May 21, 2022

Metadata: Addressing the Challenges with Organizational Identifiers and ISNI (New Report From OCLC Research)

Addressing the Challenges with Organizational Identifiers and ISNI is a new report from OCLC Research. It was made available online today.

The report was written by: Karen Smith-Yoshimura, Janifer Gatenby, Grace Agnew, Christopher Brown, Kate Byrne, Matt Carruthers, Peter Fletcher, Stephen Hearn, Xiaoli Li, Marina Muilwijk, Chew Chiat Naun, John Riemer, Roderick Sadler, Jing Wang, Glen Wiley, and Kayla Willey


2016-05-03_14-58-26Organizational affiliations of the creators of works are important to a variety of stakeholders, including academic administrators, funders, publishers, repository managers, software developers, rights agencies, and individual researchers. Identifying and tracking these affiliations can be challenging, as organizations may be known by a variety of names and may have schools or research centers well-known on their own. An organizational identifier— a unique, persistent and public URI associated with the organization that is resolvable globally over networks via specific protocols—provides the means to both find and identify an organization accurately and to define the relationships among its sub-units and with other organizations. This report presents new modeling of organizations that others can adapt for their own uses.

This report focusses on organizational identifiers from the perspective of academic institutions. Their ranks and reputation often determine their success in obtaining funding and attracting or retaining faculty. Identifiers provide the “glue” for institutions and funder systems to support comparing and ranking the outputs of the research process; assessing the impact of grants between institutions and their funders; and tracking and collating publications between researchers and their publishers. The report outlines a number of scenarios where the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) can be used to disambiguate organizations, including real-world examples.


  • Organizational identifiers provide the means for a variety of stakeholders to find and identify an organization accurately and define relationships among its sub-units and with other organizations.
  • The modeling of organizations provided can be adapted by others for their own uses, including linked data implementations.
  • Identifying and tracking organizations presents multiple challenges.
  • The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) has the means to disambiguate organizations and to meet the needs identified by 12 use-case scenarios.
  • The ISNI database already includes over 500,000 institutional identifiers derived from the registries of agencies with business needs for identifying institutions.
  • An outreach document targeted to academic administrators presents the reasons why organizational identifiers are important and the benefits of ISNI membership.
  • Organizations need to take responsibility for maintaining current and accurate information associated with their identifiers.

Direct to Full Text Report (42 pages; PDF)

On a related note…

Note: Metadata/publishing expert Laura Dawson recently launched an ISNI registration service. Details at The site includes a number of links to learn more about ISNI.

See Also: ISNI Lookup Database (via OCLC)
For example, The ISNI for Gary Price (infoDOCKET Founder/Editor) is 0000 0001 1491 993X.

UPDATE: On May 12, 2016 the Video Recording Embedded Below of a Recent OCLC Webinar Was Added to this Post

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.