How does Overton know who authored a scholarly article?

Details how Overton finds author names for the scholarly books and papers cited by policy documents

When Overton finds a reference to a scholarly work in a policy document it creates an item for it in the Scholarly Articles tab.

That item contains the scholarly work’s title, journal (if applicable!), published date and abstract. It also includes the work’s authors.

We get all of this information from Crossref, which is a cross-publisher membership organization built to share metadata about scholarly papers. Overton is a member of Crossref.

We use the authors list in two ways:

The data in Crossref comes directly from academic publishers, and typically reflects what the authors of paper entered into that publisher’s manuscript tracking system.

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules for how publishers ask for author names. Thus if they’ve published lots of papers the same person might appear in many different ways, e.g.

  • Alice Smith
  • A Smith
  • Alice B Smith
  • AB Smith
  • A B Smith

Disambiguating author names (figuring out that a set of similar names are all the same person, based on their affiliation or subject area) is a hard problem to solve and neither Crossref or Overton can currently do this in a robust way.

In practice this means that when you’re searching for a person’s scholarly outputs in Overton you may need to check the different variations of their name that they have previously used with different publishers.

Alternatively you can search by pasting in the DOIs of articles that belong to them, or searching by ORCID: you can do both of these things in the Scholarly Articles tab, using the “Search by DOI, ORCID, PMID or ISBN” button.

Updated on November 7, 2022

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