Name Change Policies:
A Brief (Personal) Tour

Danica J. Sutherland (she/they)
or from 2019ish – 2020: D. J. Sutherland (intentionally vague)
or before 2019ish: D           J. Sutherland (he)

Queer in AI workshop, NeurIPS 2022

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Name changes

To steal an insight from Robyn Speer's talk at QinAI @ ACL 2020:

There are only two hard things in computer science:
cache invalidation and naming things.
– Phil Karlton

For trans people, naming things (yourself) can be hard

…and getting other people to update the way they refer to / think of you can be harder

Who changes their name?

  • Most trans people: ~80% of trans Americans change or want to change their name [US Trans Survey 2015]
  • ~75% of American women getting married [NYT Upshot 2015]
  • People reclaiming cultural identity
  • People estranged from their father's family

My path to wanting a name change

1989 – 2007
definitely no signs, nothing to see here
2007–13 (undergrad, start of grad school)
CS/academia seems very straight…
date boys sometimes, but stay quiet about Queer Stuff
2013–18 (grad school, start of postdoc)
maybe there's Something Going On With My Gender™?
let's not think about that
keep staying quiet about Queer Stuff
early 2018
hmm, time to decide whether to apply for faculty jobs…
June 2018

(Not this tweet, but the basic idea)


A few hours later, on

Answer from Rebecca J. Stones (a mathematician):

Next steps

  • (Reading, therapy, talking to people, trying new things, …)
  • Iterated through a bunch of possible names
    • Sorry to about seven different possible future Sutherlands who might want a gmail address!
  • Eventually settled(ish) on one that keeps my initials
    • Explicitly because I wanted citations
      to “D. J. Sutherland” to stay correct
  • Decided to go ahead with faculty applications
    • Felt a lot better after Queer in AI @ NeurIPS 2018
  • Got some offers; picked one, deferred for a while
  • Started publishing + giving talks as "D.J." in the interim

A non-solution

“As an aside, I believe you should not rebrand your older papers with your new first name. This confuses all the database searches. I am afraid that your best bet is to stick to your initials only.

“Similar things happen to divorced women. For instance, [a person] was essentially forced to keep the name of her ex-husband […] decades after her divorce.

“I am sure many people told you so, so…”

A non-solution

“Just start using the new name + note on your website/ORCID/…”

  • Have to disclose the name change constantly, forever
  • Readers won't realize you and “old you” are same person
  • Will still get cited under the old name, forever

Name change policies

Before me:

  • ACM adopts an early policy, after much resistance
  • Name Change Policy Working Group
  • Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) forms a working group in 2019
    • Publishes an update in January 2021
    • "Anticipate sharing the initial guidance document…within the next few months" 🦗


For me:
For others:

OpenReview (ICLR)

  • For me: after lots of back and forth, got everything fixed
  • Wanted approval from program chairs
    • For me, got it before even telling me they were asking
    • What if no PC replies? (Maybe all have retired…)
    • What if a PC is just transphobic?
    • Is the publisher okay with PCs deciding to admit a paper with [a cis-presenting author] but not an identical paper with [a trans-presenting author]?
  • OpenReview no longer requires PC permission


  • Via GitHub pull requests, no PC approval or anything needed
  • Not ideal, but not particularly visible unless you go looking
  • (Looking, I found one person changing last name, plus me)


  • I haven't done this, but I understand it's similar


  • I made new versions of all my papers with the name fixed
  • You don't have to do this anymore:
    • Invisible retroactive name changes for the most important places
    • As of last year, editing citations/etc was officially against policy (but the person I was talking to let me do it)
    • Submit new versions if you need to

ACM (FAccT, KDD, …)

  • One of the first name change policies
  • Extremely slow implementation
  • My request (one measly paper) took five months
  • Someone who requested not long after me has been waiting just shy of a year
  • Supposedly allows fixing citations, but not aware of anyone having actually done it


  • Formerly a holdout
  • Instituted a policy last year; actually implemented pretty well
  • Allows fixing IEEE citations too! …of your IEEE papers
    • IEEE style uses initials, so I haven't “field-tested” this
    • but seems like if an IEEE paper cites your IEEE paper and your NeurIPS paper, and both names are fixed, would change the citation of the IEEE paper and not of the NeurIPS paper 🙄


  • No public policy
  • They will change names, but implementation is bad
  • Months and months of ghosting me before I complained elsewhere in the org and my one paper (where I sent them a fixed PDF) finally got fixed

Other publishers

Dozens of publishers (for thousands of venues) tracked here

The big missing thing in general is updating citations

Semantic Scholar

  • Send an email: all papers fixed regardless of publisher


  • Send an email (or in my case no email?), can get all papers immediately fixed regardless of publisher

Google Scholar

  • There's no one to email
  • You can change your own profile page; not obvious that this doesn't affect searching for the paper directly
  • After name is fixed at publisher, remains wrong at Google Scholar until they invalidate their cache (months later)
    • Recently added fast-tracked (5-10 days) updates for name changes, for some publishers

People's .bib files they reuse between projects

  • Often remain wrong
  • I've corrected bibs from multiple coauthors in paper drafts
  • rebiber pulls DBLP entries for conferences it knows about
    • but design means rebiber itself can easily be out of date
  • ACL camera-ready checks now warn for outdated names
    • system built by Pranav

Do people actually cite me by the right name?

Semantic Scholar API => arXiv downloads => pdfgrep:
some errors in processing, 1/3 of citing papers not on arXiv

Do people fix their bibliographies?

Eight papers corrected my name in later arXiv versions
(two of them because I emailed and asked)

Compare: 158 papers deadnaming me after arXiv was fixed,
>100 after corresponding official versions were fixed

Do people look at their own bibliographies?

Eight (different) papers cite me by both correct and deadname in the same version

Takeaway, if you're changing your name:

  • You absolutely can!
  • Once Google Scholar gets the updates,
    most people will start citing you correctly
  • Old citations won't change unless you really work at it
  • It's still a lot more work than it should be
  • Ask for help dealing with publishers if you need it
    • (Me, on the Queer in AI Slack, the NCPWG, …)

Takeaway, if you're writing papers: