Editor’s Note: As a follow up to Scicurious’ excellent post on how to start a science blog, today Sci discusses the pros and cons of authoring a blog under a pseudonym. As one of the most recognizable pseudonymous science bloggers, Sci knows a thing or two about the topic. And take it from me – Sci takes her pseudonymity very seriously. When we met at a conference last year, she continued to go by Scicurious. To this day, I have not the slightest clue what her real name might be. I certainly would have slipped up by now.

Sci has a pseudonym, and while it’s fine sometimes with other bloggers, many real life people discount me because they think I am “anonymous” and cannot be serious.  Keep in mind that pseudonymity and anonymity are different things.  While anyone can be “anonymous” and their voices will change all the time, a pseudonym is a fake name that is constant through time as one or more specific people with specific voices.  This means that you can, over time and with quality work, build up the trust of people who read you, and develop a reputation online as your pseudonym.

There are often good reasons for being a pseud.  Many people assume that those writing under a pseudonym must be cowards, trolls, or otherwise untrustworthy.  While this is true for some pseuds, not all pseudonyms are equal, and with time you can recognize those who work to build up reputations under their pseudonym.   The reality is that there are lots of good reasons to be pseudonymous, from worries about people not taking you seriously, to professional considerations.  Sci is a pseud because I don’t want animal rights activists coming after the real life work I do, not to mention the work of my colleagues, just because I’m supportive of carefully performed animal research (yes, I’ve gotten death threats, and I’m by no means the only one).

But being a pseud is hard.  Most who come across you will treat you with distrust initially.  It also means I can’t take credit for the awesome stuff I’ve done.  So when Sci wins awards, my in-real-life alter ego does not. So blogging in your real name, especially if you are hoping to move forward in outreach, can be more useful.

On the other hand, if you blog under your real name, keep in mind that the internet is forever, and whatever you blog and however well or badly you say it, people will be able to find it, under your name, when you’re 90.  If you do want to blog under your name and are a student or post-doc, you may want to check with your program and advisers and see if they are ok with their students doing this (hopefully they would be, but you never know, some schools do have special regulations in place regarding new media and their faculty, staff, and students).  Additionally, keep in mind that if you are under your real name, and a girl, even if you don’t put up a pic, people WILL find pictures.  And they WILL say things.


About the author: Scicurious has a PhD in Physiology from a Southern US institution. She is currently a post-doctoral researcher at a celebrated institution that is very fancy and somewhere else. Her professional interests are in neurophysiology, specifically the interactions of neurotransmitter systems. She blogs at Neurotic Physiology and can be found on Twitter.

Anyone else have any experience, either good or bad, blogging under their real name or a pseudonym? Start a conversation in the comments section below.