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I will soon get my first paper submitted. Because my name is very common I think it will be hard to look for my papers in databases in the long term. If I want to decide on a pseudonym (author name different than my real name) it must be now before my first paper. I wonder about choosing a pseudonym that is a small variation from my own name so that it is unique in databases. Like changing my first name spelling (John -> Jon) or adding middle name or changing my last name (Smith -> Smyth). Is it a good idea or am I overthinking it? Will it be a problem later?

  • Do you have a middle name? That makes a huge difference. – Amory Jul 25 '13 at 14:15
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    I would strongly advise against spelling changes, unless you adopt the new spelling absolutely consistently in every aspect of your professional life: this should be the only name anyone ever sees on your CV, conference name tags, professional web pages (including ones maintained by your university without your direct involvement), etc. Otherwise, there's a serious risk people will think John Smith and Jon Smyth are two different people. Middle names have the advantage that nobody will assume John M. Smith and John Smith are necessarily different people. – Anonymous Mathematician Jul 25 '13 at 14:21
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It can be a very real problem later on, when you will be looking for a job and potential academic employer, or just colleagues, will want to check on your academic record. Changing your name to make it unique might also bring you a lot of trouble later, as your employing institution will not easily access your publications (knowing you by a different name than the one appearing on you publications).

However, it could very well be that, given the practice of your field of research, you could avoid changing the spelling your name. Usually, journals will take your second (and possibly third) name into consideration, and use it for all indexing purpose. At that point, your abbreviated name could simply be unique, no matter how common your first and last names!

For instance, John Andrew James Smith would be abbreviated and indexed as JAJ Smith, for which even PubMed does not even returns a hit! (PubMed covers most of life and material sciences)

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