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I will soon be published at a peer-reviewed journal and this is my first publication in my career. My concern is that I'm Asian descent and have an extremely common last name, and personally I do not wish to be identified with my legal last name at all.

On the other hand, my Asian first name is relatively unique. Also, I've been going by an English nickname since I moved to US, and all the people I know knows me as my nickname since I always introduce myself with it in person and in my resume.

So, I thought I would choose my publishing name that is unique and personal to be

not this:

[legal first name] [legal last name]

but this:

[daily-used nick name] [legal first name].

I thought about adding my nickname as middle name, but this still results in tons of same names due to my last name.

The question is, would this be considered a good idea if I will always use this for publishing from now on? Or would it cause any big troubles in future career, such as employers having a difficulty with identifying my work or other issues? Are there any potential issues with this style of pseudonym?

I read other similar posts about publishing in pseudonym, but the closest I could find to my question was this:

Pen name similar with real name: Zu Yangzu instead of Zu Yang for papers

Choosing my name as an author when publishing a scientific paper, can I use my "unofficial" first name?

What are reasonable alternatives to changing your name for academic publishing when you have a common surname?

  • 2
    What do you expect as an answer when the last question you link to gives plenty of recognized options. – Solar Mike Dec 8 '19 at 20:32
  • I couldn't find one specific to using first name as last name. I was wondering if having a pseudonym with a part of my legal name would avoid any troubles with identification. – ELU Dec 8 '19 at 20:34
  • Make that your name and stick to it. Publication, email etc. Just consider possible troubles (if any) coming out, eg when you get certificate and so on. But I think is OK to have a kind of pseudonym, especially in your case. – Alchimista Dec 9 '19 at 8:07
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I would not use your first name as a last name. Especially in the West, a surname is a kind of "strong" identifier, and using one in publications that doesn't match what you use on a daily basis-- or worse, that matches the wrong daily name-- could lead to many strange situations. People may address you incorrectly (Dr. First Name instead of Dr. Surname), enter your data in systems incorrectly (I've dealt with this personally many times, and it is universally hard to get databases updated), and so on.

You should also consider that it's relatively rare to look up an author only by their last name these days. Once you build up a career in your field, people will remember you by your first and last names, or by your surname in combination with your co-authors. I've also seen many people of Asian descent use both their English and Asian names in their publications (like, e.g., Xiaoye Sherry Li), which leads to a unique and searchable name overall.

If you really just want to get rid of your legal surname, you can look into changing it. This, of course, depends on laws and bureaucracy, but for people who are really disturbed by their names, it can bring life-long relief.

  • I would second that you should use for your publications what you use in other contexts. If your department head knows you as John Smith (I do not know what the equivalent in your native language is for your gender, so will simply go with the one that's appropriate for English), then that is the name you should use for your publications. If you want to use something different for your publications, then this better be the names you use in everyday formal and informal contexts as well. – Wolfgang Bangerth Dec 9 '19 at 16:01
  • I know people who use their given name as their "last" author-name in their publications, and nowhere else. Nobody is confused. Department heads are not mindless automata; you can just tell them (and others) your professional nom-de-recherche and they will believe you. – JeffE Dec 9 '19 at 16:36
  • Thank you for the reply. I'm currently a green card holder and I'll have an opportunity to change my legal name in near future when I get my citizenship. It seems that would be the best in the long term then – ELU Dec 9 '19 at 19:27
  • @JeffE It's not just about department heads; it's also about the community and searchability. You have to consider people who know nothing about you personally, but want to look up your work, website, etc. If things don't line up, it can get messy. – artificial_moonlet Dec 9 '19 at 20:09
  • 1
    @artificial_moonlet Yes, that's why it's important to publish all your papers under a consistent name. That ensures that the entire research community knows you by a single consistent name; that's the name they use to look up your work, your web site, and so on. But (at least in the US) that name does not need to coincide with the name on your passport or your employment paperwork. – JeffE Dec 10 '19 at 19:25

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