Publish or Perish. If you’ve ever worked in research, you’ve heard it. Publications, author number (am I first, second, or last?), references, reviews—they’re all lifeblood to the career researcher.

Now, I am just starting out on my academic career. I haven’t quite got my pesky PhD out of the way yet—though it should all be finalised soon—at the moment my focus is on generating some publications so people will read what I’m working on and want to employ me or work with me in the future. Publish or perish, remember?

Having a unique name in science is much more of a benefit than a hindrance; provided someone finds your first paper finding the rest is easy. On the other hand if you are Mary Smith, someone had to sift through all the M. Smiths and try and find out which of the 6500 papers are actually yours (and that was just from a PubMed search [1]). In an attempt to make life easier people it is common for find people using their middle initials when publishing to ensure they can be found easily. There’s just one thing—what happens to my publications if I change my name when I get married?

As you look around the world, there are many traditions about keeping your name, changing your name, and even hyphenating or combining surnames to create something new [2]. I don’t have a strong attachment to my surname—sure I’ve had it for 26 years, but I don’t really care about it. I let people mispronounce it and spell it incorrectly, something I would never consider letting someone do with my first name. Growing up I always just thought I would simply take my husband’s name when I was married.

Life being what it is, by the time I got around to getting married I had a mortgage, a few degrees, and had moved half way around the world to a smallish town with no Australian embassy nearby. If I wanted to try and officially change my name I would have to change a lot of documents—something that’s not easy in your country of citizenship, and even harder when you live on the other side of the world. How do I change the name on my work visa, when I haven’t change the name on my passport or where I work? All in all it seemed a little bit too hard so I’ve put that final decision on hold ’til I get back to Australia or my passport runs out – whichever comes first.

So, back to science and publishing. So far, I’ve had two papers published, one in Physiology and one in Virology, and I expect most of my publications will end up in PubMed at some point [1] .

The first article I had my name on was from my honours year. I did a fair bit of work on it, but I was way down in the author list by the time it was published. My second paper was my first publication from my thesis—and I was first author. It takes a bit of time to get a paper polished, submitted, and accepted, so I wasn’t really worried about my surname when we sent it in. Until I got the notification that (paper title) would be published just two days before I was married, that is.

I wasn’t too sure what to do. I wanted to somehow acknowledge that I was married, even moved into a new stage in my life. Besides, I’d always assumed I’d just take my husband’s name, right? But what if my earlier work didn’t come up when people searched for me in the database? Eventually, I decided the easiest way to keep all my options open was to use a hyphenated name for any future publications, thinking that would allow people who know me by either name to find my work. I think this is what’s called “wishful thinking”.

So I did a couple of quick searches to confirm that hyphenating my name would still allow my articles to be found. Everything looked okay, so I went ahead with Sheryl Maher-Sturgess.

Not long after my second article was published, I was playing around on PubMed trying to find it. Maher brought up nothing. Sturgess brought up nothing. Why? Because PubMed will only return search results for an exact name match, I.e. if you search for smith you will only find papers by Smith, and no results for Smith-Chang will appear. I decided I would ask the curators of PubMed what I could do to get my names linked, the reply:

Unfortunately we cannot link variations of one person’s name in PubMed records. If you are able to get your name changed in the actual journal then we will make the change in PubMed.

In this case, contact the publisher to report the error and ask that they publish an erratum. An erratum in the journal must be on a numbered page, not “tipped” in or unbound. The NLM does not make changes in the database until the erratum is published.

It seems a little strange to me that I should ask a journal I published in 5 years ago to publish and erratum just so I can have my papers linked and it also seems a little deceitful, since I wasn’t Maher-Strugess back then.

Still, I thought, since I can Google myself with my married name, my maiden name, or my hyphenated name and find my second article, Google Scholar should work okay, right? Wrong. Google hasn’t outfitted their new Scholar application with the same comprehensive capabilities as their original search engine. I’ve recently alerted Google to this issue—and it is now on their list of things to do. Who knows they might decide to implement it in the future.

By changing my name, I’ve lost one publication, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t going to be an important one I’m a middle author on a paper which I spend a year working on, it was a big deal till I started doing my own research and writing paper I’m going to be first author on. For someone who had a well established career before deciding to change their name it (because they’ve got married or divorced) would be a much bigger problem. When you apply for grants they ask you to list all your publications. What happens when the sleep deprived assessor who has been reading these huge applications for the last 4 days gets to yours and cannot find the applicants name on any of the publications included – they may not make the connection, and most forms don’t give you an opportunity to list other names you’ve been known as. At least with a hyphen both names are there so finding me in the author list shouldn’t be too hard (there is that wishful thinking again).

Until then I’ll just have to spell my name for everyone I work with, and hope that future employers pay more attention to my supplied list of publications that database search results.


[1] www.pubmed.com is a service provided by the US National Library of Medicine and The National Institute of Health which maintains an online open access database of health related publication. For most people in working on human health this is the primary source for finding relevant research.

[2] Formally in Commonwealth countries it is common for the wife to go from being Miss Jane Smith before to marriage to Mrs Peter Brown after her marriage, although it is also common (although not traditionally correct) for the wife to be known as Mrs Jane Brown after her marriage. In Asian cultures it is also common for the wife to take her husband’s surname. In many European countries the wife will keep her surname but go from Miss to Mrs (or the local equivalent).

[3] http://scholar.google.ca/schhp?hl=env



Imagine if only 12 out of 6,000 churches, synagogues or mosques were left standing in the place where you live. Imagine if over a million plus of your people were killed.

Imagine thousands and thousand and thousands of strangers being sent to your home and taking up residence, swamping/overwhelming you and your remaining family members so that you are lost in the swarm, your voice is drowned out by the noise of a huge throng, and you are crushed by the weight of so many bodies pressing against you.

Imagine that you are, for the most part, a peaceful person whose only wish is to live peacefully in your home. You have no desire to go to someone else’s home and take it over, let alone take what they have and make it yours. For the most part, you simply want to work, practice your faith, take care of your family, and be friends with you neighbors. But you can’t, you aren’t allowed to. Instead, the things you love are destroyed, and even your voice, which you would like to raise in song and prayer, is taken from you.

This is life for the average Tibetan.

The cultural genocide that has been occurring in Tibet for the past 50 plus years is appalling. It has also been largely ignored by certain world powers—and by us in our safe comfortable homes.

It seems likely the only reason Tibet is in the news is because of the Summer Olympics soon to be held in China.

I’d like to see the U. S. boycott the Olympics in Beijing. If we could boycott the Moscow games in 1980 over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, why not boycott over China’s invasion of Tibet?

Perhaps Tibet is too small, too isolated, too insignificant for us to bother about.

What would you do if your home were being invaded? I would like to imagine I would be like those brave monks who recently stood strong in the face of impossible odds. But I don’t know if I am that strong because, from where I sit, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose what I have, to lose my way of life, to have my beliefs denied me, to have my culture stripped from me, to have my family killed right there in front of my face.

But maybe, just maybe, Tibetan voices are finally been heard above the noise of those imported masses.

There have been protests as the Olympic torch has made its way around the world and meetings between the Dalai Lama and China seem possible.

One can only hope.

My concern is that China is only contemplating talks with the Dalai Lama because of the Olympics.

My concern is, like much of what I’ve seen about China, (mostly on CCTV) that these talks will just be for show. I can almost hear those in power saying, “if we can just get through the Olympics….”

My concern is once the Olympics is over certain world powers will again sweep Tibet under their proverbial rugs, pretending the dirt isn’t really there.

My concern is, things will return to how they were before.

Except of course for the Tibetans–their lives will only get worse.


The Road, by Cormac McCarthyWhen Oprah speaks, everyone reads—or so the bookstores would have us think, with their gold “Oprah’s Bookclub” stickers and “Recommended Reading” lists. I usually avoid the frilled up, racked tables at the front of the store, but every now and then, something with the “Oprah’s Bookclub” sticker looks like it could be good. “The Road“, by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), was one of those: a literary Mad Max according to those in the know. Now, it looks like The Road may even be coming to the big screen, with Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce (or maybe Viggo Mortensen).

McCarthy evokes a bleak, meaningless end to the world in this story set within the final whimper – fields of ash and snow, dead plants, the detritus of riots, fleeing refugees, and burning cities. The only other living things on the barren landscape are the cannibalistic groups, feeding off the weak and the dead.

In early March, the UK news site, The Asian News, posted an article about the release of Belonging, by Manchester City Councillor Sameem Ali. Heart-rending, Belonging is a story of “of appalling domestic cruelty. But it is also a story about the cultural conflicts of a Pakistani family new to Britain[1].” The crucial issue in the story is forced marriage—when she was thirteen, Ms. Ali was sent to Pakistan, where she was forced to marry a man in his late twenties.

Child marriage has a long history. In the modern day Western World, children have a childhood. At twelve, they climb trees, they play video games, and they go to school. But the idea of childhood is a relatively new one—during Great Britian’s Industrial revolution (nineteenth century) children as young as five were working in the factories. In fact, child labour laws weren’t introduced until 1833, when legislation preventing children under nine working was first introduced (several well-known authors, including Charles Dickens and more effectively, Charles Kingsley, chronicled the issues of the child in their works, with Kinglsey’s The Water Babies ultimately effecting change in the Upper House). Considering this, it’s not surprising that children in the developing world go to work rather than school and have children rather than dances. But, in contemporary society, we are so far removed from the realities of the 19th and early 20th centuries that we are quick to judge. Continue Reading »

Every morning, my husband makes a pot of coffee or tea and we sit down to check our email, messages, and catch up on the news. This morning, I stumbled upon The Muslim Network for Bahá’í Rights.

Bahá’í s represent a religious minority in many parts of the world; believers are as far-flung as Iran, Egypt, Germany, and Australia (to name just a small section of their geographic reach). Moreover, the Bahá’í faith is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, with more than five million followers to date. And yet, as The Muslim Network for Bahá’í Rights so aptly points out, Bahá’í s are persecuted in many places, most notably Egypt and Iran.


According to the founder of , a young woman from Bahrain,

“When I talk to my friends about the Bahá’í faith, they tell me that it is a satanic religion. I ask them to provide me with one of the principles of this religion, but they have no answer. Some think that the Bahá’í s are a sect of Shi’i Islam which is also a mistake. They don’t know anything about it, but they are nonetheless suspicious of its followers.” [1]

Is this true?

According to Bahai.com, the principles of the Bahá’í faith as laid out by Bahá’u’lláh in the mid-late nineteenth century are belief in:

— the oneness of mankind

— universal peace upheld by a world government

— independent investigation of truth

— the common foundation of all religions

— the essential harmony of science and religion

— equality of men and women

— elimination of prejudice of all kinds

— universal compulsory education

— a spiritual solution to the economic problem

— a universal auxiliary language [2]. Continue Reading »

Something strange is happening to me.

I’m being linked to.

I know there are a few links to me from Wikipedia—I see the referrals in my stat logs. Now, though, one of my Human Rights posts has been linked to from Cirobar, Baha’i Views, Out of My Mind, &c. I’m touring the internet.

When I posted my thoughts on Baha’i Rights and Forced Marriage before that, I was worried. Was I moralising? Didactic? Condoning? Judgmental? I hoped not, but I wasn’t sure. And yet, I feel that even if I don’t have much to contribute, even if my thoughts and opinions are lost in the great ocean of internet, the possibility that I may make someone think, really think, for just a moment, is too great to ignore. It seems a few other people agree that posting to encourage thought is important, and I am glad.

Such a response started me thinking, though—if my tiny little corner of the internet can garner attention in a few days, why not carve out a little more space? So I chatted to a few people, and they chatted back to me, and we decided to start up a communal weblog that would allow us each to post about things we feel are important. The posting will not have to be human rights oriented—it can be a note on anything, the only caveat being that it makes people, or encourages people, to think.