Abuse of ORCID’s weaknesses by authors who use paper mills


In many countries around the world that use authorship and academic papers for career advancement and recognition, the accurate identity of participating authors is vital. ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), an author disambiguation tool that was created in 2012, is being vociferously implemented across a wide swathe of journals, including by many leading publishers. In some countries, authors who publish in indexed journals, particularly in journals that carry a Clarivate Analytics’ Journal Impact Factor, are rewarded, sometimes even monetarily. A strong incentive to cheat and abuse the publication ethos thus exists. There has been a recent spike in the detection of papers apparently derived from paper mills that have multiple issues with figures. The use of such figures across many papers compromises the integrity of the content in all those papers, with widespread ramifications for the integrity of the biomedical literature and of journals that may be gamed by academics. The use of ORCID does not guarantee the authenticity of authors associated with a paper mill-derived paper, nor does it fortify the paper’s integrity. These weaknesses of ORCID may dampen trust in this tool, especially if the ORCID platform is being populated by “ghost” (empty) ORCID accounts of academics whose identities cannot be clearly verified, or disposable accounts (perhaps created by paper mill operators) that are used only once, exclusively to pass the paper submission step. Open-source forensic tools to assist academics, editors and publishers to detect problematic figures, and more stringent measures by ORCID to ensure robust author identity verification, are urgently required to protect themselves, and the wider biomedical literature.

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  1. 1.

    https://orcid.org/statistics (10,895,590 accounts; last accessed: March 8, 2021).

  2. 2.

    https://forbetterscience.com/2020/01/24/the-full-service-paper-mill-and-its-chinese-customers/ (last accessed: March 8, 2020).

  3. 3.

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/10974644/homepage/Statement_figures.htm (last accessed: March 8, 2020).

  4. 4.

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/10974644/homepage/forauthors.html; it appears as if this instruction was updated near July, 2020, along with other instructions associated with figures (last accessed: March 8, 2020).

  5. 5.

    https://orcid.org/orcid-search/search?searchQuery=Wanggang%20Zhang (last accessed: March 8, 2020).

  6. 6.

    An empty or ghost ORCID profile is broadly defined as one that carries no information that could lead to the accurate identification of the individual, or allow that individual to be differentiated from other individuals with the same name, and also associated with ORCID.

  7. 7.

    The ORCID profile listed for Wanggang Zhang, the corresponding author of the Wan et al. (2018) paper, only lists the author’s name as “Wanggang”, and is a ghost ORCID profile: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5138-1216 (last accessed: March 8, 2020).


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Correspondence to Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva.

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The author declares no conflicts of interest of relevance to this topic. The author has no ORCID due to the concerns expressed in Teixeira da Silva (2020b).

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Teixeira da Silva, J.A. Abuse of ORCID’s weaknesses by authors who use paper mills. Scientometrics 126, 6119–6125 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-021-03996-x

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  • Authorship
  • Image integrity
  • Name and identity disambiguation
  • Third party services