If you’ve ever tried to execute a search in PubMed (or many other databases) for works by a given author, you have probably realized it can be a pretty messy proposition. A searcher currently has no alternative but to try a combination of the author’s surname and usually first and middle initials. If an author has a common surname, or if different articles have appeared with different combinations of first and/or middle name and initials, or if the author’s name has actually changed in the course of his or her career, searching for that researcher’s work can be a very hit-or-miss proposition indeed.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) hopes to improve this situation significantly with their PubMed Author ID project, announced in early November. Although the “specifics of PubMed Author ID are still evolving,” according to the NLM Technical Bulletin, the project’s goal is to “address the problem of ambiguous author names within PubMed and facilitate accurate search and retrieval of a participating author’s works.” NLM anticipates launching PubMed Author ID in mid-2011.
Beyond just the scope of PubMed, however, the problem of standardizing author and researcher identification is being tackled by a number of large-scale projects, such as the Open Researcher & Contributor ID (ORCID). NLM has expressed its intent to make the PubMed Author ID system interoperable with such externally-developed systems, so hopefully the PubMed Author ID can become a gateway to more effective searching across many databases around the world.
Director for Library Technology and Historical Collections