Funder Registry: a review

With funders increasingly directing how and when the research they fund is published, publishers are facing new challenges around reporting and tracking this information. In the past, funding information would not have been in a consistent place or format within a research paper. The Funder Registry was developed to address this issue.

What is it?
The registry is a list of funding bodies worldwide, intended to standardise the organisational names and IDs used in the metadata of content registered with Crossref.

What format does it take?
The data is downloadable as an RDF file, containing the following information about each funder:

  • Funder ID
  • preferred name
  • alternative names
  • state
  • country
  • funding body type and sub-type
  • information about any parent and/or child organisations
  • date of record creation
  • date of last update

Who maintains it?
The registry is created and maintained by Elsevier, but the RDF file is freely available under a Creative Commons licence, so that anyone can use it in their tools.

How accurate is it?
There are some inaccuracies, particularly in state and country information – that’s not unexpected for a free resource, and users are encouraged to email any inaccuracies they spot. However, it would be good to see more regular updates to include these corrections – although the Funder Registry site claims that the registry is updated ‘approximately monthly’, at the time of writing the latest version (v1.23) was already 3 months old.

What is its coverage?
The current version of the registry contains just over 19,000 records. Although this might seem quite small in relation to Ringgold or even GRID, that’s because of its more specific focus. In fact, around 15% of its records are for institutions that don’t appear in Ringgold, and 25% don’t appear in GRID.

Another advantage in terms of funding data is that it always has separate records for financially independent institutions, which in GRID may sometimes be included in the same record as their parent organisation.

How does it relate to other sources?
The Funder Registry draws on the GeoNames database for its state and country information. This is great in terms of standardising the data, although it would have been more user-friendly if the RDF file included actual codes or names instead of just URIs.

Ringgold and GRID both include Funder IDs in their data – around 75% of Ringgold records and around 66% of GRID records have these. This is useful to add further information that doesn’t appear in the Funder Registry data (e.g. city information and websites).

Authors and publishers are encouraged to include the Funder ID and name (as well as the grant number) in their metadata when registering content with Crossref. This means that content can be linked to its funders, supporting publishers in understanding funding sources and ensuring compliance with any requirements imposed by those funders.

As part of the Crossref offering, the Funder Registry has a useful role to play in linking up content and funders. And, because of its open licensing terms, it can be built into other manuscript tracking and analytical tools – if these can also address some of its quality issues and enhance the data set by linking it up with Ringgold or GRID, then it has the potential to become a powerful resource.