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I have seen questions about people changing their last names due to marriage but not for trans people. However, for them, it can be much more harmful (and wrong) to always carry their old names forever, although all other kinds of public records can be changed. Moreover, they should not be forced to out themselves every time.

I have asked Elsevier and said it is not possible. What would be some ways to minimize the damage (e.g. search engines, CV, ways to apply more pressure for change etc.)?

I'm not asking for the work to change but if the only author identifier is the name (which is supposed to be immutable but isn't), it doesn't make sense right? It can only add confusion and be harmful, as I mentioned. By minimizing the damage, I mean either replace it or hide it wherever possible (e.g. something like a second edition). I understand all the complications with hard copies, citations etc.

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    As far as I understand, there are two kinds of 'damage' that you may wish to minimize: the psychological damage to the person changing name, and the inconvenience for people that need to cite the papers or retrieve them from their citations. The two things are at odds; it is impossible to minimize both at the same time. So it all comes down to which of the two you think is more important. – Federico Poloni Mar 3 at 11:22
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    I understand all the complications with hard copies, citations etc. I was simply expecting some more flexibility and sensitivity than just "that's it, deal with it", which was the editor's response. One way could be e.g. a corrigendum with the correct name that is automatically displayed by search engines and people can start citing the "new version". Orcid works perfectly fine and google scholar wouldn't have a big issue recognizing it as the same publication. – Bourboul Mar 3 at 11:35
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    Trans academic here: I want to offer a frame challenge, and suggest that papers published under a previous name were accurately describing the name in used when that paper was published. There is nothing wrong with publishing new works under a new name, and, indeed there is value in not erasing the history of trans people. Identities change and we enact and embody such changes across our histories. – Alexis Mar 3 at 19:36
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    I suppose it is too late for you, OP, but for a potential future reader who hasn't transitioned nor published anything, they could use initials so that the previous name isn't obvious post-transition. – Azor Ahai -- he him Mar 3 at 22:55
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    @nick012000 - Many people care. Trans people’s deadnames can cause real psychological harm, and many trans people go through great lengths to update all identifying documents to use their chosen name. Academia historically has not been very welcoming to the trans community, and refusing to acknowledge or adapt to this very real issue is not going to help convince them to join academia. – TheLoneMilkMan Mar 4 at 8:30
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I am the academic referred to in the following answer by Schiphol:

  • She edited her preprints to use her correct name. In the new preprints she adds a header with the reference to the published version (in the APA style, which is common in her field and also only uses initials of first names).
  • Posted them to the relevant preprint service (PsyArXiv, in her case). PsyArXiv has fields for two DOIs: a "preprint DOI" and a "peer-reviewed publication DOI". The latter points to the older published version.
  • She now encourages other researchers to cite her using those preprints and their associated preprint-DOI.

The essence of that answer is correct, the following is an elaboration. The three main points I would make are as follows:

  1. Sometimes the journal will agree. In most instances, journals will refuse to alter metadata associated with the paper, but this is not universally true, as noted in Joerg Heber's answer. Some journals do allow this: answers asserting that it cannot be done such as this one are factually incorrect.

  2. You can use preprint servers to generate competing metadata. If journals refuse to change their metadata, you are permitted to release your own via a preprint server (in my case, via PsyArXiv). Journal publication agreements will often (not always) offer you scope to do so and you can ask people to share only the version that uses the correct information. What I did was edit the name on my author-accepted manuscripts and posted those.

  3. ORCID and Google Scholar can help. I changed my name on both ORCID and google scholar. The latter in particular is useful because the searchability of paper relies heavily on GS in practice, and GS allows you to merge records (e.g., it allows you to merge the preprint version with the journal version and specify which version you consider to be the correct one). Note also that GS indexes personal websites if you post author accepted versions there too (see this question) which will also have some effect.

The above answers the question from a technical perspective.

In addition to the technical aspects, there are some social and practical hurdles to consider when doing this. Most transgender people understand the importance and sensitivity of this issue, as it pertains to our personal identity, mental health and in some instances physical safety. Unfortunately, most people will lack this knowledge and you are likely to encounter resistance. With this in mind, I would add the following suggestions based on my own experiences. I suspect you have considered these issues already (in my experience transgender people almost always do!) but on the off chance that you have not...

  1. Discuss with your coauthors. I spoke with my coauthors about my intentions to check whether they had any concerns. What I found is that most people initially didn't understand why it mattered to me but when I explained to them the importance of the issue everybody was fine. Most of my coauthors offered to help me with recovering source code from old manuscripts etc.

  2. Don't take it all on at once. I found it distressing to go through the process. I'm old enough to have a lot of papers to edit: there are about 100 papers published under my deadname. Doing the editing brought back a lot of traumatic memories that are psychologically associated with the papers (e.g., one paper is associated with a person who raped me: attempting to edit that one set off flashbacks). This may not be a concern in your case, but many transgender people have trauma histories and those may come into play here.

  3. Be patient. What I have noticed as that as more papers have accrued under the correct name, various automated "profiles" have started to use my name correctly.

As a final point, not for the original poster directly, but in service of the deeper goal of making this process easier in the future: I found it easier to solve this problem when people took my privacy & safety concerns seriously, and did not treat this subject lightly.

In light of the fact that there are very real concerns that the transgender members of our academic community have expressed about our safety and personal well being in connection to this issue, it is important that we start pushing to improve these systems and place some pressure on journals to change their practices.

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    +1000. I love that your approach also naturally allows your work to be freely available, which is certainly not something you had to do. – user108403 Mar 4 at 8:11
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    People indeed seem to take it rather lightly: maintaining unbroken links (which may not even be relevant: DOIs; paper titles; etc.) is prioritized over people's quality of life. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 4 at 10:46
  • Yes, ORCID is good. – paul garrett Mar 4 at 23:05
  • Thank you for all the practical advice and potential issues that may arise. As I see it, it's a problem that can be addressed but there is simply no motivation to do so. If you can add that we, as academics, should start putting pressure to modernize our systems regarding that issue, I would say this is the response closest to answering the initial question. At least, it is confirmed that the situation is indeed bad. – Bourboul Mar 5 at 9:50
  • @Bourboul Yes, I'm happy to add that suggestion at the end of my answer – xxx Mar 5 at 10:22
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I know of one theorist who did the following:

  • She edited her preprints to use her correct name. In the new preprints she adds a header with the reference to the published version (in the APA style, which is common in her field and also only uses initials of first names).
  • Posted them to the relevant preprint service (PsyArXiv, in her case). PsyArXiv has fields for two DOIs: a "preprint DOI" and a "peer-reviewed publication DOI". The latter points to the older published version.
  • She now encourages other researchers to cite her using those preprints and their associated preprint-DOI.
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    +1 for an answer that suggests a solution! – Nathaniel Mar 3 at 18:29
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    How are dates handled? For instance, suppose a preprint was originally dated 2000 and edited/posted to use her correct name this year. I suppose she could include something like originally appeared in 2000, but the preprint service would use 2020. Presumably she has a system. Could you share? – user2768 Mar 5 at 8:01
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    @user2768 let me know if the edit helps. – Schiphol Mar 5 at 10:26
  • @Schiphol It helps clarify, thanks. I suppose other researchers must cite those preprints with the date they were published, and ideally they should add something along the lines of first appeared at <publication venue> in <publication year> Without such information, the ordering of publications is lost. – user2768 Mar 5 at 11:27
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    The academic I was alluding to has now provided he own answer. No need for me to continue discussing this on her behalf :) – Schiphol Mar 5 at 11:37
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By design, published works cannot (generally) be edited after publication, since doing so would corrupt the record of those works. (There are some exceptions.) New works can be published under an existing or new name. (Younes explains how to create a relation between an existing name and a new name. I'm unsure whether that's in scope or even desirable, given that some people don't want to create such relations.) Our publishing model will surely evolve in a manner that supports editing of published works, but we're likely stuck with the current model for a couple of decades (assuming new models emerge during the coming decade and widespread adoption follows in the decade after).

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    A possible criticism to this answer is that it seems to portray the records as immutable objects that cannot be amended which, nowadays, is not really true. And what probably Wrzlprmft wanted to point out is that this answer seems to endorse the view that records must not be touched, notwithstanding the fact that this may cause harm to someone (I hope you don't hold this view). And there are publishers who are making an effort to make certain changes possible. I suggest you to edit your answer to avoid possible misinterpretations. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 4 at 20:11
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    @MassimoOrtolano The resistance to amending the record is not that it's technically difficult to change digital data, obviously that's not true. The hazard is that you corrupt the "chain of record keeping." Suppose I publish a paper under name A, a bunch of people cite it under name A, and then I change to name B. Even if the publisher lets me change my name in their system, I cannot change all the papers that cited me with name A. If a future reader tries to follow a citation through name A that no longer exists then the chain is broken. This is exactly why we have things like DOI now. – David Mar 4 at 23:17
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    @David: If a future reader tries to follow a citation through name A that no longer exists then the chain is broken. – Citations contain so much redundancy that this is not an issue. I challenge you to find a single citation in a real paper where changing the first name of one of the authors would significantly prevent me from tracking down the cited paper. Probably this even works with the full name. And such a constructed example would not even have the advantage that the journal can maintain backwards-compatible links of the paper under name A to the paper under name B. – Wrzlprmft Mar 5 at 9:00
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    @Wrzlprmft is entirely correct here. As someone who actually has changed metadata by changing her name (see my answer) I can attest that I have not lost a single citation as a consequence of doing so. It is absurd - and frankly offensive - to suggest this concern is a legitimate reason to disrespect the privacy and safety concern transgender academics – xxx Mar 5 at 10:21
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    @Wrzlprmft I didn't say that the citation system would collapse, I said it would cause problems. Suppose you publish at journal X under name A, and then someone else cites you in journal Y under name A. Changing your name with journal X does nothing to all of the data out there that does not belong to journal X. If journal Y is one of those journals that automatically harvests references and I click on the references overview and click on your name then nothing you've done under your new name will be visible at journal Y. Not a big problem, but you can't seriously argue it's not a problem. – David Mar 6 at 6:08
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The published articles/books cannot be edited after publication. Therefore, if a published work contains an error, the only solution is to publish an erratum or even retract it. However, the original publication will still exist. We need to think of a publication as a part of a physical object (i.e. a book) which is distributed all over the world with an ISBN and other identifiers.

In the case of changing the name (for any reason), you can still claim your oldest publications and list them in your CV. What you need to do maybe is contacting famous references indices (e.g. DBLP) to resolve the author ambiguity (please see DBLP Instructions) or you may even change them by yourself in open knowledge bases (e.g. Wikidata). This makes any author identified by a unique identifier (in the corresponding base) instead of his names that are subject to change, encoding issues, synonymy and antonymy.

You can also change your name in Google scholar (check here).

In conclusion, you may publish with your new name and claim all your publications (under different names) in all platforms and knowledge bases / reference indices.

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At the journal PLOS One, we have “republished” papers if someone changes their name as part of a transition. This will replace the name on a paper completely without changing doi or anything else about the paper, and should subsequently also be picked up by indexing services. We have been doing this on a case-by-case basis as a way of reducing any negative implications on careers by this type of name change (arguments we heard were for example issues with citations or credit).

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    How would I go about making a request? I have a PLoS One paper which I'd prefer my correct name on. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 4 at 9:29
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    Welcome to Academia and thank you for your direct input. Does this extend to the entirety of PLOS? Also, what exactly do you refer to by negative implications on careers? Missing citations because of the name change? Missing credit because of the lack of a name change? (Please edit your answer to clarify.) – Wrzlprmft Mar 4 at 13:19
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    I'm curious - when something is "republished" like this, is it as though it's a new work? Or is it somehow linked to the original, so that the original DOI will arrive at the new work and so forth? – Flyto Mar 4 at 13:56
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    @JoergHeber nice, and thank you for being progressive on this! – Flyto Mar 4 at 18:20
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    Wow! It's done! See my paper---it's hard to believe this is possible. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 17 at 12:53
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Traditionally, journal publications are archived "as is" and in immutable form. There was no way to change names or, in fact, anything else -- and that was the point of it.

But publishers are understanding that this might be harmful to authors who are in exactly your situation. Some are starting to address this. For example, the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), one of the largest professional organizations in the US, has convened a task force to address the question, and the recommendations are that authors can request to have their names changed on their publications after the fact, including many years later. This would include altering both all of the metadata stored for each paper, but also the PDF of the actual publication.

I don't know where ACM is with actually implementing this step, but I would suspect that it will be possible within a year. I would also assume that all other big publishers will follow soon.

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    Here is a relevant set of requests from a trans computer scientist for those who want to cite her by her proper name, including mention of the ACM change. – anon Mar 4 at 4:45
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    I wonder what would happen if co-authors were to object. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 4 at 9:43
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones -- I believe that the draft policy explicitly gave that right to the author in question. Co-authors had no say. Upon reading it, I thought that the policy is actually quite compassionate and specifically intended to address all possible threats trans people could face by still having to use their deadnames. As a consequence, co-authors cannot have a say in the matter. – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 5 at 0:10
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In the version control system "git", there is the possibility to "rebase" a history - this corresponds to a rewrite of history. However, it is always warned to use it on private histories and to avoid doing so when a history has been published, because it creates endless confusion.

Same here - do not rewrite history after publication; in the best case it causes confusion, in the worst people will feel gaslighted. Better is you keep your ORCID (I do not know whether you can change your name there) and go from there. Of course, if, as some commenter suggested in a tongue-in-cheek way, you look for ways to disavow your papers, it may make sense to publish the new ones under a different name - then, you would avoid ORCID.

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    @FedericoPoloni For publications that may exist in several versions (technical reports) or editions (books), it could work. But even then, some note ("An earlier version/edition of this work was published under the name John Smith") would be necessary so that it doesn't look like blatant plagiarism. – Uwe Mar 3 at 10:58
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