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I am transgender woman and recently updated my name (which also changed my initials). In addition, I retroactively updated my name on most of the papers that I have published in the last couple of years.

Looking around on the internet, it seems that none of the bigger indexing services have not yet picked up on this change. This answer suggests that this process might not happen automatically; however, this answer says the change should at some point be picked up by the indexing services.

So I was wondering: Will the indexing services update my papers in their databases automatically (and how long would that take)?

(Examples of websites that still list my papers under my old name are Scopus, Web of Science, DBLP, Semantic Scholar, Google Scholar).

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    @JonCuster I can't imagine this is a new problem. Changes in names have always happened and were very common among women who got married after writing their first article. I can imagine some databases were not designed with this in mind, but that was a bad design since the beginning. But surely this is a difficult problem to tackle, which is probably why it wasn't solved in the first place. Anyway, I'm not sure about citations with your new name: when I cite a paper I use the name on the paper, not the one in the metadata of some database which may be erroneous.
    – stanton63
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 15:15
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    @stanton63 - Way back when, names were not (could not be) retroactively changed on journal articles - they were printed and that was that. The databases started back then, and nobody foresaw that one could easily update the name on-line. So, no, it was not a bad design back then, it reflected the state of publications then - nothing was online, the copy you had was physical, not electronic...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 15:33
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    @stanton63 Very few women had opportunities to do academic research in the times when these conventions started, fewer before they were married, and traditionally only women changed their names. More recently, people who want to stay attached to their publication record tend to either not change their legal name when they are married, or to keep their previous name in professional contexts even if they do change legally. There are lots of existing Q&A about this here.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 15:47
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    @Allure Yes, I contacted them. Most publishers are open to updating your name if you are transgender. For example see Springer's Authorship Principles. On our community's pre-print server I uploaded new versions of the papers with my updated name (and sometimes some other erratas fixed as well).
    – dusk
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 11:49
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    @dusk hmm that's surprising. I'm under the impression that once a paper is published, it's not really feasible to change it, because the metadata is already out there and the paper would have been distributed. You might be seeing the impact in practice: Springer can change your name on their website, but they can't change your name in the various indexing services.
    – Allure
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 12:43

2 Answers 2

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Unfortunately, at the time of writing, most indexing services (with the exception of Google Scholar) do not state that they will automatically re-index publications after a name change. However, almost all of them provide a form (or some other means) to request data corrections.

Here is an in-exhaustive list of all the indexing services I requested my a correction for my name with:

  • DBLP: email: dblp [at] dagstuhl.de. FAQ page. Time until resolved: one day
  • Google Scholar: I haven't figured this one out yet, but this answer suggests that this will happen automatically.
  • ResearchGate: request form. Time until resolved: one day
  • Scopus: data correction form. Time until resolved: one month
  • Semantic Scholar: Profile name changes (done after through signing up) are reflected on all the papers that were matched to your name.
  • Web Of Science: data correction form. Time until resolved: [TBD]

As I proceed sending in the data correction requests, I will append new indexing services to this list, and how long it took from submitting the request to the data being updated in the index.

Update: Google Scholar seems to recrawl the papers from their original sources, but it happens slowly. No paper was updated after 3 months. But after 4 months some of my papers have been updated now.

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Here I'm largely guessing about what is possible. I would think that many such services would consider it desirable to update such things, but the problem is very difficult given the nature of academic publishing: many publishers, many countries/languages, etc. Thus, any attempt to do this would likely be slow and imperfect. It might, actually, wind up in a chaotic situation for some people and scholarship generally. There are both ethical and financial elements to this.

It is also an problem that updating without explicit permission of authors is an ethical issue.

Moreover, it is an expensive process with servers needing to constantly search of name changes and make updates, when those name changes might not be obvious as they are collected, if at all, in various places. And such reindexing would need to be applied to older papers as well as latest offerings.

The biggest issue, of course, is that changing the name in an indexing service would complicate citations already made. For this reason I suggest everyone to choose a name for publication purposes and stick with it throughout their career whether they change their legal name or not.

So, the best situation might actually be to make such updates only on request of authors after some verification. That is, best overall, but not best for a given individual.

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