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Implementing name changes for published transgender authors

At PLOS we are committed to addressing the needs of all research communities to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. One of the concerns for some of our transgender and non-binary authors is around changes to their names and how these are reflected in the academic record. In particular, the names assigned to transgender or non-binary persons at birth can represent a stigma, and these names are sometimes referred to as deadnames. 

Although authors can change their name on their ORCiD profiles themselves, changes to their published academic record have been difficult to implement since, traditionally, changes are limited to correcting author or publisher errors. We believe there is no reason for this to be a barrier. Publishing an academic study is an achievement for researchers to be proud of, and it is important that the name on the paper reflects who the authors are. Therefore, across all PLOS journals we will now honor requests from transgender and non-binary authors of published papers to update their names. 

The relevant papers will be “republished”, meaning that they will be fully replaced online, and that their indexing metadata (which affects how the author list appears in PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, etc.) should subsequently be updated accordingly. This replaces the author name fully, yet ensures that citation information such as the DOI for the paper remains the same. All previous citations to the paper remain valid. To maintain the author’s privacy, no notice of the name change will be attached to the replaced paper. 

We strive to support our authors and address issues around equality and inclusion, and welcome any enquiries from transgender authors interested in updating names on their past publications. There is no requirement for authors to do so, this is entirely at their discretion. To initiate this process, simply email us at the relevant journal office. What matters to us is the person who authored the paper, and we want to ensure that the published academic record reflects their correct identity.

Discussion
  1. Is there a provision in the search engine services for something like:
    For “newname” see also “oldname” or vice versa? Or an auto feed forward if one is searched to seamlessly send the searcher to the other? If not, won’t someone who knows only the one name potentially miss some of the work? I strongly support the name change idea and want it to work well.

    1. Dr. Alschuler,

      Thanks for your comment. If you are talking about our own search interface on our web site then it’s very likely that it will pick up on the most up-to-date version. We decided against public notices of the name changes to protect the privacy of our authors. One of the easiest and best ways to ensure your complete publication record is attributed to you is to get an ORCID ID. This would help trangender people who seek a name change the same way that it does for name changes after marriage.

  2. Will PLOS also support updating the names of people of other genders? Such as a researcher who gets married and changes his last name or a researcher who immigrates and adopts a new local name for herself?

    1. The intention of this policy is to address potential stigma associated with the durable use of an incorrect name for those authors for whom this is damaging. For other circumstances, we encourage authors to link their ORCID iDs to their publications to ensure a stable digital record of their research output regardless of what name(s) they use on individual articles.

  3. Happy to support this, but I’ve three questions: (1) will it be applicable for everyone, regardless of the reason for the name change? (2) will you alert the co-authors to any change? (3) have you considered what happens to citations already made, won’t they now look as though the citing author has made mistakes and the citation is potentially inaccurate?

    1. The intention of this policy is to address potential stigma associated with the durable use of an incorrect name for those authors for whom this is damaging. Accordingly, we will not be contacting the other authors on affected manuscripts to inform them of the change and, as outlined in the blog, there will be no notice of the name change attached to the paper. Any previously published citations to the work will continue to refer unambiguously to the manuscript via the doi, all relevant indexing services will be provided with the update using our standard processes, and the content of the version of record remains the same. For circumstances not covered by this policy, we encourage authors to link their ORCID iDs to their publications to ensure a stable digital record of their research output regardless of what name(s) they use on individual articles.

  4. Since the Version of Record is immutable in terms of contents – and the author name is certainly content rather than metadata – will you mark the version with the new author name as “Corrected Version of Record” (according to NISO/ALPSP guidelines)?

    1. As outlined in the blog, there will be no notice of the name change attached to the paper. Typically we signal any substantive change to the paper via a Correction or Notice of Republication, depending on the case. In this case, however, the content and the authors of the version of record remains the same–only the designation of an author will be different. Any previously published citations to the work will continue to refer unambiguously to the manuscript via the doi.

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