Beki Grinter

What’s in an Academic Name

In 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 own problems.

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 under.

  1. Betsy was smart enough to start publishing as ‘Betsy’ and not ‘Elizabeth’ from the start!

  2. Nice post. Reminds me of this paper:

    Scientometric analysis of the CHI proceedings

    “We… would like to add that authors should use one consistent version of their name, ideally with all their initials. This increases the chances of a correct identification.”

  3. […] like to use “Mel Chua” as my academic name [0] – that is, the nom de plume I publish under for academic papers, conferences, and […]

  4. thank you very much, for this interesting blog entry! I am actually struggeling with the same issue at the moment – I want to publish under a different name than my legal one. I am a PhD student in the Netherlands and I am just building up my reputation. My legal name is negatively loaden to me, its the name of my mother’s husband (they’re seperating) and I don’t want to publish under his name. I would rather publish under the name of my grand-grandmother, that my mother grew up with and that meant a lot to my mother and me. It also strengthens my jewish identity, cause it was Gutnick. How did you find out, it is legal to publich under a diff. name? And do you think its internationally different…? With whome did you check on that?

    Thank you!


    PS: it be nice if you could reply via email

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