Identifiers again: names

One area where growing interest in identifiers is very clear is that of people, particularly in their role as authors or creators. In this context, the Names Project in the UK is interesting:

The project is going to scope the requirements of UK institutional and subject repositories for a service that will reliably and uniquely identify names of individuals and institutions.
It will then go on to develop a prototype service which will test the various processes involved. This will include determining the data format, setting up an appropriate database, mapping data from different sources, populating the database with records and testing the use of the data.
This will provide important information about the future usefulness of a name authority service for institutional and subject-based repositories, and other applications beyond the repository sector. [The Names Project]

The website does not talk about how any ensuing service might be sustained.

The project has produced a useful Landscape report [pdf], documenting relevant standards and projects. Including Worldcat Identities and the VIAF project.

The benefits of using a consistent name are clear from a discovery point of view. So it is interesting that many people are inconsistent in how they identify themselves on their works. Search engines have probably made people more conscious of the distinctiveness - or otherwise - of their names? The additional step of unique identification would facilitate various services.

Related entries:

Comments: 2

Oct 10, 2007
Judith Pearce

I'm not sure that it is a good idea just to focus on people as authors or creators. There seems to be a conceptual gap here that is limiting our capability to think beyond current discovery paradigms. I'm finding it hard to articulate what the problem is but the symptoms are: DCMI talks about Agents; FRAR acknowledges that concepts are within scope but leaves this to FRSAR to develop; thesaurus standards acknowledge that names of people are in scope but focus on relationships between terms; encyclopedic entries (including Wikepedia) are seen as resources, not sources of people data. I think that starting to think about people in terms of entities that are objects of unique identification, description and discovery in their own right may help to clarify directions for deploying data describing people in institutions and institutional repository and discovery environments.

Oct 24, 2007
simon fenton- jones

That was interesting thanks. I agree with Judith though. It is a danger to focus on people, on one hand, as authors and on the other hand, as consumers. By doing so any inquiry will be led into conforming to a client/server paradigm. If Wikipedia (and others) has taught us anything, it's that a peer to peer paradigm is the only one that can enable and sustain a global groups' interactive (and certainly high bandwidth) media - one where sometimes a person is an author and sometimes a "consumer". Attempts by the Open Uni to make honorary teachers of OpenLearn students is just one example of new age institutions encouraging a consumer to become an author. (Now if we could just get the teachers to shut up:)

I disagree with your comment Judith - "encyclopaedias like wikipedia are seen as resources not sources of people data". You're quite wrong you know. It's true that if you click on a Wikipage's discussion' tab not much appears to be happening. But this is just the usual misconception given by "a domains" media. Most of the conversations take place on the wikipedia mailing lists which, like most conservative institutions, are buried below the radar. Very unlike the incoming culture of Myspacians and Bloggers.

Just reading the purpose of DAREnet from that Names Landscape doc. "To reliably link information about researchers and research groups with their published outputs, using existing management systems". The aim is terrific (to me). "Research groups" to a librarian's mind will mean Peering & P2P to their IP network engineers. But "using existing management systems" to help these global groups?

You only have to see how OCLC (and most others)outsource the distribution of their video records (of conferences, etc) to see a thorough misunderstanding of an interactive paradigm and new IP network technologies. Hopefully, if we can keep the institutional comms networks as clearly defined as 'their' repositories, 'their' management won't even notice that 'their' groups have run off to some social site.

Yu might like this.
Ever think that this may be a good place for a few good Questionpoints - ones that stand on the borders between institutions?

BTW Are you hearing any discussion about National Learning Accounts again?