Thread: Promising practices – Poster session

Choosing and using an author name

Jackie Senior, Groningen, the Netherlands

Background How prefixed or complex surnames are alphabetized can have far-reaching consequences for academics and scientists. If a researcher has a complex surname or one with a prefix, they run the risk of being alphabetized differently by various journals, databases and publications. As a result, their citations may be split between various versions of their name, their citation score and H-index will be lower than they should be, and a retrieved list of publications will be incomplete.

It is important for prefixed, complex or non-English surnames to be consistently alphabetized in English and cited correctly, as a full, easily retrievable publication record and its related parametrics are crucial for academic and scientific careers.

Purpose This poster aims to raise awareness of the problem of name ambiguity among career academics and scientists as well as editors. Examples will be given on the poster.


  • Early in their career, academics and scientists should choose the version of their name they want to use as an author. When they submit or co-author a paper, they must tell the editor how their name should be alphabetized.
  • They should always check that this alphabetization is used consistently in all publications and in the various databases relevant to their field.
  • They should avoid using more than two initials as many journals and databases will not accept them.
  • They should avoid using a first name that does not correspond to their first initial since this is also a source of confusion.
  • For young women who get married, it is best to continue using their own name for their professional work rather than switching to their husband's name.
  • They should check GoogleScholar, Scopus, Web of Knowledge, Web of Science, PubMed, and other online repositories in their field at least once a year for incorrect naming options used in their papers or citations.
  • They should register for a unique researcher ID, e.g. as set up by Thomson Reuters and ORCID.
  • Editors and those teaching writing courses should help raise awareness of the problem of name ambiguity.



Jackie Senior works for an ambitious research department in the Netherlands (Department of Genetics, University of Groningen/UMCG) and also does some freelance editing of science texts. Nowadays the subjects are mostly biomedical but she started as a geologist (the 1970s oil and gas boom), and spent a few years in investment banking (internet bubble) while also moving into genetics in the 1990s (human genome era). She has been editing and translating for nearly 40 years but the Dutch retirement age has become a moveable feast. She was a founder member of SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors) in 1989 in the Netherlands and served on its executive committee for six years.