Organisation Identifiers

Working Group Chairs:
Kevin Dolby, Wellcome Trust
Huw Charles, ARMA/UCL
Jisc/Group project manager:
Christopher Brown

The Organisational Identifiers review was submitted to, and ratified by, the Working Group in November 2014 and is published in the Jisc Repository. Following further discussion within the working group, a statement of agreement was drafted (based on the report’s findings and highlighting the direction of travel) in March 2015.

The group was established in March 2013 as part of the JISC CASRAI-UK pilot project and tasked to investigate issues around the identification of organisations, as there is currently no single institutional identifier that is global, interoperable, unambiguous, and unique. The purpose of the group is to produce a recommendations report, based on input from the community to define a list of requirements and a checklist for adoption of an authoritative list of organisations, which can be included in the CASRAI-UK dictionary with a sustainable process for maintaining it.

Membership includes representatives from ARMA, Research Councils, HESA, BL, CrossRef, Wellcome Trust, CRIS system vendors and UK HEIs.

The objectives of the Jisc-CASRAI UK-OrgId WG is to:

  • Explore possible sources of authoritative lists of organisations involved in UK research, including research performing organisations, charities, industry, etc.
  • Develop a sustainable process for maintaining authoritative lists of organisations in the CASRAI dictionary.
  • Assessment and recommendation on the suitability of the planned FundRef list for adoption as a standard authoritative list for international funding organisations.

Following discussions at the first face-to-face meeting of the Working Group it was felt that the third objective is included within the first, so only the first two objectives are necessary.


  • OrgId Landscape Study – a report to inform the WG on the current use of organisational identifiers was commissioned and delivered (June-Sept 2013).
  • OrgId Review – commissioned by the WG to review a core set of organisational identifiers (Aug-Nov 2014)
  • Use cases – based on key use cases from the Research Lifecycle, these have been identified by the WG and further developed under the OrgId Review (Aug-Nov 2014)


    • Review of core set of OrgIds delivered (Nov 2014)
    • Use cases developed and refined against core set of OrgIds (Nov 2014)
    • WG workshop to discuss findings from OrgId review (Nov 2014)
    • WG produce recommendations report (statement of agreement) (Mar 2015)
    • CASRAI dictionary updated (Mar 2015)


The ability to uniquely identify organisations is a key issue in the research information management domain. Organisations are identified at various points in research work, for example when they make submissions to HESA or the REF, when their researchers submit grant applications to funders or papers to publishers, and when students choose courses to follow.  At present, these are largely disconnected, meaning that identification work done in one scenario is not exploited in others, leading to lower levels of trust, greater re-keying of data (and hence unreliability), and a proliferation of organisational identifiers that creates burden for university staff and others.  There are several national bodies that identify universities in various ways (e.g. HESA and Research Councils) that are significant in different scenarios.

Organisational identifiers have been formally defined by the NISO Institutional Identifier (I2) working group as follows: “An institutional identifier is defined as a symbol or code that will uniquely identify institutions and that will describe relationships between entities within institutions for the purpose of disambiguating one institution from another.” However, there is currently no single institutional identifier that is “global, interoperable, unambiguous, and unique.” The Organisational Identifiers Working Group has been set up to explore these issues and make recommendations on how they can be solved.

To better understand the current use of organisational identifiers, the working group funded a landscape study of organisational lists by external consultants. As part of this work representatives within the working group were interviewed to establish what authoritative lists of organisations involved in UK research are being, or could be, used; determine potential use cases based on organisational identifiers used, the problems encountered and the approach they are currently undertaking. The study looked at “organisational” identifiers in its broadest sense and included “institutions”, as well as “funders” and other types of organisation.

This landscape report was discussed by the working group in a face-to-face workshop and the report and discussions were key inputs into the plan and the work packages required for the successful delivery of this project.

The plan was agreed by the working group and two key items of work were identified and formed the next stage of the project. These were:

  • Further investigate and review existing lists of organisational identifiers. This list was based on those described in the “CC549D001-1.0 org ID landscape study” document but have been narrowed down by the working group to a candidate list.
  • Identify the use cases that define the scope of the work required.

Based on the landscape study and discussions within the working group, the group  decided to review the following candidate list of organisational identifiers:

  • ISNI
  • Ringgold
  • Digital Science

The objective of this review is to use this candidate list of organisational identifiers and produce a report to inform the Working Group on the current use of organisational identifiers.

The output from the review is a Recommendations Report including other issues identified, and recommending to the Working Group whether development of a list is required or an external list is ready for adoption. This should be supplemented by, and make reference to, the use cases developed in parallel. The completed use cases form output documentation for the work.

The review was submitted to the Working Group in November 2014 and is published in the Jisc Repository.

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