commercial publishers. Although there are numerous unique author identifiers that have been developed, the most commonly used are ORCID, Google Scholar, Web of Science ResearcherID and Scopus Author Profile. 

ORCID (recommended by UWC and required by the NRF) 

ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier) is a nonproprietary 16-digit alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies researchers. ORCID provides “a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from other researchers and a record that supports automatic links among all your professional activities”. Some researchers also change their published names during their career, and an ORCID allows them to gather these under one ID. 

Importantly, ORCID is an open, non-profit and community-driven effort, and it allows and encourages you to link your ORCID to other identifiers.


This is a popular way for researchers to collect their work and track citations automatically. Google Scholar links easily with ORCID and is a powerful CV-building tool for researchers. 


On a basic level, these tools do the same thing that ORCID does, but the important difference is that they are proprietary. The Web of Science ResearcherID is developed by Clarivate Analytics and used in their related products (such as the Converis research management tools used by UWC e.g. for tracking publications and by the Publons author profile creation tool), while the Scopus Author Profile is developed by Elsevier and used in Scopus (and related) products. While the degree of usefulness of these systems for the individual researcher depends to a large extent on the specific subscriptions its institution signs up for, they are both widely used by universities and funders to track research outputs, and researchers will thus find it useful to create and maintain their profiles.