Editors facilitate name changes on earlier papers

Jupiter and one of its moons, Ganymede (top left), in a The Hubble Space Telescope near UV image. The colors resemble the shades of blue, pink and white in the transgender pride flag. Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble; treatment by Judy Schmidt, CC BY 2.0

An increasing number of journal editors are adopting policies to change the names of authors on previous academic articles. The trend accelerated in late July when the 17 laboratories of the United States Department of Energy and more than a dozen publishers, including the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Springer Nature and arXiv, announced that they have partnered to streamline the process of implement retroactive name changes.

The decision to revise the policies was prompted by trans academics who want all of their work, before and after the transition, to be under their new names. Academics who change their name due to marriage, divorce, religion, or other reasons may also benefit.

“I am very excited to see these changes,” says Elena Long, assistant professor of nuclear physics at the University of New Hampshire. “For academics, our publications are our entire portfolio – that’s how we get jobs, grants and promotions. “

The question of names has long been at the center of discussions between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender physicists, says Long, a trans woman who co-founded the activist group lgbt + physicists in 2009 and advocates for change policies. name for years. “Many of us are attacked on a personal level, from within our own families and in professional environments,” she says. “So there can be a lot of negative emotions related to our old name.”

The biggest obstacle, says Long, has been the lack of momentum. “We are starting to see some publications change their policies. It has a positive impact and creates a wave of others.

Long was an author of the very first LGBT physicists climate survey conducted by the American Physical Society, published in 2016. The second recommendation of the investigative report was that APS “improve electronic journal registrations and publication procedures so that transgender physicists who change names have full records of their posts visible and, at the same time, will not be revealed by their post record. (See Physics today, March 2015, page 25, and support online interviews.)

With uncorrected names, trans scholars are faced with the choice of listing all of their work on resumes and elsewhere under two different names and thus revealing themselves – making them vulnerable to harassment – or abandoning work published under their so-called name died, which reduces their scholarship. save. Both options risk discrimination in one way or another, notes Long.

Before starting to adopt policies to implement name changes, some publishers did so on an ad hoc basis. Others refused. After Astronomy & Astrophysics refused to update an author’s name earlier this year, more than 900 astronomers signed an open letter protesting the move and urging a policy change “in line with industry standards.”

Industry standards largely follow the recommendations of the nonprofit Committee on Publishing Ethics. In 2019, COPE formed a working group to develop guidelines for retroactive name changes. To January 2021 editorial by working group members and colleagues details guiding principles and best practices for retroactive name changes. Some publishers are waiting for COPE’s next guidelines to revise their name change policies, but many are moving forward on their own.

In June the Astronomy & Astrophysics the board adopted a new policy for name changes. The journal now officially supports the new COPE guidelines. It also recommends that authors register with ORCID, a data platform that identifies journal articles regardless of the author’s name.

A stumbling block for publishers is a philosophical one, says Jessica Thomas, editor-in-chief of APS. “The mission of a publisher is not to falsify the scientific record,” she says. “We are the guardians of what has been published. However, many editors now recognize that changing an author’s name affects who said something, not what they said; the scientific dossier remains unchanged. Thomas agrees. “The main impetus is to support trans academics,” she says. “They have a new identity and they want to preserve their scientific record. How do you update an article without announcing that you have made a change? How to minimize the number of people involved? Editors learn to “balance the practicalities of change with maintaining author privacy.” Adopting new policies is a collective effort.

Nicola Nugent, publication manager for quality and ethics at the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry, said the RSC had internal support to update its policies from the start. “For us, the challenges were on the technical side: how do you do that? There is still a lot to be resolved, she said. For example, RSC makes changes to both PDF documents and HTML online. “We update the metadata and push it to indexers, but we can’t control what they’re doing. The RSC also cannot adjust the quotes, she adds. “Everything is technical. We hope to support the standardization of how these changes are made in the industry. “

Since the adoption of new policies earlier this year, RSC journals have corrected the names of 50 articles by 11 authors, Nugent says.

Under the agreement between the DOE labs and the editors, a lab representative – often a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer – will approach editors on behalf of lab employees. This lightens the burden on individual researchers, says Joerg Heber, head of research integrity at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “We will let publishers know what they need to change. Sometimes there may be a biography or a photo. Pronouns may all need to be changed. In addition to journal articles, Heber says, indexing databases, arXiv preprints, and other documents may need to be reviewed.

The nuts and bolts of changing a name depend on the posting system, Heber says. In some cases, it’s easy, but others may require re-dialing, he says. “It’s not like publishing a new newspaper, but sometimes it’s close.” The consensus among those working on name change policies is that updates should be made to all publicly available digital versions of a person’s record. Publishers implement retroactive name changes at their own expense.

Statistics on trans perpetrators don’t exist, Long says. Judging by the requests so far, the publishers predict that the demand for name changes will be low. But for trans academics whose names are corrected, she says, “this will have a huge impact.”

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