Don't forget to Be the Way you are: How to create a meaningful and sustainable research identity


This content was first presented as a course at SIGCHI Montreal.

There is increasing pressure to build research brand, including social media and web presence and appearances in the popular media. There are any number of guides to support researchers in these activities (e.g. [1]), but many of them miss the fundamental underlying issue of identity.

Even seemingly simple tasks—such as choosing a publication name—have hidden complexities, including split and mixed citation, discrimination in peer review mediated by name, and identity in different venues [2]. Similarly, choosing paper titles well can help researchers attract the right reviewers and the right kind of attention post-publication, or they can cause a paper to languish unread in the annals of history [3]. Our long research history (e.g. [4; 5]) on how people look for, find and manage information (including their own names) gives us unique insight into how best to manage these challenges. We will present evidence to support participants in deciding these issues.

Identity is not just about names, though, it is about who we are as researchers. There are nearly as many ways of doing information research as there are researchers, each with its own complexities and challenges (for an example of just a few of these see [6]). As researchers with our own complex areas of interest, we also understand the challenges of making clear your own unique interests, and articulating that to hiring, tenure and review committees, all of which influence your progress as an industrial or academic researcher.


1. McDonnell, J.J., 2015. Creating a research brand. ScienceMag 349, 6249, 758.

2. McKay, D., Sanchez, S., and Parker, R., 2010. What's my name again?: sociotechnical considerations for author name management in research databases. In OzCHI 10, ACM.

3. Zobel, J., 2014. Writing for Computer Science. Springer, London, UK.

4. Buchanan, G.R. and Mckay, D., 2017. Something is Lost, Something is Found: Book Use at the Library Shelves. In Proc CHIIR 17, ACM, 37-46.

5. McKay, D. and Buchanan, G., 2011. One of these things is not like the others: how users search different information resources. In Proc TPDL 11, 260-271..

6. Olson, J.S. and Kellogg, W.A., 2014. Ways of Knowing in HCI. Springer Science & Business.

7. Tregenza, T., 2002. Gender bias in the refereeing process? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17, 8, 349-350.