Agreement Helps Trans Researchers Update Names on Past Work

Lindsay Kalter

July 29, 2021

Transgender researchers will now be able to change their names on past publications with greater ease ― a process that has previously been time consuming, difficult, and rife with administrative hoops.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy national laboratory in Berkeley, California, is coordinating a partnership among all 17 US national labs, along with publishers and journals, that will streamline the process for people who wish to claim their past work under new names.

Previously, transgender researchers have shouldered the burden on their own. The new initiative will allow people to simply ask their affiliated institutions to pursue the process for them. Those institutions will work directly with the publishers and journals.

"As a trans scientist, having publications under my birth name causes me to have mixed feelings about past work of which I'm otherwise proud," said Amalie Trewartha, PhD, a research scientist with the Toyota Research Institute and the materials science division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "I am faced with the dilemma of either hiding certain parts of it or outing myself," she said.

"Having my name updated on my previous publications would be enormously meaningful. It would allow me to make a first impression on my peers primarily through my merits as a scientist, and it would allow me to unreservedly embrace and be proud of research from all stages of my career," she said.

Participating labs and organizations include the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the American Society for Microbiology, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Any researcher can make use of the new system, but the partnership is aimed specifically at helping the transgender community. The participating national labs will accommodate requests for name changes for any reason, whether it be religious, marital, or gender related.

"We are supporting our colleagues on an important issue that is often taken for granted — allowing them to take full credit for their academic achievements with their name," said Joerg Heber, PhD, research integrity officer with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "It could not happen without our partners at the other national labs and in publishing. We're grateful to be working in concert on this — it's never been done before."

Lindsay Kalter is a health freelance journalist who has held positions with Politico, the Boston Herald, and the American Heart Association. Aside from WebMD and Medscape, her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, Boston Globe Magazine and Business Insider.

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