Names aren’t unique and that’s a problem in the biblioverse. How many different authors are named John Brown, Mary Stewart, or Yuan Wang?

Library catalogers have been working on authority files for book authors for many years. In Catalyst (or other catalogs) this behind-the-scenes work is what lets you find a giant list of books for author: walt whitman, scan the list, then click on the link that pulls out only books by the American poet Walt Whitman. This list won’t include the Walt Whitman Foundation or Walt Whitman Rostow.

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There is no such control for article authors. If you search for an author in Google Scholar, Academic Search Complete, or any other article database, you are given a list with lots of different individual authors. Some databases like Scopus and Web of Science offer authors ways to email the company and try to pull all their papers together with a unique identification number, but that’s time-consuming. It’s also inefficient since only that database will use that particular identification number.

Another organization, ORCID – Open Researcher & Contributor ID, is trying to devise a “central registry” that could create unique IDs for authors and link to other ID systems.

In the meantime, please contact your librarian for help with author names and uniquely identifying your own research.


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