What’s in an Academic NameIn academia, academic management, discipline, research on February 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm
Pick the name you publish under wisely.
Why do I say that.
In the days of citation counts and impact factors it’s actually
relatively important that you can be “found” in publication searches.
I chose Rebecca E. Grinter to publish under. I chose it because it
was, and remains my legal name. When I married (the most likely time
that the name would change) I was detered by being a resident of one
country and a citizen of another, I decided that the pain of changing my
surname legally with multiple governments was not worth it (hmm, I
wonder whether I could legally be two different people, one in the U.S.
and one in the U.K. another interesting experiment with international
law…). I’m also rather attached to the name Grinter, not just because I
am a keen family historian, but because it’s relatively unusual. I am
frequently the only one in the phone book, and a Grinter event (i.e.
meeting another one) is quite rare so always fun.
I chose the E to avoid the problem that R. Grinter would create. That
would be the other Dr. R. Grinter, or as I know him, Dad. Of course, I
get extra publications if you search me as R. Grinter, so I encourage
everyone who is doing a citation count of me for any reason to search R.
Grinter. But, then of course, there are the times when my “E” gets
dropped, so I end up needing to search R. Grinter to find my own
citations. Initials, for all their distinctiveness, seem to create their
And then there are the publications where I am B Grinter. I’m B
Grinter because I go colloquially by Beki (there is one person who calls
me Rebecca, I know her as Mum). So if someone writes up the results of a
workshop and (kindly) puts my name on it, then frequently it ends up as
B Grinter, unless I can intervene and switch it over. This also turns
out to matter for my H-index. I wish that my nickname started with the
same letter as my official publishing name.
I think now I wished I’d started with Beki Grinter as my non-de-plume
for academic publications. It took me a while to realise that it
doesn’t have to be your legal name… although I dunno why I thought it
had to be my legal name.
I think it’s better if its plausibly a name by which you are known.
For example, I think it would be a little odd if I switched to
publishing under the name Paul Erdös. Although I have some colleagues
whose Erdös number would improve. I think what matters more is that it’s
distinct and it’s consistent. Distinct helps people find you, and
that’s hugely useful (it’s an academic brand if I’m honest). Consistent
helps with time. An academic career is built over time, and having the
ability to find people’s earlier works if you find their later ones is
really useful. There are likely ways to mitigate this, I like how some
people move their former surname to their middle name, and others just
let people know on their websites what publications belong to them.
But names are not just academic brands, they are personal choices.
But I can imagine a variety of reasons to want to change your name,
particularly at marriage….
I guess this started out as a reflection on publishing name.
Distinct, consistent, and something plausibly connected to the author
seem like good criteria for deciding what name you want to publish