Assume I have the name: "First Middle Last". I have been publishing as "First Last."

At my current job (postdoc) my adviser prefers that I list my name on my paper as F. Last (or F.M. Last), and I'm afraid that the change in style will make it less obvious that all the papers I've written are from the same person. Is this an issue that matters? If so, does it matter enough to insist on using "First Last" in spite of all other names being abbreviated on any papers?

P.S. If this is a community dependent question, I'm a physicist in the AMO physics and optics communities (e.g. APS and OSA). I'm asking about how my name appears in the list of authors on the paper I wrote (not about how citations are formatted).

  • A more common issue that I've seen is whether or not to provide your middle initial. I'd be interested in the related question of whether providing a middle initial on some publications and not others causes many problems. Mar 19, 2015 at 23:15

6 Answers 6


Are you talking about how you are listed in citations, or how you are listed in the authorship of a paper?

In authorship, it definitely matters precisely how you are listed, especially since there are a lot of scientists in the world, and there's a decent chance there's another one out there with a very similar name to you. It's fine to insist on having your name listed in the way that you want to have it listed.

In citation, though, the fraction of your name that appears largely depends on the style of the citation required by the venue (I have even seen one highly aberrant journal citation format that omitted the author names entirely), and also doesn't matter so much, since the citation is really just a "pointer" to finding your original article.

  • I was specifically talking about how my name appears in the original publication. (Thanks for the quick/nice response) Mar 19, 2015 at 22:24

If you find yourself publishing under multiple names, e.g., "First Last" in one journal and "F. Last" in another, you might want to consider registering for an ORCiD. ORCiD provides a unique identifier which a researcher can use to unite all the different names she/he has published under.

If you have a more common name, like "John Smith", an ORCiD can help differentiate you from other researchers with similar names. And if you change your name, ORCiD can help you link the older to the newer.


I believe that consistency is important and it is important for journals to accept your preferred name if at all possible.

I go by my middle name and it is important to keep it that way for me. One reason is that my first name is the same as my father and we have the same middle initial. Thus, there would be confusion if I published under my first name or just my initials. Even an ORCiD could be confusing if I linked by initials (although all those pharmacology papers might help my pub record ;-).

At least I don't get the confusion with my grandfather's pubs that my brother gets.

There is an additional consideration for women. When I got married, someone asked my wife if she was going to change her name. She replied,"Why should I? I have more publications than he does."


If a journal requires a specific format (initials plus a last name, for instance), there's not much you can do. However, the more consistently and uniquely you can identify yourself, the easier it will be to make sure your work is properly "accounted for" and remembered. It's a lot easier to keep track of a "Hedwig von Restorff" than for a "John Smith," for example.

  • 2
    There are journals who insist on particular formats for names? Ugh. They need to read this. Mar 20, 2015 at 0:48

I think the author name style should be uniform for all the authors of a paper. Since your professor prefers initials for first names, you have not much choice :). The question here is whether bibliographic databases (e.g. Scopus) would recognize you and link this paper to the other papers you already have therein (i.e. recognize you as the same person). Additional data used to perform this properly is your affiliation. I have already published papers with initials for the first name. From my experience it works well in Scopus, even though I have very common last name.


Nowadays, I use just my first and last names on my papers (and my stackexchange registration), omitting my middle name. A few of my early papers, though, had my first and middle initials and my last name, for consistency with how my teacher and co-author formatted his name. The discrepancy has never caused any problems for me, but it caused a little extra work for the staff at Mathematical Reviews (nowadays MathSciNet). They are quite careful about keeping track of when two different names refer to the same person (and when the same name refers to two different people). So at some point, I got a letter from them asking me whether the papers under both versions of the name were mine. I don't know whether other fields than mathematics have an organization that is similarly careful about matching names to people.

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