Aversion to name changes in academia

It’s not just academia.
If I were to get married right now, I would not change my name. I’ve been working in my field, under my current name, for 15 years. There are people all over the country, and a smattering across other parts of the world, that I have interacted with in that time. Yes, I believe that my “brand” could be adversely affected if I were to change my name.

Now- I’m not planning on having any kids. If there was a marriage and kids involved, I would have to rethink the whole thing, since sharing a name with your kids seems to make some interactions much easier.

I work outside of academia, and I’ve had coworker women who got married and did not change their name for work purposes, but they did change them for non-work purposes. I’m not sure how they did it exactly. So when one friended me on Facebook, it took me a bit of time to figure out who it was because I didn’t recognize the name.

In Chemistry at least, you rarely search for articles through a librarian: you use a database. If such databases weren’t designed with an “AKA” field (and I’ve never seen a Chemistry database that did), there was no way to know that J. Doe and J. Smith were one and the same.

Married names aren’t the only ones that complicate searches; when I need to give someone the specific citation for my one (hey, it’s one more than many people!) article, I search for my co-authors’ names: easier to find than mine, which gets indexed in all kinds of unexpected ways.

As for academic’s homepages, my grad school still has up the webpage of my grad advisor, who hasn’t worked there since 2002 (they also still keep my email account: I left in 1997). A friend who is a professor can only update his list of publications once a year, and if there is a typo tuff luck: wait a year.

It’s only one particular field, but the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery – the professional society for computer scientists) is making an attempt at doing this for people publishing in CS with their Author Profile Pages. But despite putting some reasonably sophisticated algorithms to work finding all papers published by a particular author, and disambiguating multiple authors with the same name, it’s not super accurate (unless the author him/herself stops by and submits corrections).

This. Many women PhD’s or MD’s I know are professionally Dr. Hotel-India or just Dr. Hotel, but informally or (at school functions with their kids) they are Mrs. India. Many don’t bother to change their names because they are getting married after they have their degrees and don’t want to risk “resetting” their publishing records.

We encountered a couple of issues when addressing our wedding invitations to some friends. I know and work with a woman who is legally Dr. Hotel-India. Her husband is Dr. India. I had to look around the internets to try and find a good example of how to address the invitation. I can’t remember what we did, but I do know my mother-in-law searched far and wide for proper etiquette.

I’d say it depends. The system I work for is supposed to have one and only one authorised name with references from all other possible variants, but that is only in the best of worlds. In reality it isn’t so. When we started using it there were all sorts of entries in the old system that were just entered into the new one without any checking and people still enter names without bothering to see if there is a preferred variant. In the course of what I’m presently working with I have tried to put things to some degree of order, but you can call me Sysiphus.

Most women I know in academia tend to retain their names. But I do know of one case where a womnan published both under her original name and her married last name. It took me years to realize that they were the same person. If she hadn’t had an unusual first name, I don’t know if I’d ever have caught it.

Anecdote not data, but most of the married women I know who publish academically use their maiden names for academic publications but have socially and legally changed their names for everything else, including IDs, credit cards, etc. A very few have changed their names professionally as well. All of them say it’s just easier to be known by one name professionally, rather than having a mid-career shift. Feminism and tradition don’t come into the picture at all, except to the extent it is now socially acceptable for women to work professionally at all.

You don’t really have to do anything. You’re allowed to use nicknames, alternate names, pen names, etc. without any formal permission as long as there is no fraudulent purpose.

I know someone in a very similar situation. As long as her business cards say Ms. Smith and her Christmas cards say Mrs. Jones, that’s what everyone calls her. The challenge for me is remembering whether we’re in personal or a work context, since I’ve dealt with her in both.

You are getting far too hung up on what is ideal and possible and not taking nearly enough notice of the way shit tends to happen in the real world. Of course librarians are able to cross reference everything perfectly. Of course people looking for materials from a particular person would conduct their searches and research in such a way that cross referencing will enable them to find all such material despite a name change.

Meanwhile, in the real world, this isn’t going to happen or at least not every time.

It’s basic application of the KISS principle. Every complication one introduces increases the possibility of a fuckup.

It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out that in professions where you rely on your name-value (doctors, academics, actors, authors, etc.) it’s probably going to have some repercussions if you change your name mid-career.

But most women who keep their maiden name in marriage aren’t being ruthlessly career minded or bowing to some kind of feminist cabal. Mostly, they just like their name and are used to it, and don’t see any real reason to change it. Think about it it- would any of you guys out there really want to change your name? Unless you hate your name, you probably don’t. Why would you? It is a pain in the butt and has no real benefits. I’m not a fan of my last name, so I’ll probably change it in marriage. But I do think it’s a pretty silly and outdated tradition and I don’t feel any real need to fulfill it.

All of my articles and books are published under Hippy J. Hollow. Not Hippy Hollow, Hip Hollow, but always HJ Hollow. As others have said, the indexing databases (Google Scholar and ERIC in my field) are easily confused and will pull up other H Hollows.

I have a number of married women friends… there’s no consensus on the name change/no name change. Some changed no biggie. Others kept it the same. Culturally, they vary from being traditional to very… er, postmodern.

As even sven points out, name changes are rare because of the known quantity issue. I have colleagues who are officially Dr. Married Name but publish under Dr. Original Name. It does make it easier to calculate h-factor and those metrics if everything you’ve done comes up under the same name. But if you want to change, sure, there’s your own CV that should have all of your work cataloged.

I don’t see this as being unusual to academia. From what I’ve seen, authors generally don’t change their name once they’ve started getting published under that name. Doesn’t matter if you’re published academic papers or novels.

Look at Joan D. Vinge, for example. She was born Joan Dennison and married Vernor Vinge in 1972. She began selling SF stories and novels in the seventies under her then current name Joan D. Vinge. But she got divorced in 1979 and later married James Frankel. But all these years later, she still uses Joan D. Vinge on her books.

Or Lois McMaster Bujold. She and her ex-husband John Bujold have been divorced since 1995. But she still uses the same name she first began publishing under.


Boy, you’ve sure got those uppity feminists’ number! You don’t actually know any women in real life, do you?

My wife, although not an academic, didn’t change her name for any reason other than the whole thing seemed like a pointless pain in the ass and just never got around to it. Some times she’ll get call Mrs. Mylastname and I’ll get called Mr. Herlastname. Other than that, it has never been an issue (except that I can tell it kind of bugs some uptight family members, which is an added bonus).

[Looks around for ‘like’ button by EvenSven’s post, remembers that this place doesn’t work this way, thinks ‘ugh’] Yes, the whole tradition does feel a bit 18th-century goat-herding family to me. “But doesn’t it get confusing, figuring out who is married to who and whose kids are whose and and and?” Gimme a break. If these things are actually your business (you’re my kid’s teacher, say), you have enough information to know already.

They won’t care. Regarding indexing, generally speaking, only the first three authors’ names will appear in an index. However, indexing (eg, PubMed) is to some extent automated. Susan Smith’s work won’t be linked to Susan Jones’ work without some extraordinary intervention. And these articles will be credited to Smith S. or Jones S.

I know of an academic who had a sex change. They wisely (in my opinion) chose a new name with the same first letter as their original birth name.

So their articles are all referenced as J. Smith…John for the one half of their academic career, Jane for the other half.

but the name I grew up with was my father’s name, not my mother’s. So I am “submitting to the Patriarchy” either way.

This is a leftover from the good old days of card catalogues with limited space and I’ve been told that the library World is working out more lax cataloguing rules when you don’t have to take that limitation into consideration.