Nautilus

Surnames and citation indexes

Biji T. Kurien of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation writes (Nature 453; 450; 2008):

The Correspondence ‘Give south Indian authors their true names’ (Nature 452, 530; 2008) and earlier News Feature ‘Identity crisis’ (Nature 451, 766–767; 2008) are highly relevant to calculations of PubMed citations and h-index (the number n of a researcher’s papers that have received at least n citations).

For example, I used to use the south Indian form of my name: T. Biji Kurien, with Biji being my personal name. I have seven publications cited incorrectly in PubMed as being by ‘Kurien, T. B.’, ‘Bijikurien, T.’ or ‘Kurien, B.’. Four of these entries were cited often enough to be counted towards my h-index computation. As I had by then changed my name to conform with Western style, these publications unfortunately do not appear in the Web of Science or PubMed under my current name format. Consequently, my h-index ranking has fallen by 25% .

It is of paramount importance to adhere to a consistent name pattern right from the start, in order to maintain a correct list of publications in the public databases as well as the right h-index rankings.

Prabhu B. Patil, of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, writes in the same issue of Nature (453, 450; 2008):

The Correspondence ‘Give south Indian authors their true names’ (Nature 452, 530; 2008), incorrectly states that people from the south do not traditionally have surnames.

I am from southern India and have a proper surname — as do all the families in my region. Besides Patil, surnames such as Naidu, Reddy, Rao and Gouda are common in the different states of southern India. One of the authors of the Correspondence has the surname Kutty.

Surnames have widely fallen into disuse because our fathers and forefathers avoided using them to prevent discrimination on grounds of caste.

It doesn’t make sense in this case to use only an author’s first name in scientific publications and to devise a special system to accommodate a different naming format. Instead, editors should encourage these authors to revive the use of their surnames.

Comments are welcome here and at Indigenus, the blog of Nature India.

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