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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies


Searching for Scholars
January/February 2013 Issue

People searching is always an adventure. While social networks such as Facebook can be great resources for personal information about active social network users, sources that are more specialized offer all sorts of different types of information. Searching for experts, scholars, and researchers can lead to any one of dozens of potential sources. The scholarly sphere has seen numerous attempts at enabling scholarly communication, and some have seen at least limited success while others have folded. No one system predominates, but several major scholarly databases are now combining scholarly author profiles and author identification schemes hoping to become an authoritative scholarly online destination.

For online searchers, these authorship systems can help find information about scholars, their affiliations, their research, co-authors and collaborators, and citation metrics. They can also help a searcher distinguish among similar names. For librarians working within scholarly organizations, knowing more about these tools presents a teaching opportunity to show colleagues how to set up profiles, add publications, and find related researchers.

The Big Three

While there are many scholarly networks floating around the web, three major players that tie researcher identification to bibliographic databases are Thomson Reuters, Elsevier B.V., and Google. Thomson Reuters' Web of Science database, hosted on its Web of Knowledge platform, has ResearcherID as its associated scholar database. Elsevier, best known as a huge journal publisher that soaks up a large proportion of most university libraries' collections budget, also competes with Thomson Reuters by pushing its Scopus database as an alternative to Web of Science. The Scopus Author Identifiers (and Author Profiles) provide a rival to ResearcherID. Google offers Google Scholar as an alternative, and free, bibliographic research database. In 2011, it added Google Scholar Citations as a way for scholars to identify themselves and to disambiguate their output from those with the same or a similar name.

Each of these three scholar identification tools is freely available at some level so that even those without subscription access to the commercial databases and those without accounts on the systems can view some level of information about the authors included in the databases. Each provides tools for authors to include multiple name variations and to disambiguate their output from other researchers with the same or a similar name. Each also provides citation analysis and statistics.


Introduced in 2008, one purpose for ResearcherID is as an author identification system. In the November/December 2010 issue of ONLINE, David Stern eloquently describes the author disambiguation problem ("Author as Object: Disambiguation and Enhanced Links;" pp. 29-33). ResearcherID continues to function as a scholar identifier, since authors can include information about their affiliations (including previous institutional affiliation); add alternate names; identify which publications are theirs and which are not; add subjects, keywords, and a description; and view their citation metrics. For those with institutional access to Web of Science, Web of Knowledge, or EndNote Web, ResearcherID links easily with these other Thomson Reuters products. However, anyone can view ResearcherID records, including citation lists even with subscription access to any other Thomson services. Unaffiliated scholars also can set up their ResearcherID profiles without needing a subscription.

Even after several years of availability, the majority of scholars have not taken advantage of all the ResearcherID capabilities or in most cases even set up a profile. ResearcherID does provide the ability for institutions to establish an administrator to bulk upload resident scholars' information, edit profiles, and build publication lists. Institutional citation data and scholarly activity statistics are available to those who use the management tools.

The links to Web of Science and EndNote Web make it easy to add publications to an author profile. Authors just grab citations directly from Web of Science or from a group in EndNote Web to include in their profiles. ResearcherID also allows two additional publication lists that can include works by other authors for comparative analysis or to track a colleague's work. Researchers can create a ResearcherID badge for embedding into a webpage or blog that will display (on a mouseover) the name, ID, and three recent publications with citation counts.

To search ResearcherID, either go to and click on the Search forf Members button or go directly to  to search by name, institution, keyword, country, or ID number. Other options show a tag cloud of top keywords, a tag cloud of the top 100 countries, and a world map that can click through to country results. The keyword search does not search every word in a scholar's description, subjects, or citations but only words and phrases listed in the Keywords field. For a broader searcher of such words in the records, try a Google search with a site and inurl limit. For example, a search adding a search term to inurl:rid will only search the ResearcherID domain for individual profiles and not promotional material since all profiles have a URL structured as followed by the ID number.

Scopus Authorship Identifier

While ResearcherID is an opt-in system, and only includes those who have registered with ResearcherID (either by themselves or had an institutional manager add them), Elsevier takes a different approach. Elsevier's Scopus database has both Author Identifiers and Author Profiles. The profiles pages are available for all authors in Scopus and do not require individual scholars (or their institutions) to enter anything. However, if the algorithms fail to identify all permutations of an author's name, a request can be sent to merge author identities into a single profile.

Like ResearcherID, Scopus Author information can be searched by anyone, usually. No Scopus subscription is required to search the Author Profiles via the free Scopus Preview link, shown in the sidebar, that has boxes for Last Name; Initials or First Name; and Affiliation. Last Name is a required field, so Affiliation cannot be searched separately. In addition, some searches cause an error message that says a subscription is needed to search Scopus. Going back and trying a second time typically gives results. The Affiliation field will work in conjunction with a Last Name, but the affiliations displayed are not always for the requested school. Instead, it appears to match on current or previous affiliations or educational institutions attended with no way on the free search to limit to just current affiliation. Another difficulty for free preview users is that it displays only the first 20 authors.

For searchers, one main advantage of Scopus Author Profiles is that it is a much larfger database of scholars since it includes many who do not even know that they are included. The information provided includes variant names, affiliation, number of documents published, total number of references, number of citations (although for highly cited authors it sometimes says "too many documents to calculate"), h-index, co-authors, web search results, publication date range, and a source history. This information is derived from the Scopus database and subscribers can view the citations, references, and journals. Nonsubscribers see subscriber-only links in gray, but at least the information is visible.

Searching is best done using the Scopus search form, despite the limitations mentioned previously. While a Google search strategy similar to the one for ResearcherID can be used, the Scopus robots.txt files tries to ban indexing of its content. Even so, a Google search such as inurl:authid with (or without) some additional search terms will display one URL result with a note that "A description for this result is not available because of this site's robots.txt" followed by a link to repeat the search to see more omitted results. Clicking that link will display more results that may find a few useful results, but not as many as searching directly at Scopus.

Google Scholar Citations

Launched in limited beta in 2011 and now available to all, Google Scholar Citations is yet another place for a researcher to set up a profile page with lists of publications and citation statistics. Like ResearcherID, Google Scholar Citations only includes those who establish a profile rather than all authors in the Google Scholar database.

Setting up a profile requires a Google account. While Google recommends using a personal account rather than an institutional account, the directions also say to "enter your university email address which would make your profile eligible for inclusion in Google Scholar search results." Unless a scholar includes an institutional (university or research center) email address and verifies that email address, the profile will not be publicly viewable. When setting up or editing a profile, authors can quickly add citations found in Google Scholar as well as delete erroneous citations, merge duplicate citations, and manually add additional citations.

Searchers may find Google Scholar profiles in regular Google search results, at the top of Google Scholar search results for a name, and within regular Google Scholar results. For each Google Scholar record where authors are listed, a profiled author will display with an underline below the green author text. One other search approach is on Google Scholar Citation Profile pages where there is an author search box in the upper right corner (or you can use the unwieldy URL shown in the sidebar).

The information provided by Google Scholar Citations includes name, affiliation, subjects, citation counts, list of publications, co-authors, and a photo. Strangely, the profile does not include the number of publications for the scholar. Both ResearcherID and Scopus Author Profiles show that number clearly. To find that information at Google Scholar, searchers must browse the list of publications to the last page to figure out the total number of publications listed. Instead, Google Scholar features only the total number of citations along with the h-index and the i10-index (standard citation impact metrics).

It's easy, in a Google Scholar profile, to create alerts to new articles by the scholar and new citations. Click the Follow New Articles or Follow New Citations link to set up email alerts. Scopus subscribers can add a scholar to their watch list, and Web of Science subscribers can create an author or citation alert but not from within ReseacherID. On the negative side, Google Scholar Citations does not display alternate names or previous affiliations.


With these three different scholarly profiling options (and many others available as well), it becomes tedious to try to maintain multiple profiles. It can be confusing to searchers who try to find the most accurate one. The push for open bibliography and a single author identification source led to the founding of the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID; initiative. In October 2012, the ORCID registry launched and can be connected to both Scopus Author Profiles and ResearcherID. In the early stages at least, when setting up an ORCID account, it allows for one importing publications option, and that is from Scopus. However, from within ResearcherID, scholars can add OfRCID as well.

On Nov. 19, 2012, Thomson Reuters announced it would incorporate ORCID identifiers into its scientific and scholarly research offerings to ensure that users of resources such as ResearcherID and ScholarOne Manuscripts could include their unique IDs into the attribution and publishing process.

ORCID uses a different identifier from either of the connected systems and is a four-part numeric identifier. My ORCID is 0000-0001-5212-5698, while my Scopus Author ID is 7004618897. My ResearcherID is A-9913-2011. Google Scholar does not yet connect with ORCID and does not display any specific identifier (although if you look closely at the URL you can find a user ID tied to the profile looking something like YIcktiIAAAAJ, but it is not searchable).

At this point, each system has a different number of publications and citations, and it may or may not even include a specific scholar. Calculations for metrics such as the h-index vary widely from each other due to the variations in the publication and citation numbers. The hope is that a wider adoption of ORCID could help make the online researcher space more consistent, but it is still early in that process.

Currently, the ORCID site only supports adding a list of Works (publications) even though it has "coming soon" labels on other types of information such as Grants, Patents, and Affiliations. The Personal Information section can add alternate names, country, keywords, website, and a biography. The public ORCID record is limited, however, as it seems to show only four publications. At least having the registry up and running and some other systems starting to connect with it gives hope for a more integrated future.

Other Scholar Options

Many other scholarly sites provide citation metrics, author disambiguation, and lists of publications. Micro­ soft Academic Search has been expanding its scope of coverage and has some intriguing tools. Log in to contribute to Microsoft Academic Search for the ability to edit not only your author profile and publications list and several other options such as merging authors or publications, uploading a BibTeX publication list, adding PDFs, adding a conference call for proposals, and adding in genealogical relations between authors. Discipline-specific sources such as the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) digital library have their own author system. (The ACM calls its system the "Author-izer Service.") Many more general scholarly social networking and citation systems have similar services ranging from Mendeley to Zotero to to ResearcherGate.

One approach to managing multiple scholar identification networks is to cross-link between them. For example, some scholars enter the URL for the Google Scholar Citations pages as a homepage in ResearcherID. Both ResearcherID and Scopus Author Profiles can link to an ORCID record. Google Scholar Citations can link to one homepage that could be any of the other networks or a personal page that links to all of them. But few researchers are in all systems or establish links between all that they are in, which leaves it to the searcher to discover the best source for a specific scholar. While no single scholar database is comprehensive, getting familiar with ResearcherID, Scopus Author Profiles, and Google Scholar Citations should help find most researchers find publications, biographical details, affiliations, and experts. And those working within research organizations can help their scholars establish an appropriate online researcher presence.

To Search or Create Accounts

Google Scholar Citations

Create Account:

Search Page:


Create Account:

Search Page:

Scopus Author Profiles

Search Page:

ORCID Registry

Create Account:

Microsoft Academic Search

Create Account:

Search: No separate form. Use author:(name) syntax

Greg R. Notess ( retired from being reference team leader at Montana State University and founder of SearchEngineShow­


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