Chinese authors are publishing more and more papers, but are they receiving due credit and recognition for their work? Not if their names get confused along the way. Jane Qiu investigates these, and other questions, in a Nature news feature in the current issue of the journal (Nature 451, 766-767; 2008). The article covers the huge problem of how to distinguish between Asian researchers, given the vast numbers of people sharing relatively few surnames. The problem is particularly challenging in the publishing sphere, not only in identifying an author correctly in citation databases and other indeces, but for editors in choosing appropriate peer-reviewers. Asian researchers suffer in being hampered from full participation in the international scientific community, for example they are less likely to be invited to contribute to conferences, to be successful in grant applications or to win awards.
The news feature provides a clear overview of these issues, and more, from a range of perspectives. Some journals have begun to provide author names in original (not Latin) characters, and there are various initiatives to provide unique author identifiers. At this stage, however, there is no consensus as to the best way to proceed: there are problems of technical compatibility between publishing, database and indexing systems, of agreement on universal standards, and other challenges, such as the high mobility of scientists, making it difficult to track the author of several publications.
Nature Network has a forum “”http://network.nature.com/forums/nnano/939">What’s in an Asian name?“, in which several Asian and other researchers provide their perspective of this challenging issue for publishers and database curators. ”http://blogs.nature.com/nautilus/2006/12/web_visibility.html">A Nautilus post last year highlighted the efforts of the Human Frontiers Program to help Japanese and other Asian scientists to improve their international visibility.