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I have a common US first AND last name, but a unique middle name. Think John Aardvark Smith. I am nearing my first publication and want to decide on my name for academic/scientific publications now so that it can remain consistent. I like to be called John and would like to be Dr. Smith when that time comes, however there are a million JA Smiths, including in my field. I'm considering being JS Aardvark for publications instead, a completely unique name.

My questions are: Would I HAVE to then be John Smith Aardvark for all intents and purposes? If you click my JS Aardvark link on Google Scholar, would it make any sense to link to a person called John Aardvark Smith? Would I have to accept that people will call me Dr. Aardvark? What should me email address and sign-off then be?

I may be missing other potential pitfalls as well. I'd be glad for any feedback on this, positive or negative, personal anecdotes, etc.

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    In British culture it seems to be common for someone to be known as J. Aardvark Smith professionally and John to friends. Maybe this would work for you? And then make sure that you have a unique Google Scholar profile and arxiv identifier (if relevant to your discipline).
    – Fedya
    Dec 4 '20 at 18:42
  • This is definitely a good consideration. However, I would likely still face the trouble of being listed in authorship as JA Smith, where I am lost in a sea of other JA Smiths. I do immediately plan on registering for relevant accounts and setting this decision in stone (or, at least 1's and 0's) soon.
    – Aardvark
    Dec 4 '20 at 19:07
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    Have you considered using an ORCID? Those are unique identifiers that do not depend on the uniqueness of your name.
    – Elodin
    Dec 4 '20 at 19:26
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    @Aardvark No, ORCID wouldn't help that much. Your options would seem to be to do "J. Aardvark Smith" and accept sometimes it's shortened to "JA Smith," or two adopt both as a "last name" so it's always abbreviated to "J. Aardvark-Smith." Putting them out of order seems like a recipe for disaster Dec 4 '20 at 19:55
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    Does this answer your question? Taking an academic pseudonym? Dec 5 '20 at 2:17
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I do know someone who signs their email as "John Aardvark S.," and authors their papers as "John Aardvark." In their case, the "S." is a married name, so I would guess they added it after their first publication (but don't know for sure).

Putting them out of order makes me think that your name would constantly be getting rearranged (people thinking you filled out your name wrong, especially if your middle name is typically a first name, and your last name is typically a last name). And think of nametag confusion! In other words, being known as "Dr. John Smith" but publishing as "Dr. John Aardvark" isn't a common fix, so people won't know how to interpret it.

Another option would be to make "Aardvark Smith" your last name (hyphenated or not), I definitely know people who go by only one name of a double-barreled name. Or to just accept that sometimes your name will be abbreviated to "JA Smith." I suppose it depends on the usual citation format in your field. Most of time time, my field uses initials only when the author uses them, so that wouldn't be a big deal to me.

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  • Thank you, this is a really great perspective from a few different angles. I appreciate the time and care! I probably... Well, the hyphenation is an interesting avenue. I'll think more on that. My overall takeaway though is that my original idea was indeed crazy/more trouble than having a common name, at least to me.
    – Aardvark
    Dec 5 '20 at 11:29

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