Strategic Investment in Identifiers Could Save $24 Million and 38,000 Person Days per Year

A cost-benefit analysis has revealed using persistent identifiers in the Australian research sector could save $24 million per year and 38,000 person days in wasted effort every year.
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A cost-benefit analysis has revealed using persistent identifiers in the Australian research sector could save $24 million per year and 38,000 person days in wasted effort every year.

The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and the Australian Access Federation (AAF) commissioned the MoreBrains Cooperative to undertake an analysis of the incentives for adoption of persistent identifiers (PIDs) by the Australian research sector. The report, published on 1 October 2022,  found:

  • Researchers spend 30-40% of their time on administrative tasks
  • The total time cost of rekeying metadata about grants, publications and projects is nearly 38,000 person days per year
  • The direct financial cost of this wasted effort is nearly $24 million per year. Accounting for the opportunity cost associated with technology transfer and innovation-led growth suggests a far higher figure of $84 million per year.

In the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) 2020 review of both the Excellence in Research for Australia and Engagement and Impact Assessment, the reduction of administrative burden on universities was seen as a key priority and freeing up researchers’ time from administration.  This enables them to conduct meaningful and impactful research in Australia’s national interest, which has become a key policy goal.

There has been increased interest in PIDs to address the administrative burden. PIDs, such as the Open Researcher and Contributor IDentifier (ORCID), are unique alpha-numeric codes that positively identify entities such as people, places, and things. PIDs offer a way to embed information (called metadata) into descriptions and records of entities at the point of creation or publication. In addition, PIDs provide a way to openly store the metadata in standardised formats that are both human- and machine-readable.  This facilitates information exchange and eliminates the need to tediously rekey information into multiple systems. 

The MoreBrains report includes case studies from the ARC and Australia’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). Professor Joe Shapter, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Infrastructure at the University of Queensland, gave a personal account of his experience using his ORCID ID: when publishing, and connecting his ARC profile to his ORCID record, his publication record is automatically added to his grant applications, saving 3 or 4 days per submission—as he put it, “a mountainous saving of work”.

The report illustrates how the Australian research sector benefits from:

  • The  AAF-led ORCID Consortium, which has saved its 43 member institutions $4.5 million since 2016 and provides valuable local support for ORCID system integrations
  • The ARDC’s suite of PID services provided free to Australian research institutions, including those for identifying and linking research data (Digital Object Identifier System or DOIs), grants (Persistent Uniform Resource Locator or PURL), physical samples (International Generic Sample Number or IGSNs) and projects (Research Activity Identifier or RAiDs).

Natasha Simons, Associate Director, Data & Services at the ARDC, said, “The MoreBrains report provides evidence for the staggering amount of time and money researchers and administrators spend rekeying information when it could be spent on research and other valuable activities. A whole-of-sector approach to persistent identifiers could go a long way in addressing this problem, as the success of ARC’s ORCID integration shows.”

Heath Marks, CEO of the Australian Access Federation said, “The ORCID Consortium, which is led by the Australian Access Federation, has demonstrated the value that ORCID provides to the sector through connecting the research ecosystem with grants, researchers and their outputs. By integrating ORCID at insitutitions, the research community has already seen the value that PIDS can provide. As recommended by the report there is more to be done.”

There are 6 recommendations in the Report:

  • Develop a national PID strategy for Australia, which builds on the success of the AAF-led Australian ORCID consortium, and leverages the leadership ARDC is already providing on PIDs
  • Key stakeholders in the Australian research sector—such as universities, research institutions, funders,  and infrastructure providers—should integrate a suite of 5 priority PIDs: ORCIDs for people, Research Organisation Registry (ROR) for institutions, RAiDs for projects, DOIs for research outputs, and DOIs for grants
  • As part of a longer-term strategy, work should continue on developing PIDs for Instruments, expanding the uses of IGSNs for samples, and potentially other IDs,  in collaboration with research communities
  • Funders should build on the success of ARC’s integration of ORCID into their research management system by adopting a similar approach and expanding to include the full suite of priority PIDs
  • Commercial providers of Research Information Management Systems (RIMS) and repositories and the communities that support open source RIMS should be engaged to encourage and enable the further wholesale adoption of PIDs into those systems
  • Ensure widespread adoption of PID workflows, with a target for 80% adoption of the five priority PIDs within 5 years.

Read the report (DOI:10.5281/zenodo.7100578) and learn more about the ARDC’s persistent identifier services

The ARDC is funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) to support national digital research infrastructure for Australian researchers.