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Are you your email address?

Where does anyone’s identity reside? Some people would say that your identity is your email address, especially if it is an address you have had for a long time.

I remember the first time I was forced to relinquish the email address shown on my very first publication because the organisational unit was absorbed into another unit. I felt that my email address stood for my subject, not my organisation, but I still couldn’t keep it.

This kind of emotional connection to an email address is probably a time marker for my generation of IT users. When I talk to my children, they don’t even see email as something you use for work, they say they only have one because that is the way I communicate with them, and that sometimes you need to provide an email address when you register for some kind of service on a website. Email addresses are often tightly bound to the organisation where you work and something that risks disappearing if you leave the organisation or if the organisation makes changes.

For others, LinkedIn is the way to come in contact with your colleagues. LinkedIn is an online service and social network that is primarily used for professional networking.

Researchers now have Orcid, an international, open register developed to identify authors of scientific publications, Orcid’s vision is to become a unique identifier for science persons and that links each person to their works. Does it have the potential to become a researcher’s ID?

Or you can google…

There is a need to find information about people that are active as researchers. It would be nice to think you could ring a university switchboard and ask for a person and be informed that the person in question no longer works there, has retired, or has left and can now be found at the following workplace instead.

Said and done,  I recently called the switchboard of my previous employer that I had left in 2010 and asked for myself.

“I’m sorry, we haven’t got anybody called Jan Gulliksen here.”

“But I’m sure he works there; I’ve got his business card right in front of me with these contact details and this is the address given in a research paper.”

“No, we have never had a Jan Gulliksen here.”

I asked to be connected to the telephone extension I had, but they had no idea who Jan Gulliksen was either. I then browsed the website address on the business card and to my huge surprise it was exactly the same as it looked ten years ago. My name and photo that linked to the staff directory had been expunged, however.

I was a bit shocked by this, I had spent 25 years there after all, first as a student, and then all the way to professor. I don’t seem to have left many traces…