Why Hein’s ORCID Integration Could Be a Big Deal for the US News Law School Scholarly Impact Ranking

HeinOnline recently announced that it has integrated its author profiles with ORCID enabling authors of legal publications to connect their ORCID iD with their Hein author profile.  If you’re following the news on US News & World Report’s new law school scholarly impact ranking, this is potentially a pretty big deal.

So what’s ORCID? 
ORCID provides unique, persistent digital identifiers (ORCID iDs) for authors that distinguish their work from the work of other authors.  It’s sort of like a social security number for authors.  It’s intended to address the problem of author name ambiguity in scholarly communication.  Personal names are not unique and names may change over time, such as with marriage.  Some people use nicknames or initials, often inconsistently.  ORCID iDs are meant to resolve all that ambiguity by identifying authors by id number.  They are free and pretty easy to register for.  The ORCID iD profile lists an author’s credentials and list of their publications.  Here’s my ORCID iD profile, for example.  The thing is, though, that ORCID isn’t really used much in legal publishing, so not many legal scholars have ORCID iDs.

Why Hein’s ORCID integration could be a big deal for the scholarly impact ranking?
The new US News scholarly impact ranking will measure law faculty (tenured and tenure track only) productivity and impact “using citations, publications, and other bibliometric measures” although they haven’t yet announced how exactly it will be calculated.  Hein is providing US News with this data from its extensive database of law-related periodicals.  There has been very vigorous discussion in the legal scholarly community about the merit of such a ranking and the relative exclusion of multidisciplinary works.

It’s that last part that’s relevant here – the multidisciplinary works.  Take a look at the last sentence from the recent Hein press release about their ORCID integration:

Shane Marmion, President of William S. Hein & Co., Inc., says: “HeinOnline is excited to join forces with ORCID to unveil this new integration within our Author Profile Pages. ORCID’s ability to provide unique identifiers makes a great fit for our premier research platform, which contains the works of hundreds of thousands of authors. The integration will streamline the process of identifying authors who publish under multiple name variations by connecting them to their affiliated works. Additionally, authors with scholarly works found outside of HeinOnline will be able to use their ORCID account as a gateway to showcase this content in their Author Profile Page.

That sounds promising, but what does it mean?  According to Hein, in the current phase of the Hein/ORCID integration, connecting your ORCID iD to HeinOnline allows you to “display your HeinOnline works on your ORCID record.”  So that’s a data flow from Hein to ORCID meaning that all publications appearing in your Hein author profile will be automatically added to your ORCID profile.  That’s cool but on its own, not that impactful.

What about a data flow in the other direction from ORCID to Hein?  For example, if there is a publication that’s listed in your ORCID profile that isn’t in your Hein author profile (say a multidisciplinary publication), will information about that publication be sent to Hein for inclusion in the Hein author profile?  If so, that could really impactful.

I contacted Shane Marmion to ask that very question.  I share his response with his permission – emphasis is mine.

To answer your question, the ORCID integration absolutely provides us the ability to pull publication metadata from ORCID into the HeinOnline Author Profile and it is our intention to do this as phase 2 of the integration process later this year

As for the phase 2 details, the concept right now is that there would be a toggle/button within the HeinOnline author profile which when clicked would populate the data from ORCID right within the HeinOnline Author Profile page without needing to leave the site and go to ORCID.

And the even bigger question, would publication information from ORCID be integrated into the rankings data shared with US News?

The question about using the publication information from ORCID for additional citation analysis for the US News Scholarly Impact Ranking is also something that we had considered and was one of the many reasons why we felt the ORCID integrations made sense for HeinOnline. While I can’t say for sure that it will be used, it is certainly our intention to utilize it down the road if possible

One thought is that for publications which are listed in an ORCID profile and not included in HeinOnline, that since we would have a feed of these publications, we could try to count citations to these works from full text content in HeinOnline such as by search for book title and author in the text. Again, this is just very preliminary thoughts at the moment.

What might this mean for law authors and law librarians?
As Marmion notes, ORCID to Hein data flow is in preliminary development now, but it does look promising.  So this may be a good time to start creating ORCID iDs and curating them with a complete list of works so that if and when this data flow begins, your multidisciplinary publications will get pulled in to Hein.

Hein ORCID integration screen shot

Authors:   First step, register for an ORCID iD.  Then connect it up with HeinOnline.  Here’s a screenshot of what a connected profile looks like.  Click that “Send works to ORCID” button to set up the data flow.

Then go to your ORCID profile and start adding other publications.  You might find that some of your publications from SSRN or other databases are already in there and you may have to do some clean up including grouping multiple versions or editing/deleting works.  You can also add works manually.

Not sure about all this?  Contact a librarian.  They might be able to help.

Librarians:  Same first step, register for an ORCID iD – even if you’ve never written anything. With an iD, you can update someone else’s ORCID profile if they give you permission to be a trusted individual (delegate).  This will allow you to connect up their profile in Hein and start populating their ORCID profile will a full list of their publications – multidisciplinary and all.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done.  Having librarians work with every tenured and tenure track faculty member to curate a complete list of their works in ORCID may represent a huge amount of work for the library staff.

Is creating, curating, and linking ORCID profiles with Hein worth the time and effort?  Potentially, especially for schools that have a lot of multidisciplinary scholars.

In theory, if and when Hein gets to phase 2 of pulling publication information from ORCID into Hein and if that data does get incorporated into the US News Ranking, it could help level the playing field for multidisciplinary scholars.  If US News counts publication numbers in addition to citation numbers (we don’t know yet exactly what they’re counting), the addition of those multidisciplinary works could make a big difference.  But even if US News just counts citations, per Marmion, the ORCID to Hein integration could capture citations from Hein’s collection of law publications to multidisciplinary works, including treatises, imported from ORCID.  That could also make a significant difference.

What it won’t do is capture citations from multidisciplinary publications not available in Hein.  For that, we’ll still have to look to other citation indexes such as Web of Science as suggested by Ruhl, Vandenbergh, and Dunaway in their work, “Total Scholarly Impact: Law Professor Citations in Non-Law Journals.”