The following email appeared in my inbox yesterday, and I thought some of you might have some more thoughts to share.
I recently discovered your blog, and have a question regarding academic publishing. I am just now entering a PhD. program, and plan to get married in about 2 years. Given the nature of my particular field, it is expected I will have at least co-authored one paper before the wedding. After marriage, I plan to take his name, for a number of reasons, including the commonality of my last name compared to his name. My question is this: should I start publishing under the name I anticipate being on my diploma? Is there any common protocol for pen names in academic publishing?
My answer is below the fold.
What a great question! I strongly recommend that you publish the papers pre-marriage under your maiden name. Here are my reasons why:
- You can always make a note on your c.v. that you are Married nee Engaged and that papers X, Y, and Z were published prior to your marriage and name change. This is something I’ve seen before.
- You are probably only talking about one or two papers anyway. Those papers will be useful to you when you are done with grad school and are looking at post-docs, but in that process it is hopeful that prospective hiring committees will get past PubMed/ISI and actually look at your CV. Once you are married and farther in the PhD process, you’ll be able to write plenty of papers under your new last name. Those are more likely to be the papers on which your scientific reputation is earned.
- Also, I’m not aware of anyone who’s published scientific journal articles under an assumed name, though I’m sure it has happened. I’d be concerned about the giving the appearance of deception.
- If you submitted a paper pre-marriage and you got married before it got published, you could probably write a nice note to the editor explaining that you’d like your name changed on the paper.
- Finally, if something unexpected happens and you do not get married to your sweetheart or you decide to keep your own name, you don’t have to go through the rigamarole of explaining to anyone how you didn’t change your name really, but you did change your publication name. Again, my concern would be the appearance of deception.
FWIW, I got married at the beginning of my PhD program and decided to keep my own name. You can see my thoughts on the subject on my old blog. I’m very very happy I kept my own name, but to each her own. Congratulations on getting engaged and starting the PhD program. Good luck with the science that makes the pubs. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!