When I want to publish academic code, should I use my personal account with a pseudonymous username or create a new one with a username based on my real name?

My current account uses a pseudonym as username and I write code where I use my real name in the commits and an e-mail address related to the pseudonym (e.g. to keep my personal mail address free from spam).
For university code, I use my real name and university e-mail address in the repositories, but the URLs of the projects still contain the username, so the pseudonym is quite visible.

My personal account contains a few non-university projects and forks of other projects (some for modifications used by my university codes, some unrelated to my university work) as well. There is nothing I would not want to be seen by others and some of the voluntary work may reflect positively on me.

  • Should I worry about the username being a pseudonym (nothing silly like "buffy_the vampire_slayer", but still unrelated to my name)?
    • When publishing code linked on the university website.
    • When publishing code with the URL linked in a paper.
  • Is it preferred to have an account for university codes only?

I do not think my university or department has any rules for this, so I need to decide it myself.


I would use a separate account for a couple reasons:

  • If I search for "yourname Github" it would be nice to actually find it.
  • It's marginally more professional to use your real name on public-facing research work.
  • It's much easier to administer. I run a Github Group for people collaborating on a particular project, and it's vastly easier to figure out who should have what permissions, be on which team, etc. if it's faintly real-name associated.
  • It keeps your professional and personal coding separated. While it's sometimes beneficial for a future employer to see everything you're doing, I don't necessarily want or need someone looking through the code for my papers to also need to wade through prototype code for a personal project, or have them start wondering just how much time that social network of characters in a sci-fi series took to make. Beyond that, it also gets rid of a lot of ambiguity around what's "Yours" vs. "What was made on university time".

You should use your real name.

My lab has a private GitHub group for internal stuff, as well as a few open public-facing projects.

Everyone in our group uses their real names or some transparent abbreviation (like jsmith) or one that matches their university email/login ID.

I feel it should be immediately obvious who each person is. It would be mildly annoying if I had to remember who allo was every time, when everyone else has easy-to-read IDs.

If I was your mentor, I would probably ask you to change it.

It's fine if you do non-job-related development on that same GitHub account, for the reasons you mentioned.

  • That's exactly my concern and what I probably want to do. On the other hand, I use this pseudonym for quite some time in different (not university related) projects and where I want it to be non-pseudonymous I just have my real name in the appropriate realname fields. I wonder if some reputation for the work there would become invisible. Maybe I should mirror/fork some of the projects to the new account or use it to separate really non-work related things from the rest. – allo Sep 5 '18 at 8:09
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    @allo Many academics aren't going to be GitHub power users. Make things easy for them. I would honestly recommend changing your GH username if you think it's worth it to hold on to those project experiences. – Azor Ahai Sep 5 '18 at 16:36

I use the same account for both.

If potential future employers consider my Github account (such as for positions involving a fair share of coding or software engineering), it doesn't hurt if they notice that I may have written code outside of my professional life, too. It's probably rather beneficial.

On the other hand, I do write some code for research where the code is not publicly visible through my Github account, so that part will not show.

  • Your github account (assuming you mean the one linked in your profile) has a pseudonym based on your real name. Would you use one with a nickname not based on your real name as well? – allo Sep 4 '18 at 9:18
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    @allo My github account uses my real name, not a pseudonym. I would use a nickname/pseudonym as well. The only case in which I would not recommend it, if it the nickname may be offensive or very unprofessional or childish, but then again I wouldn't recommend to use such a nickname at any case. To me, if a nickname is good enough for Github, it's good enough for potential employers to see. – gerrit Sep 4 '18 at 10:40
  • My pseudonyms are good enough for open source development, but for most projects there is no entry barrier at all (despite some really offensive names). The question about employer / academic is possibly related, but I do not have the employer situation as long as I work for the university. One of the things in academia is, that a url mentioned in a paper will be there forever and visible for everyone. – allo Sep 5 '18 at 8:03

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