Scientific journals are ‘pretty close’ to the ideal system for transgender name changes

Scientific journals are “pretty close” to an ideal system that allows transgender people to change their names in past publications without the trauma of having to exit each time, an academic has said.

In the past, trans researchers either had to agree to have their old names appear on articles they wrote, or prove their identity in order to have their names printed as corrections next to a name they didn’t use. more – their dead name.

Tanja Junkers, deputy editor of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) journal Chemical Science, who is transgender, told the AP news agency that scientists have left the profession because of the issue.

She explained that when she came out about five years ago, she thought trying to change her name in posts that used her dead name was “futile.”

For her, the hardships even influenced the name she ultimately chose as she tried to limit the damage to her career.

But now policy changes led by the RSC mean that authors’ names can be changed in its journals without them being published as corrections, and without the scholar needing to prove their identity.

They can also be changed without the old name appearing on the paper, meaning scientists no longer have to explain to students and colleagues why there are two names.

Professor Junkers told the PA news agency: ‘I don’t even want to erase it completely (old name), but just hearing it is actually painful.

“At first, I thought it didn’t bother me too much.

“I think I didn’t realize how much it really bothered me until four years ago when I moved to Australia, and we had this thing where we started putting our latest articles on a chalkboard. display for students to read.

“And then one of my students came up to me and said, ‘Do you realize that half the newspapers have your old name?’

“That’s what comes out of the students every time. And that was something that I hadn’t thought of before because in my old institution, everyone knew about it.

She added: “I’m open about being trans but that doesn’t mean I want to tell my story to everyone.

“And that’s exactly what’s traumatic for me because I wasn’t a different person before.

“I am the same person. I mean, there’s always a weird exception, but you can pretty much generalize that most trans people don’t even want to hear their own dead name.

“I think we’re pretty close to an ideal system in terms of general posting because you can do it now and the self-declaration or self-identification is pretty good, which is absolutely brilliant.

“I think it’s also reasonably easy – at least the RSC reviews.”

The polymer chemist said she knows people who left the profession because of the difficulty of changing names in past posts.

She told PA: ‘They couldn’t change it and they just didn’t want to be associated with the old name and the only way to do that was to change their profession.’

When applying for research funding, for example, institutions ask for a list of publications.

She said: “That’s why I learned to accept it back then because I knew deleting my old posts would have meant starting from scratch.”

There are also databases where people search for publications, but these use initials – which often change with a name change, but the academic decided to keep the same letters for the sake of his career.

Professor Junkers said: ‘For me it felt like I could have done it, but it was very clear ‘if I want to do damage control I have to keep my initial’.

“I’m very open about it. It was actually one of the main reasons for choosing my name.

“And I’m really, really happy that people who come out now don’t have to struggle because they’re able to change retroactively.”

The author name change policy, which was announced by the RSC in December 2020, has been adopted by the society’s 48 journals.

It came about after a member of the editorial board thought the CBC might be one of the first publishers to develop a name change policy based on some of its work on inclusion and diversity.

More than half of the world’s academic journals have joined the RSC’s commitment to joint action on inclusion and diversity in publishing and are taking steps to eliminate bias at every stage of research publication scientist.

Dr Helen Pain, chief executive of the RSC, told PA: “There’s plenty of evidence that shows that diversity leads to better science, better business decisions, better results.”