The importance of name variations in author profiles

An importance project in the RePEc landscape is the RePEc Author Service. It allows economists to create an online profile of their works, built as their “recognize” the works they have authored that have been indexed in RePEc by the respective publishers.

Of course, as there are over 3.6 millions works indexed in RePEc at the time of this writing, the authors need to be helped in sorting through this large amount of data. This is done on the basis of name variations. The name is not sufficient. Indeed, publishers have many ways to name authors and it is easier to offer suggestions for authoring claims based on author names. During the the registration process on the RePEc Author Service, authors are asked to provide a list of name variations (which they can amend later) to facilitate this. But it is important to be comprehensive.

For example, say William Smith registers. The system will make automatically the following suggestions:

  • William Smith
  • W. Smith
  • Smith, William
  • Smith, W.

If the author approves this list of name variations as is, he will be a list of suggested works, first with those having authors with names corresponding to the variations. Not all may be his, as there could be homonyms. The author will also get an email whenever a new work was added to the database with one of those names.

However, this short list of names may not be sufficient. Indeed, publishers may be recording a middle name or at least a middle initial. If this is not captured in the list of name variations, the author may miss out on potential works to add to the profile. The same applies for a suffix (Jr., Sr., III). What if the author is also known as Bill or Will, which may be recorded as well, in particular for working papers?

There may be further complications due to local naming conventions. For example the French first name Jean-Claude may be abbreviated as J.-Cl. or J.-C., and similarly in Russian (Yuri, Yu.). Hispanic names often have two last names, with the second one sometimes omitted or abbreviated (Sánchez Gómez, Sánchez G., Sánchez), while in Portuguese the first of the two is sometimes omitted. Publishers sometimes includes accents and sometimes not. For all these cases, it is important to help the RePEc Author Service by providing a complete list of variations that publishers could be using.

And then there are those cases where authors change names, particularly through marriage. Anglicizing a name, adopting a religion or gender change can also be reasons to adapt the list of name variations. If one has published in a different script (Arabic, Cyrillic). that should be reflected, too.

This may sound like a lot of work for some authors, but this allows RePEc to provide more accurate suggestions. But we have noticed that many authors have a list of name variations that is too small. For this reason, we had to expand the email alerts beyond the strict name variations, or authors would not get the notices they would be expecting.

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