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Update on COPE guidance regarding author name changes

Author name changes working group

In response to an increase in cases and queries in 2019 about author name changes after article publication, COPE formed a working group of Trustees, Council Members, publishers, editors, and authors to develop guidance on this important topic. Post-publication changes are typically accomplished with correction notices, which provide transparency for readers and ensure the changes downstream to indexing and discovery services. These notices are not appropriate in all circumstances however, particularly in the case of transgender, non-binary, and/or gender diverse (hereafter shortened to “trans”) authors because of the potential trauma caused by the continued circulation of their previous names and the risks to which disclosure of their gender identity subjects them.

Working through the complexities associated with post-publication name changes takes time, as the journals and publishers that have developed their own policies in the interim can likely attest. Beyond drafting guidance that makes the process easier, the COPE working group has the additional goal of making the process more consistent for authors, journals/publishers, and relevant third parties. To that end, we have been liaising with staff at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the US National Library of Medicine, among other organisations.

At its core, the group is being driven by high level principles that are detailed in a guest editorial entitled A vision for a more trans-inclusive publishing world. Written by some members of the group, with other colleagues, the editorial powerfully articulates why this guidance is needed and details five guiding principles and best practices.

At the group’s recommendation, COPE has recently added a note to a case about a name change, which was presented to the COPE Forum in 2013. This case should no longer be used by journals or publishers as justification for denying the rights of trans authors who request that their names be changed on their earlier publications.

We anticipate sharing the initial guidance document—which will likely then continue to evolve over time—within the next few months. We know some journals and publishers are waiting for COPE’s guidance, rather than developing their own policies. For journals and publishers actively developing their own policies or seeking to be proactive, we are happy to put you in contact with members of the working group in the interim, with the aim of providing insight and expertise. More importantly, we know the document cannot come soon enough for trans authors, who are most impacted by the current processes and practices..

If you have any feedback either about this topic or the editorial, please submit a general enquiry.

Rachel L. Safer, COPE Council

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