What’s In A Name?

Yesterday I learned from my dear blog friend Drugmonkey that ScienceBlogs will not be renewing the contracts of pseudonymous bloggers. As many of you know, ScienceBlogs is under new direction from National Geographic and the new navigators have a different vision about how their slice of the science blogosphere will look and act.  I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. In a lot of ways, being at ScienceBlogs was very good for me and I am not ungrateful for the opportunities I had there or for the people I have met.

But that didn’t change the realities of my situation or my need to evaluate my own future directions. The good folks at National Geographic offered the opportunity to stay if we were willing to deidentify with our pseudonyms and write under our given names. I’ve heard a lot over the last few weeks about the reasons people choose to use a pseudonym. For me, it’s a matter of professional identity and, for better or worse, one’s identity begins on the internet. I have a very happy, healthy little research program and one of the ways my research is tracked is by my name. Much of science operates that way. Collaborations form between people with names. When I review a manuscript, if I am unfamiliar with the author, the first thing I do is perform a search on Google. When I want to check on the progress of someone in my field, I search for their name. At this stage in my career, it is professionally beneficial for me to be easily found and associated with my work. My professional work doesn’t include shoes and mommy stories and makeup and science hilarity. Given that those writings are orders of magnitude more popular (and by popular, I probably mean accessed) than anything I’ve written scientifically, I think it’s important to spare my scientific colleagues 1000+ posts before they find my science. So, I’ve always considered being Dr. Isis like being Dr. Seuss. Taking this name for this purpose doesn’t change the things I say (or don’t say), or the fact that many who know me as Dr. Isis are also familiar with my scientific work, but it does allow me to carefully partition my lives. It lets me choose when to focus on science and when to focus on this place and gives me the power to prevent each from distracting the other.

Figure 1: Like oil and water. As an aside, this image from Sharon Johnstone’s line of notecards is one of my favorites. Check her out here.

But, I also think that you like this barrier that exists between us. I don’t believe that the general readers of this blog have really ever used their right to be pseudonymous to abuse each other. I think it’s always been more like a confessional. You can discuss things here about your lives and careers that you might not discuss in person with your colleagues. Or with me if you really knew who I really was and had to be worried that we might someday meet face-to-face at some meeting and I’d know all of your secrets.

So, the question became what to do with Isis the Scientist. If you had asked me last night, I was seriously leaning toward killing her off. These last many months in the blogosphere have been dra-matic on the back ends. Pepsigate and then the question of who is going where and what is each network going to do.  About once a week, Chicken Little would appear and the sky would start falling.  Except then it wouldn’t really.  I like a good, brief blog war but the constancy of this situation has been exhausting.  Even posting shoes hasn’t been fun.  I mean, SHOES!  It’s hard to be hilarious when your butthole clenches at the thought of the next round of falling sky.

Still,  I remember a time when I was pretty hilarious and I found the blogosphere equally hilarious. Writing about my life and science, and the absurdity of it all, amused me.  So, given that Isis the Scientist can’t stay at ScienceBlogs and maintain her pseudonymous ways, I’m going to try to make a go of it alone again.  Maybe it’s all a blessing to have had this blog evicted from the nest, and it will offer Isis the Scientist the opportunity to refind my old, hilarious self.   Or reinvent a new, hilarious self.

I wish all of my friends and colleagues remaining at ScienceBlogs nothing but the best of luck.    I still think that network as a lot of potential and that their partnership with National Geographic could be a very good thing. 

In the mean time, Mama’s gotta do me.

47 responses to “What’s In A Name?

  1. Chicken Little

    The sky is totally falling, Isis.

  2. isisthescientist

    I suppose I should just be fortunate that BikeMonkey hasn’t found me. Yet.

  3. DrLizzyMoore

    I don’t comment much (if at all), but have enjoyed this blog very much. Thanks for keeping Isis alive and well!!

  4. Welcome to indy blog-land, Isis – it’s always been my favorite place to hang. Hope you like it here!

  5. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”😉 — Dr. Seuss

  6. DrLizzyMoore has said exactly what I came to say. I’m very glad that you will be continuing to blog here, as the fabulous Dr Isis. I’ll be reading, sighing over the shoes, and very, very occasionally commenting.

  7. If blogging makes your butt clench, you need to find a new hobby. And BTW, thank fucken godde you chose WordPress, and not that motherfucekn blogspot hellshitte you used to be on.

  8. Lovely new digs! Congrats on the move. And love, love the shoes.

  9. isisthescientist

    Dude, that’s what I’m doing here. Unclenching. Chill you free-thinking ass out.

  10. Fie on SB for refusing to allow pseudonymous blogging! FIE I SAY.

    I’ve updated your URL in my sidebar and adjusted my reader. It’s their loss, really. xox

  11. unlikelygrad

    Good for you, Isis. It’s kind of sad to see you leave ScienceBlogs, but I’m proud that you’re taking a stand.

    I think that pseudonymity is very useful for discussing the balance of science/family…if for no other reason than to help strangers take us seriously. Sad but true. (Although he’s never admitted to it out loud, I can think of at least one scientist whose opinion of me seemed to plummet when he found out I had kids. Seriously? Is he living in the dark ages?)

    Any long-time reader of my blog has probably figured out my name by now, but I refuse to let the search go other way–I’ll be damned if I let some manuscript reviewer/search committee member/potential advisor/you-name-it Google my name and read about my family life.

  12. I’m so glad you moved, Dr. Isis. I completely agree with your reasoning. This safe space to talk is really important, and I also don’t want the first google hits on my real name to be a comment on a blog instead of my research.

  13. Good on you for getting your own domain name, where no one can kick you out. Good on you, as well, for sorting out your priorities and choosing what’s right for you. I completely see where you’re coming from and support you 100%.

  14. Thank you so much for sticking around! I love the stories and advice and totally get the need for pseudonyms in science (geez, I just get confused enough when two people in the same field have the same last name, let alone a BLOG). And I think in the whos-whos world of science, hearing the content without the name game is refreshing.

  15. Will follow you to the ends of the Earth Isis!

  16. I’ll follow the shoes anywhere! I understand completely your need to be pseudonymous. Good luck – you may not get that many new readers as quickly as via scienceblogs but you are not in it for the money anyway…

  17. Bienvenida a tu nuevo hogar! Buena suerte!

  18. isisthescientist

    Gracias, amigo mio. Me siento contenta.

  19. Now I hafta add a THIRD “On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratoy Goddess” site to my blogroll!

  20. Wait…that picture. You’ve had your baby? When did that happen?!

  21. Isis the Scientist

    Don’t fret! That’s Little Isis when he was a wee tot.

    And don’t fret over the blogroll either. I think I’ll be here awhile.

  22. This blog is ridiculously good Isis; like KevinZ, I would follow you anywhere. Don’t know if I should mention it, but, I have a pet chicken named after you. Is that too weird? She’s the quickest, the most glossy, and the best flier. Anyway. Just wanted to say that I love your blog and the commenters here, and will continue to hang off of your every word.

  23. Thank you for not killing Isis off…it’s been a stressful year, but bloggers like you have made it all bearable (and completely worthwhile). Nice-looking digs, btw.:)

  24. Nice new home you’ve got, so glad you’re staying around the internets!!!

  25. Juniper Shoemaker

    Okay. I’ve added your new blog to my blogroll. I expect to see some shoes real soon.

  26. I’m so glad you’ve decided to stick around, Dr. Isis. I’ve been following your blog for several years. Reading your blog has made me think, entertained me thoroughly, and helped keep me sane– and I’d like to thank you for all the hilarity and sage advice to us, your little muffins, over the years. I’m a better feminist and better human being for it, and it seems I’m not alone!

  27. A name is one of the most personal things we have. I was pretty prickly about my birthname, which I no longer use, and found out that there were a lot of folk rather particular about what versions of their own name, that was used to address them. One of the reasons I changed my birthname was because I was tired of having it carelessly slaughtered or abbreviated, and I no longer felt that name fit me. Our son has three given names from which to choose–and the abbreviations/nicknames for same, just so he might be able to switch between them as he liked.

    In the pursuit of Truth (or whatever it is the banning of pseudonyms/handles is supposed to accomplish), will published authors no longer be able to use pen names, which many do now so as to separate their work in different genres, if this trend continues? One author I enjoy found out that too much of her email-listees had no concept of pennames, and had fits when LOCUS magazine made them aware of another name under which she writes, in a different genre. Way too many claimed to have been “betrayed”, and the furor caused her to stop participating on her own list. THAT was sad, and showed way too much ignorance on the part of her younger readers. My reaction? Great, more books of hers to read.

    I read White Coat Underground/Dr PAL., and he also wonders what this change would mean for him. I have no problem with bloggers I read having handles/pseudonyms–I actually don’t care, as you are doing no harm in using one. The interpretation that springs evilly to mind is that there is the assumption that if you’re using a handle, you are likely a criminal intending to Do Somethng Awful. Yup, you promote the scientific method, thinking, and what medicine is up to now. Gosh, go after Dean Edell, as well, then. However, he doesn’t do shoes…

    One example of a stupid assumption about name usage:
    Until 1997, California was one of five states that did not directly determine the marital status of mothers who give birth. When Jackie Speier, now D-Rep for California, then State Assemblywoman, discovered that there was no field on birth certificates in California for the mother’s marital status, and that there was a practice of assuming a mother is unmarried if she doesn’t use her husband’s last name, she hit the roof. She had just given birth, in 1995, to her husband’s posthumous child, and found that due to the “inferential” method of determining the marital status of the new mother, she was presumed unmarried–and possibly, if not probably, on the State’s welfare rolls.

    I’d given birth myself, with my family name on the record, and my son and husband’s family name in their place. I admit to being rather annoyed that the ancient and modern practice of keeping one’s own name after marriage was not acknowledged as a possibility by the state in which I had given birth. It never occurred to me, non-bureaucrat as I am, that we were so far behind the times!

    I’ll just go and change my RSS feed, shall I?

  28. What? Nobody threatening to cancel their 20 yearlong subscription to National Geographic over this?

  29. PerrottiSanchez

    I found my 3 fav peeps, now i’m good. Trifeca complete with you, Isis.

  30. isisthescientist

    Dude, BM! That magazine has great pics!

  31. Like the iPad theme but its broken. Side swipe yay, vertical swipe no joy, commenting broken. Switched to normal vie to do this.


    My given name carries zero connotations (to those who do not know me) of who I am. GrayGaffer OTOH says I’m an ageing guy who has learned a ittle on his journey, at least about computers if not humans. Or, that I can be used to fix broken furniture. ytyc.

    Strangely enough, it was Second Life that came up with the name for me. The name stuck, 2L did not.

  32. anthrosciguy

    I can only imagine the conversation at NatGeo over their purchase:
    “We bought this science blogs thing, and now if we can just get rid of all those bloggers we can use it.”

    On the online name thing, I’ve mentioned before that if I used my real name, people would be free to guess which of over 10,000 people in the USA they were reading. Using my online name they know it’s me.

  33. Congrats on the move Isis! Looking forward to your unclenched thoughts.

  34. I’m a follower. I couldn’t tear myself away from you if I tried.

  35. ElectroFizzz

    Isis!!!! I love youuuuuuuuuuu!:-)

  36. cackleofradness

    Yeah, not sure what I’d do without my Isis fix! Why are some women-science bloggers not starting their own group blog? Cough. Cough. Herm…..

  37. Isis the Scientist

    Holy great idea, Batman! Or at least a syndciated site? Like the old timey geocities webrings????

  38. cackleofradness

    Geocities webrings has closed. Or, at least, that’s what popped up when I googled it. What else is out there? Who else would want to do it?

  39. Hmmm…an all sci-women blog network – sounds like an idea full of WIN to me.:)

  40. Ooh, make an all-science-women blog network! Then I wouldn’t have to read the rest of the internet!:-)

  41. I still long to find that old NatGeo picture of a postdoc trying to immobilize a huge ass jaguar or some shit up a cliff using only a pole with a needle on the end, Isis. Just to keep the whiny bench lab postdocs in the proper perspective……

  42. Pingback: Dispatch from the Nymwars: Pseudonyms and science « News Xazri

  43. Postdoc? That was totally me as a grad student, dude.

    I have to say, as a reflection nobody but me will care about, I am really loving blazing the trails on my own. It’s interesting that many more people are commenting here than over at Sb. Maybe I am more hilarious here. Or maybe it’s not about about me. Except that it is always about me.

  44. I’m glad you let Isis live. Viva hilarity!

  45. Pingback: Ataraxia Theatre » Archive » Intel Report

  46. Pingback: On pseudonymity « The Tightrope

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