Transgender astronomers speak out about outdated name change policies

Trans-astronomers are fighting to change name policies in scientific journals, which have historically prohibited authors from retroactively changing their names. This Hubble ultraviolet image shows Jupiter in brilliant color.A letter addressed to a scientific journal sparked a discussion about safety, diversity and inclusion in the astronomy community.Scientists publish their work in journals under their own name. People can change their names for many reasons. Some journals have policies that prevent authors from correcting or changing the names they had published in previous publications. While this can cause confusion and career problems for some, it can also pose serious safety concerns for transgender scientists.A working group of scientists led by Emily Hunt (a doctoral student at the University of Heidelberg) wrote an open letter to the Astronomy & Astrophysics board of directors in June. After an incident in which the journal denied a request for a name change from transgender astronomers, the letter addressed the board of directors of Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A). A&A decided to modify the policy after the open letter was published.Hunt posted the open letter on Twitter. Hunt shared the open letter on Twitter after obtaining over 900 signatures in just a few days.Study finds that nonbinary astronomers require better support from their fieldThere are many reasons why people change their names. For example, they may change their last name after marriage. The authors of the open letter made it clear that restrictive name updates policies in scientific journals can have worse consequences for transscientists who need to correct their old names or "dead" names in previous publications.The open letter, which called for A&A to change its policies, stated that not only do they need to be modified to allow retroactive names corrections but that the entire process should remain private to protect the anonymity and safety of the author.Hunt explained to that if a paper had your old name on, it would be difficult to promote your research. Hunt said that it can be dangerous to do science in countries with less acceptance or collaborators.The open letter states that "The denials of name updates on manuscripts causes major, unnecessary difficulties for trans academics." They may decide to not list works published under their former names in their CVs, which may prevent them from getting full credit for past work and could limit their career advancement. This can also affect the accuracy of the scholarly record as it separates works from their authors.The letter explains how these policies could affect scientists' careers and also highlights how it could be dangerous for authors.Similar: Astronomy women of color face more discrimination and harassmentIt will force trans academics to 'out' them as trans if they include works published under a previous name. The letter states that this could put them at risk for harassment or discrimination, especially in areas with little or no legal protections.Multiple published reports are cited in the letter, which emphasizes the importance of author corrections or changes to previous publications. A Nature article by Tess Tanenbaum (assistant professor of informatics at University of California Irvine) is also cited in the letter, which emphasizes the importance of the topic.Hunt stated that "a lot" of journals have name-change policies, but "a lot" have not. Hunt stated that authors who requested name changes to be made on publications in the past have been denied and even met with negative or curt responses.Some publications are slowly changing their name updates policies.Hunt stated, "Last year was when many journals in different areas of science around the globe started changing their policies."The Committee on Publication Ethics has supported name updates policies for transgender authors. It is also working to create guidance for publications, according to the letter cites. Publications such as Science, Science, IOP Publishing Wiley, Elsevier, and Wiley have already changed their policies. According to the letter, such policies are changing at places like Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and Nature Astronomy.A&A's publisher, EDP Sciences, is a COPE member. A&A has changed its policy after the publication of the open-letter."I am happy to inform you that the A&A Board approved a few days back that the publication policy would now be updated to support retroactive name changes. A&A has now stated its commitment to respecting author rights, reducing or eliminating barriers to inclusion, and author credit." Andr Moitinho De Almeida was the Chair of Astronomy & Astrophysics Board of Directors. He spoke June 28 at the European Astronomical Society's annual meeting award ceremony. was told by an A&A representative that the change would take place in the early part of next week.Hunt stated that while small changes like these are a positive step in the right direction, they still reflect a larger problem within the scientific community. Hunt said that science is not just for straight white men. There are many people involved in science. We want to have a wider range of people because it makes us stronger and it's just fairer, and better way of doing it," she stated.She said that in some journals, however, she didn't think anyone stopped to look at the journal and ask, "OK, how much training are we in place?" Are we able to have diverse editors? Are there a variety of people on the board of directors? Is everyone able to understand equality issues?"Hunt stated that she hopes journals will not just change the name update policies but also look at ways they can prevent this from happening in the future, and be more "clued-in" about diversity and inclusion issues. Although these journal policy updates are relatively simple to fix, Hunt said that there are many bigger problems in astronomy as well as wider academia that are more difficult to fix, especially for those from minorities and members of the LBGTQ+ communities.Chelsea Gohd can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Spacedotcom