32 - It's the small things that matter

Unsichtbares Akkordeon

If his name had been easier to spell, his accomplishments would have been recognized more.


Small changes in the spelling of names can have severe consequences for the researchers' careers. Many alternative versions can be found especially for names that contain special characters. This can lead to a systematically lower recognition of citations.

The researcher Terje Tüür-Fröhlich shows this effect in her work using the well-known sociologist Pierre Bourdieu as an example. She found 85 mutations for his name in public research databases. A flawed record of citations can be an issue in particular in the beginning of an academic career since citation indexes are used as a measure for scientific accomplishments and play a role in the allocation of funding or job applications.

The use of persistent identifiers (PIDs) for persons represents a possible solution for these issues. Since authors are identified by the PID, mistakes in the spelling of the name are less problematic. Common PIDs for researchers are the non-profit scheme ORCID or ResearcherID by Thompson Reuters. By now, PIDs for persons have become somewhat common and a number of publishers ask for them when a manuscript is submitted.