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So I'm not sure what to do. I've been listed as a co-author on my first publication in X journal, with a decent impact factor. Now I just realized that my middle initial wasn't included on the first publication.

Can I start using my middle initial in future publications? I know it's only my first, but that paper could get plenty of citations in the near future. (just hypothetically)

What do you think?

Is there a way to link the 2 names? Could I link them if I publish again in that same journal, specifically an ACS journal?

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I believe you would be interested in the question How to edit name on existing publications after a name change? –  scaaahu Apr 2 at 6:37
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I would not suggest closing this question. The one @scaaahu identifies is close and helpful, but it does not address the question that is probably more important here: "Can I start using my middle initial in future publications?" –  Stephan Kolassa Apr 2 at 6:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In the modern day of vastly intelligent computer software and important internet presence, it is highly unlikely that a missing middle initial will be the cause of "nonrecognition" of your name. As Stephan wrote, a bigger problem is name confusion; it is definitely a good idea for you to start including your middle initial(s) in future publications. I'll answer here focused more on how to make sure the names are "linked".

My Google Scholar profile, which is compiled entirely by a computer (my only contribution there was identification of duplicate entries and removing them), even picked up some of my undergraduate term-reports which I put on my website many years ago (and which are now no longer available). Of my published papers, I've listed at various times my name as

  • Willie Wong
  • W W Wong
  • Willie W Wong
  • Willie W-Y Wong

and I don't seem to have had much trouble*.

If you want better control over the articles associated to your name, you can always register for Web of Science researcher ID and/or an ORCID which are both designed to help alleviate the problem of name collision and name changes throughout the career of a research scientist.

For fields which encourages the use of arXiv, the author identifier also helps group all of your pre-prints, and allows you neat things like a Javascript widget for your own website showing your recent pre-prints.

For mathematics, the AMS maintains author profiles (they recently upgraded this!) to which you can also submit corrections to include omitted paper or to exclude misattributed papers by other authors. (The AMS author profiles are only accessible through a MathSciNet subscription.)

I am not that familiar with other fields, but you should look around to see if your scholarly society provides a similar service to help maintain a comprehensive publication record for authors.

*With Google, at least. Microsoft Academic Search has some trouble coming up with my complete list of publications.

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In mathematics, the editorial staff at Mathematical Reviews and MathSciNet have a reputation for being very careful to detect equality or non-equality of authors despite non-equality or equality of names. This applies not only to variation from including or excluding initials but also name changes when people get married or divorced, etc. –  Andreas Blass Jun 5 at 1:26

You will probably not be able to change your name on an already-published article. (Is it already fully published? You can of course change things at the proof stage.)

So the question is whether it makes sense to use your middle initial going forward. I think that yes. There are millions of "John Smith" out there, so it would be much better to be "John Y. Smith" so people can identify your papers among the many by other Smiths.

The drawback, as you mention, is that people may not be able to link your very first article to you. Yes, that is not nice. But believe me, in ten years you will be much happier if people correctly identify your papers than if this one single article is linked to you (along with possibly a lot of other papers someone with the same name as you wrote, if you decide to leave out your middle initial in the future).

Plus: literature databases are getting more and more sophisticated. I assume that things like missing middle initials should not be a problem for long in linking papers to authors. After all, later publications of yours will not only connect in terms of your name as an author, but also in terms of subject matter, collaborators, affiliations... All things that any decent machine learning algorithm can easily take into account.

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