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Perpetuating a mistake by my thesis advisor, I misspelt my name on my mathematical publications so far -- any advice on what to do?

As it happens, my thesis advisor, with whom I co-authored my first paper, misspelt my last name on that paper. He then approved the page proofs. For this reason, on that paper, my name reads Leyli Jafari Taghvasani instead of Leyli Jafari Taghvastani.

In the sequel, in order to have all my publications under the same name, he advised me to stick to the wrong spelling of my name, and publish all my papers under the name Leyli Jafari Taghvasani instead of Leyli Jafari Taghvastani. I followed his advice, and published already some more papers under my misspelt name: JafariTaghvasaniZarrin2017, JafariTaghvasaniZarrin2018, JafariTaghvasaniMarzangZarrin2018, JafariTaghvasaniKohl2019.

My question is: what is the best way to deal with this situation?

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    $\begingroup$ Change your name? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jul 8 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ It may depend on the stage of your career. If you are early in your career, it may be better to start publishing with your correct name, but include all your publications on your CV, explaining there that some publications were published under a variant name. Personally, to me it does not seem right that you have to maintain an incorrect publishing name for the rest of your career because your adviser misspelt it once- but mine might be a minority opinion. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Robinson Jul 8 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ I have heard that MathSciNet devotes a great deal of effort to ensuring that publications are attributed to the right authors even when two authors have the same name, or one author goes by different names in different places. So if you were to contact them, I am sure that they would sort it out in their database, at least. The ArXiV also tracks authors by numeric identifiers rather than names. $\endgroup$ – Neil Strickland Jul 8 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ @NikWeaver Anyone can make an error. What I find truly bizarre is the suggestion that they should continue to mis-spell the name. $\endgroup$ – José Figueroa-O'Farrill Jul 8 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ This question seems more appropriate for Academia.Stackexchange. The issue is not a mathematical one. $\endgroup$ – John Bentin Jul 8 at 21:23
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People change their names for various reasons and manage to maintain the attribution of their work. Should you decide to go with the correct spelling of your name (as I would do if it were me) then you should notify MathSciNet, zbMATH, and the arXiv so they link the two names. MathSciNet at least is generally good about giving each mathematician a unique identifier, and that would help. If you make use of ORCID, then I would make sure that both names generate the same ID.

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Since you have the luxury of a double surname, there is an easy solution that avoids having to go back and correct older publications: use Leyli Jafari from now on. Spanish authors do this all the time, they have a double surname but typically only use the first in their scientific publications (one of my Iranian students also decided to drop his second surname to simplify his citation record).

Databases (Web of Science, Google Scholar) will be able to connect your older publications with author name "Leyli Jafari Taghvasani" to your new publications "Leyli Jafari" (in particular if you have a unique ORCID identifier), and colleagues who type "Leyli Jafari" in a search engine will be directed to both sets of papers.

I checked on Google Scholar that there is no other "L. Jafari", so dropping the second surname should not complicate matter in that respect (and I notice you are already following that practice here on Mathoverflow...).

But the main benefit of the ellipsis is that you will not have to explain this embarassing story that your advisor changed your name...

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I think the concern about having all your papers be listed together on professional databases like MathSciNet and ZBMath, while real, is more minor than the current answers make it seem. The key point to remember is:

99% of people looking up your publications will use Google or another search engine to do so.

Since search engines are extremely good at correcting these sorts of minor typos, the solution is therefore quite simple. The main things you need to do are:

  1. Start publishing under your name as it is correctly spelled.

  2. Set up a personal home page where you have an easily accessible and well-formatted list of publications, with links to the papers’ final versions and/or arXiv versions, and keep that home page up to date and alive (if you move institutions, set up a redirect from the older page, etc).

  3. Add a small note on that page explaining that your first few papers were published with a variant spelling of your name.

Steps 1 and 2 are actually things that any early-career mathematician should do, and are much more important than fidgeting over how MathSciNet thinks your name is spelled.

The advice to contact MathSciNet and other databases and ask them to link the publications listed under the different spellings of your name is generally good, but, if you follow the steps I am suggesting, whether they will do what you are asking or not will, in my opinion, have an altogether negligible effect on your career success.

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It's worthwhile to let the people at MathSciNet (reachable even without a subscription via email here) know about this, as done for example when a woman publishes under both her given name and her married name. This is probably the most comprehensive database maintained for mathematics.

Similarly, people at Zentralblatt should know about this, to avoid making separate search lists.

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    $\begingroup$ I know at least one male mathematician who took his wife's surname upon getting married. $\endgroup$ – Theo Johnson-Freyd Jul 8 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ Remember that you can link papers under different names even in a ridiculous organization such as Thomson. $\endgroup$ – yo' Jul 9 at 9:40
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This could be something that you will regret (in a small way) for the rest of your life. In your position, I would give serious consideration to changing back to your real name, before it's too late.

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