Sharing Names, Sharing Confusion

By Jessica Pratt
Staff Writer

When Jessica Pratt is not learning about community ecology and conservation at UCI, she can be found cooking, gardening, hiking or simply listening to The Civil Wars or The Decemberists. She has a passion for nature and works hard to preserve the environment that she loves so much. Her lifelong commitment to science has brought her to UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology.

If by this point in the article, you are confused because you’ve noticed that the person described above has the same name as the person writing this piece, let me pause to clarify. I am not simply writing about and glorifying myself in the third person: there are two people at UCI named Jessica Pratt.

The following is an account of the confusion and issues that ensue when a well-known Ph.D student and a published student journalist just happen to share the same name.

I first learned about the other Jessica Pratt last year when I was writing an article for the New University about a club on campus called The Real Food Challenge. When I went to interview some of the club members, they told me that there was another person involved in the club who was also named Jessica Pratt. We laughed at the coincidence, but I didn’t think too much about our identical names until December of 2011.

It was during this time when I received an email from the other Jessica Pratt on campus, saying that our shared name was causing a little bit of confusion among her colleagues and other people at UCI.

Jessica explained to me that some readers of my articles had been sending her emails that were supposed to be addressed to me. Even Jessica’s close colleagues thought that she was writing articles for the New University – she said that her boss came up to her and wondered why she had so much time to write articles unrelated to her field of study when her dissertation wasn’t getting written. The correspondence with her close co-workers, random readers and administration from her department regarding these articles was getting to be too much for Jessica, so she wrote to me with the hopes that we could find a solution to this problem.
“While it seems like a silly annoyance now (maybe only for me, as I’m receiving things meant for you), this could happen with more frequency,” said Jessica in her first email when explaining the reasons why she thought this was a problem.
“I’m also in a field where publishing in scientific journals is incredibly important … therefore, I understand the importance of having your work correctly attributed to you.”

One of Jessica’s proposed remedies to this situation was to add my middle initial into my byline. However, the reality of this solution is that most people do not even know our middle names, so this wouldn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, changing my byline could have caused some people to think that another person was writing my articles, as I have been publishing pieces in the New University for about a year now, and have a consistent record of articles under the name of Jessica Pratt. Lastly, we couldn’t add in my year and major at the end of all of my articles because it wouldn’t match up with the formatting of the rest of our articles.

What to do, then? With the changing of my byline out of the question, another idea came to mind. I decided to write a piece that would set the record straight once and for all, that way people could correctly attribute authorship to me, and Jessica would no longer have to be hassled over our shared name.

Jessica and I met for the first time a few weeks ago, where we discussed material for the article and ways to help people distinguish between her and me.

So, once and for all, let me reiterate the differences between us in order for the confusion to come to a close.
I, Jessica Raechel Pratt, am a sophomore Literary Journalism student and an Associate News Editor for the New University. Jessica Dawn Pratt (who was actually Jessica Dawn Gleffe before her marriage in 2007), is studying for her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology with an emphasis in community ecology and conservation.

She loves to cook and play soccer; I can barely make a grilled cheese sandwich and would consider myself athletically challenged. Her role models include those who are activists in science such as Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai, while some of my biggest role models are brilliant writers such as Joan Didion. She likes the movies “American Beauty” and “Fight Club,” while some of my favorites are “Borat” and “Rent” (yes, I know, my movie choices are a little odd). Even though we have a few differences in our preferences, the biggest distinction between us is simply this: Jessica Dawn Pratt loves science and I … well, let’s just say that the times where I’ve had to take biology classes have not been the greatest. She feels at home in the research lab or out in nature; I’m in my natural habitat while in a newsroom or a coffeehouse where I can write.

However, despite our differences, we do come together with our shared names and in the facts that we are both fairly liberal Democrats with similar views on religion and spirituality. Other than that, we are pretty much night and day, but that just adds to the irony and hilarity of the situation.

This instance of identical names in the world of publishing is nothing new – scientists with the same name also encounter some confusion from their audiences if they are writing about entirely different topics with different findings or perspectives. In these situations, the use of the middle initial or some other distinguishing mark is used to tell the difference between the two.
With that, I hope the confusion has been cleared regarding the two people on campus named Jessica Pratt. The next time you see this name listed in the New University, remember that the piece was written from the perspective of a literary journalist – not a scientist.