1. Is it possible to publish under a nom de plume (pen name, pseudonym)?
  2. ... and still take credit for the work?

I may have a chance to publish with the professor I am working with soon and if I am on the list of authors I would like to use a nom de plume, but I would also like to use the publication to apply to graduate schools next time. Is it possible to have my cake and eat it in the case?

EDIT: Sorry for missing this out; The reason for wanting to publish under a nom de plume is that I would merely want my career to be tracked under a different name. Not to hide identity; I am perfectly fine with what EnergyNumbers was suggesting.

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    My initial reaction is: why anonymity of you intend to break it. I guess you need to explain the underlying reasoning behind it. Cultural within your subject? Mar 14, 2013 at 12:01
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    what is "nom de plume"??
    – antmw1361
    Mar 14, 2013 at 12:05
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    Pen name. Pseudonym acquired for the purpose of writing and publishing a text. Mar 14, 2013 at 12:07
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    Reminds me of "I make anonymous donations". Seriously though, is this because if your paper gets rejected you don't want to associate yourself with it?
    – user13107
    Mar 14, 2013 at 12:10
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    Clearly the answer depends on why you want to publish under a pseudonym. Most of the answers are just guessing at your reason. Could you please edit to explain? Mar 14, 2013 at 23:35

6 Answers 6


Taking it that your asking about a nom de plume (aka "pen name") for reasons of conspicuousness, rather than for reasons of anonymity:

Yes, it is possible to publish under something other than your legal name. A nom de plume isn't that unusual in academia, particular for folk with common names who would otherwise be unfindable in literature databases.

You need to make sure that your legal identity is sufficiently tied to your nom de plume, so that there's not going to be any arguing about it.

Some people adopt double-barrelled surnames for their noms de plume: others add a distinctive first or second initial. As long as its sufficiently close to your real name, that should be sufficient.

Note that this will entail your nom de plume effectively becoming your name for academic purposes: it's what will be on your email correspondence, your web page, your conference name-badges, and so on. You'll just have to do a bit of tweaking with university administration so that payroll, legal, and travel arrangements are all in your real name, not your pen name.

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    +1 for pointing out another plausible reason for using a nom de plume.
    – Tara B
    Mar 14, 2013 at 16:51
  • Would anyone happen to know if this would apply in Australia as well? i.e. in Australia would there be more/less trouble caused by using a pseudonym when applying for grad school and arguing that you've written the paper?
    – avdo rian
    Feb 29, 2016 at 15:30

I would like to use a nom de plume, but I would also like to use the publication to apply to graduate schools next time.

In principle, you could do this. You would need some way of demonstrating that you really were an author (nobody will believe you if you claim "Andrew Wiles" was just a pseudonym you used for your proof of Fermat's Last Theorem), but a letter of recommendation from your supervisor would suffice.

In practice, why would you want to? You would need to explain in your application why you had used a pseudonym, and I can't think of any explanation that would sound compelling. Even in the best-case scenario, this issue would be a distraction from the actual substance of your grad school applications, and it would probably hurt your chances of admission. Whatever you say, people are going to suspect it's because you are embarrassed by the paper or by your contribution to it, and that won't look good on an application.

I'm assuming here that your nom de plume is intended to hide or disguise your identity. If not, then it should be fine. Some people use different names professionally and socially, and this is OK as long as you are clear about it. (It may cause some confusion in your career, but it isn't considered an ethical problem.) If this is the case, then you should include a brief note of explanation, for example "I legally changed my name to Smith-Jones upon getting married in 2012, but I have decided to continue publishing under the name Smith."

  • "why would you want to" - one reason may be visibility. There may be hundreds of scientists publishing under the name of Smith, J., but he is more likely to be alone with "Casimir, Q.". This was suggested elsewhere, but I've also personally known a scientist using a pseudonym for this exact reason/
    – Neinstein
    Sep 19, 2022 at 11:45

No. You cannot simultaneously be anonymous and still receive credit for your work.

Theoretically, your pseudonym could get the credit, but you can't invite a pseudonym to be a collaborator, or to give a lecture, or to apply for a grant, so I'm not sure how useful that would end up being.

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    AFAIR some artists or hackers are known mainly/only by their pseudonyms and they attend meetings (including: giving lectures). So you *can* invite a [person under a] pseudonym to be a collaborator, or to give a lecture. Sure, it may be tricker (or even impossible) if you want to pay for expenses, and for all other formal stuff. Plus, in small, expert communities in may be effectively impossible to hide. Mar 14, 2013 at 14:59
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    I'm not arguing that it is a practical solution, at least in academia (in other cases in happens, see e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy). Still, there will be a difference between only using a pseudonym (perhaps not feasible, at least to maintain anonymity) and publishing only a fraction of one's works (e.g. on sensitive topics, which otherwise would be dangerous even in academia) under a pseudonym. Mar 14, 2013 at 15:11
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    I don't think the OP is asking about anonymity.
    – 410 gone
    Mar 14, 2013 at 15:36
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    @EnergyNumbers - That is how I interpreted it. I guess there could be other motives, such as hiding gender or ethnicity, but my answer applies there as well. I'll leave it to the OP to clarify.
    – eykanal
    Mar 14, 2013 at 15:42
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    Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez is identified in movie credits as Martin Sheen, having chosen the surname because it was that of the famous religious broadcaster Fulton Sheen. Eric Blair published the novels Animal Farm and 1984 and many other works under the pseudonym George Orwell. How would your comments apply to them? Sep 17, 2022 at 17:28

As to another reason using a pseudonym is appropriate is when one is living and researching in a country which would frown upon any given thesis or argument of said article. This can be in many fields of research such as anthropology, sociology, political science, journalism, etc., which compels a researcher to work in places such as China and Iran.


If no one minds me revisiting a 3-year-old question, another idea might be to generate a public/private encryption key, and at the bottom of your works have your public key, a random 100-character string, and the 100-character string after encrypting it with your private key.

Typically digital signatures use the document itself rather than a 100-character string, but in the case of journals/papers, you don't have any control over the final file that the readers download. You might hand the journal a word document, and they'll re-work it into a PDF with their formatting/etc, which makes digitally signing it before hand impossible for you to do.

But with the method proposed above, all someone has to do to check you are the author is to ask you to encrypt a new string, which you do with your private key, and then they can reverse it with the original author's public key, proving you are the original author (or at least, you have their private key).

I was tempted to say you could use the paper's title or abstract instead of 100-characters, but titles can be very short, and also the journal might still mangle it (capitalisation, or weird UTF8 variants of what you gave them originally).

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    I'm revisiting your comment 3 later, so hope that you won't mind it either! Just upvoted your answer and think it's a brilliant idea. I also had a follow-up question: How would you go about convincing the editors to leave a random 100-character string at the bottom of the paper? Thanks for your time
    – user51309
    Jan 3, 2019 at 23:18
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    @Wetlab Taking your comment at face value: What would the advantages of generating a key per paper be over just have 1 key for "the author"? Taking it with some levity: haha, yes; However, I do find that society (at large) has not yet understood the economic (and environmental?) cost of using computational intractability as a resource/currency. That would put me slightly off this idea as I have come to feel that these costs are actually higher than most people think.
    – C.E.Sally
    Jan 6, 2019 at 19:48
  • Hi both! user51309 - you can't force editors to do anything to their own journal's output, however I would think it would be very unreasonable for them to not let you add a public key, random string, and signed output, at least in the supplementary data table, for each author. The problem is they can still modify the content of your work or delete you as an author, since you are not signing the work itself. But that can already happen, and this method means two "John Smiths" are unique in public key at least, and you could search for authors based on public key. Jan 25, 2019 at 13:15
  • C.E.Sally - This is the question of anonymity vs pseudoanonymity. The researcher in all instances is anonymous, and they can prove they are the anonymous person, anonymously. The difference between a researcher with 1 public/private keypair that signs all their work with the same keypair, and a researcher that generates a new keypair for every paper they publish, is that in the former all their papers are linked as coming from the same author, while in the latter one can chose to keep all their work unlinked, or individually link any of their publications by co-signing the same random string. Jan 25, 2019 at 13:24
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    Final comment about the resources, while creating a public/private keypair that is cryptographically secure does take some resources (a minute of time on a standard laptop), the verification of signed things is near-instantaneous, while the forging of signatures should take 1000s of years. Bitcoin does the latter in 5 minutes by throwing lots of energy/money at the problem, and only ever "cracking" the same private key, basically (same curve). So that's where the resources issue comes from. Jan 25, 2019 at 13:26

Yes, but you make things very difficult for yourself if you do not stick to that nom de plume for the remainder of your career. And to get credit, your CV and perhaps some other stuff like your email byline, would have to state something along the lines of, professionally known as Prullaria Fantasticus. Which might strike some people as odd and thus could work against you.

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