In a changing research environment, we are seeing increased importance placed on Open Access materials available via institutional repositories. Providing open access to research outputs, via institutional repositories, offers institutions an opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of their organisational research profile. This includes understanding what is being accessed and the extent to which it is being accessed.   In order to gain a fuller and more accurate picture of usage it is not only important to be able to access standardised statistics but it is also important to be able to accurately identify individual authors even in cases where the authors may share the same name. The Open Researcher and Contributor IDentifier (ORCID) is clearly of value in this scenario. In this respect, recent work by IRUS-UK points to improvements that will benefit the research community.

What is IRUS-UK?

IRUS-UK is a national aggregator of repository usage statistics. Its purpose is to collate and provide UK institutions with access to reliable, accurate standards-based usage statistics for their institutional repository. This enables them to gain a better understanding of the usage of their institution’s research, which they can then share with key internal and external stakeholders.

IRUS-UK collects data on all downloads from the institutional repository, not just articles, and processes the data into a form that adheres to the COUNTER Code of Practice. This ensures that the statistics provided through IRUS-UK are comparable, consistent and credible.

How is IRUS-UK used?

Repositories use IRUS-UK in a variety of ways. Use cases, developed by IRUS-UK, provide an overview of what repository managers (and other repository staff) want to be able to achieve and how IRUS-UK can support them. In addition, there are several case studies available, produced in collaboration with UK Higher Education institutions, which illustrate how those institutions have made use of IRUS-UK statistics. These are all available in our Support Materials area. Many use the statistics to report internally such as to institutional management. A number use the data for benchmarking purposes, and are able to compare their download statistics with other repositories of a similar size/focus or from institutions they benchmark against in other areas. Some also use the data to support advocacy, for example using the data to feed into newsletters, emails, and online statistics pages.

One of the key themes emerging from this collaboration was the value placed on having standards-based, reliable repository statistics. Knowing that the data goes through a series of filters and is COUNTER-compliant reassures repository staff that they can rely on the data to use within their institutions.

Improving reporting using IRUS-UK data

One of the main ways in which IRUS-UK data is used is for reporting.  In this respect one challenge has been in reporting on and searching for specific authors with a high degree of accuracy.  These challenges include cases where academic authors’ names may have ambiguities e.g. non-unique personal names, changes of names, inconsistent use of initial letters etc. or where two or more authors share the same name.

In IRUS-UK currently you can search for specific items and results by author name however, if for example a search produced the following author names: J. Smith; John Smith; John J. Smith it may be impossible to tell if these are all the same person or three separate individuals. The solution to this problem is to use the Open Researcher and Contributor IDentifier (ORCID). ORCID is a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes one researcher/author from every other researcher/author and is immune to name variations or changes. ORCIDs are a reserved block/subset of ISNIs (International Standard Name Identifier) used for identifying public organisations. Using both ORCIDs for individuals and ISNIs for institutions creates a step towards interoperability of identifiers at institutional level.

Exposing ORCIDs in IRUS-UK

IRUS-UK has collaborated with one of our participants, White Rose (a consortia repository of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York) to create a demonstrator, utilising ORCIDs, to be able to uniquely distinguish every researcher/author and so remove any ambiguities.

White Rose has exposed ORCIDs in the RIOXX profile, a metadata application profile that provides a mechanism to help institutional repositories comply with the RCUK policy on open access and has also created a custom ‘irus-orcid’ set to allow IRUS-UK to harvest ORCIDs via OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) without having to trawl through all the records without ORCIDs. IRUS-UK has done some development so that we now have a simple, but fully searchable, Author Index showing each author and their associated ORCID, along with the number of items and total download figures for each author. Clicking on a hyperlinked ‘ORCID’ lets you see an ORCID profile page for an individual showing a biography, publications list etc. By then clicking on a hyperlinked ‘total downloads’ figure you can see the individual author statistics page, as identified by his/her ORCID. This all means that you can be immediately certain that this is the same individual in each case, in spite of any variables and ambiguities in their name. This is extremely useful and is machine-readable, which means that being able to expose ORCIDs eliminates ambiguity, saves time and improves information flows between systems!



Once institutional repositories are in a position to implement RIOXX metadata and make it available via OAI-PMH we will be able to incorporate ORCIDs, funders, grant information and more into IRUS-UK and add much more functionality allowing, among other things:

  • Searching by ORCID
  • Producing targeted reports for authors
  • Producing targeted reports for funders
  • Producing theses usage for authors


To take advantage of this planned functionality we would like you to do the following:

  • Adopt the ORCID, encourage and embed its use into institutional repository workflows and across the organization. (Take a look at Jisc’s UK ORCID Consortium linked to below)
  • Install RIOXX plugins into EPrints or patches into DSpace
  • Expose ORCID metadata via RIOXX into OAI_PMH interfaces

If you are interested in progressing this to expose many more identifiers and would like to work in collaboration with the IRUS-UK team, then please contact the IRUS-UK helpdesk at


We spoke at the UKSG Forum 2016 on the 16th of November. ‘The innovation game: breaking the rules’ on the topic of ‘Exposing ORCIDs through IRUS-UK’. How staff at IRUS-UK have been successfully exploring the possibility of exposing ORCIDs – when implemented in institutional repositories via RIOXX – as a way to help HEIs report on the usage of research outputs from individual academics.

Other links

The CORE team have written a blog post ‘Analysing ORCID coverage across repositories through CORE’ and is a further example of the benefits of exposing identifiers.

ORCID membership is available to UK universities through Jisc’s UK ORCID consortium offering reduced membership costs and UK-based technical and community support.


This work is a further positive move towards achieving joined-up systems sharing joint identifiers to improve searching and reporting as well as supporting research. The IRUS-UK team is hoping to work with institutional repositories that have identifiers in their systems, that they are not yet exposing, to help improve reporting at an individual author level. This will enable us to take another step in open access best practice. Volunteer to work with us on this exciting new area of statistical reporting. Contact us at

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