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Is there some sort of unwritten rule in academia that you shouldn't mention your own name explicitly on presentation slides? I have seen this time and time again, if you cite work in the middle of the talk and it happens to be your own work, people abbreviate their names. For example, they only write their first name. 'Miller' is abbreviated to 'M.', but all other names are spelled out in full.

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    In 25 years in academia, I've never seen such a thing. If there's a bias, it's field dependent: could you please specify your field? – Massimo Ortolano Jan 21 at 10:02
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    @MassimoOrtolano sounds like Mathematics. Here it seems to be somewhat the norm – Christian Jan 21 at 11:25
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    @MassimoOrtolano Certainly in the part of physics I know it is also quite common that in references, people fully abbreviate their name, i.e. the reference would be "A. First, B.S., and C. Third", where B.S. is the person presenting. – user151413 Jan 21 at 12:15
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    Personally, what I would find more interesting than the reason why people do it now is the history of this - when, where and why this started. I think nowadays people mostly just do it because everyone does it. – user151413 Jan 21 at 12:21
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    Yeah in math people do this quite a lot. It surprised me to hear that it’s not common in other fields. – shalop Jan 21 at 22:41
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There is nothing wrong with mentioning your own name in full in citations on your own slides, and nobody would think anything of it if you did. However, there are a number of reasons why people do this.

  1. Replacing your own name with initials is a subtle way of emphasizing that it is your work that is being cited. You can think of it as a “humblebrag”.
  2. Since you are usually talking about your own work, you end up citing yourself a lot. Replacing your name with initials simply saves space, especially if you have a long name.
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    To me, it is always a hint saying "What, you don't remember my full name, better pay attention who is giving the talk!". In conferences with many talks and a broad scope, it is easy to forget the name of the speaker, and I would be happy if I were reminded. – user151413 Jan 21 at 12:16
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    @user151413 How does writing the name in full in references tell the audience that this is the name of the speaker? To remind the audience who you are it is better to put your name in the header/footer of the slides. – mmeent Jan 21 at 12:31
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    All I'm saying is that whenever I see such an abbreviation, I have to actively think what the name of the speaker is, which is disruptive, and maybe even check the program. I think that's one real reason: It looks like understatement, but in fact it is telling the audience: Yes, this is my paper. (I guess that's your point 1, and that's why this habit always struck me as mannered.) – user151413 Jan 21 at 13:01
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    These are reasons people use, but they are incorrect reasons. The actual result of using initials is confusion. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 21 at 21:33
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    I think 1 is the main reason. It’s indicating it’s your result. If you write the whole name people might think it’s a result by someone else with the same surname. – Noah Snyder Jan 22 at 4:28
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In my experience in pure mathematics, it seems to be somewhat of a norm not to write your full name when citing yourself and just use initials. I have seen this on many conference presentations or any other talks using slides.

When giving a blackboard talk it has the advantage of using less space on the board which typically is a scarce resource.

On the other hand, I have also seen the occasional talk where this "rule" was not followed and I do not think that this left a bad impression on anyone.

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    Blackboard space is much less scarce than space on a slide! – user151413 Jan 21 at 12:17
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    But writing a name on the blackboard takes much more time and energy... – user2705196 Jan 21 at 13:26
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    Agree using initials is totally normal, but it would seem very odd to me to use a full first name and initialize the last name, rather than the other way around. I generally don't know the presenter on a first-name basis, and I would normally refer to a manuscript by an author's last name, not their first - I might ask a colleague if they read the Miller paper, not if they read the paper by Bob M. – Nuclear Hoagie Jan 21 at 18:57
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    I meant the additional cost of writing out your name is larger when doing so during a blackboard talk compared to when giving a computer slide presentation. That's maybe where the tradition comes from! Nothing against using the blackboard but minimizing extra stuff to write is key to a good blackboard talk... – user2705196 Jan 22 at 2:43
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    @NuclearHoagie In my experience in math one uses only the initials of the last name, and the first name is rarely, if ever, used in any citation. – Denis Nardin Jan 23 at 8:25
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To the question, briefly: Abbreviating as described is common in math, but I can't imagine anyone reacting negatively or at all to variations in something so minute.

An alternative motive from a mathematician's perspective I don't see in the other answers or comments:

My surname is fairly common. So I use just an initial in my slides when referencing theorems I've worked on as a concise clarification that I am the person referred to. I'm not aware of anyone else sharing my surname in my field of specialization, but that's hardly a guarantee. This has nothing to do with encouraging memorizing my name, as that's in a header/footer on virtually every slide.

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The bias is against self-aggrandizement, and that's what helped establish the norm Christian mentioned in their answer: If you cite yourself a few times, and you use your name, it is as though you bring people into a room where you show them many images of your name. Of course that's not the contents of the presentation, but there is at least some element of that. So, symbolically, you self-deprecate by limiting your self-mention to a single letter. Your full name on the first slide of the presentation is actually common, though (so people know who's giving the talk if they've forgotten or don't know what's on the schedule today); there's no bias - that I know of - against that.

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In conference presentations, there is a bias against mentioning one's own name because the speaker knows their own name and doesn't realize their audience has forgotten who is speaking.

It's not an unwritten rule; it's a common mistake. If you are citing your own work, do write your own name correctly so people can find the reference if they want to.

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    Please Anonymous P. could you change a comma or so? I have mistakenly down voted instead of a plus 1..... – Alchimista Jan 21 at 10:14
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    That’s why you put your name in a header/footer. – mmeent Jan 21 at 10:39
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    Downvoted because "unwritten rule" and "common mistake" is a false dichotomy. – Xerxes Jan 22 at 15:03
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    @Xerxes "it is not an unwritten rule because it is a common mistake" would be a false dichotomy. What I wrote is not a dichotomy. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 23 at 3:10
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That depends.

I saw one prof get credit for someone elses work by putting his name on the slide and pointing to the other persons results!

Why do you want your name on the slides? Isnt the title page on the first one enough?

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  • Especially at bigger conferences with lots of parallel sessions, people may come after you have already started. – mmeent Jan 22 at 20:51
  • The question is about citations of the author's work, not including their name as part of the slide template. – Sneftel Jan 23 at 10:17
  • @Sneftel - that is not how the OP is worded. It was about the name on the slide not the name in a citation. – abd Jan 23 at 17:22
  • From the OP: “ if you cite work in the middle of the talk and it happens to be your own work”. That’s pretty unambiguous. Read the other answers to get an idea of the context around this practice. – Sneftel Jan 23 at 17:33

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