May 24, 2022

Who Are You? New International Identifier (ISNI) Connects the Right Person With the Right Credentials

Very exciting and great to see the wonderful and useful Virtual International Authority File (developed by OCLC Research) being used to power a service MANY have desired for a very long time.

Here’s the Full Text of a ProQuest Announcement:

More than 45 million people “like” Stefani Germanotta’s Facebook page and a similar number count themselves as fans of the internationally renowned author/singer/songwriter Roosevelt Gook.  While instantly recognizable under their stage identities, Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan are far more difficult to trace through their real names (or less famous pseudonyms in Dylan’s case). And performers aren’t the only ones changing names: authors often write under multiple names, making it difficult for readers to find their other works.  Libraries, too, invest enormous efforts in disambiguating creators and sorting their works.  Equally important, especially to the creators themselves, is the ability for organizations administering rights to correctly identify who gets what royalty.

Now, a cultural industry standards group has created a system that will connect the right information with the right person – no matter which name is being used — the same way books with similar or even identical titles (think Atlas of the World) move from publisher through to distribution and ultimately to the buyer with precision – delivering the exact title, author and format.

The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) Agency — founded by a worldwide group of organizations that serve researchers – has crafted an ISO standard that neatly connects appropriate information with the appropriate public identity, whether it’s Albert Einstein, John Lennon or Kermit the Frog.  With inspiration from International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), ISNIs create a unique 16-digit code for individuals or characters that’s shared across all the information related to the cultural and scholarly contents associated with them.  The ISNI system was launched this month with an initial database of more than a million names, created by consolidating data from VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File maintained by 19 major world libraries) and data from 15 other groups, including rights management organizations, professional societies, government grant organizations and the supply trade.

“The ISNI will make the job of identifying rightsholders quicker and cheaper,” said Olav Stokkmo, CEO of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) – a founding partner in the ISNI agency.  “With less duplication of work, collective management organizations and libraries will find it easier to work together to promote access and reward creators.”

“It’s a practical solution that promises to streamline and improve the accuracy of virtually any biographical research,” said Beat Barblan, Director of Identifier Services at Bowker.  Bowker, an affiliated business of ProQuest – a founding partner in the ISNI agency – is the official U.S. ISBN assignment agency and its experience in tracking media has made it an integral part of the new ISNI International Agency.

ISNI’s simplicity is powered by worldwide cooperation among information-laden organizations.  The process works like this: Individuals, their agents, or in the case of fictional characters, their creators can apply for a unique number through a registered ISNI agency.  The agency then shares the number across the global digital information industry, enabling research organizations to apply it to content by or about the individual held in their databases.   Users tapping into any of the organizations that use ISNIs will need only a name and just enough background data to zero in on the correct identity.  Then, the ISNI will take over, connecting all the appropriate public information. Users can also start with an ISNI and find the identity and data that matches it.

Direct to ISNI Database (Free to Search)

Direct to ISNI Web Site

See Also: ORCID:

ORCID aims to solve the author/contributor name ambiguity problem in scholarly communications by creating a central registry of unique identifiers for individual researchers and an open and transparent linking mechanism between ORCID and other current author ID schemes. These identifiers, and the relationships among them, can be linked to the researcher’s output to enhance the scientific discovery process and to improve the efficiency of research funding and collaboration within the research community.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.