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I have a research problem in an area of Mathematics. There is mathematician whose domain of expertise is very near to the subject of my problem.

I read frequently his works, he probably doesn't know me. But it is possible that he has seen some of my works. He is a senior mathematician. I am junior.

Anyway we don't know each other and because of geographical and other considerations, I don't think we have the occasion to meet each other in a conference or workshop in new future. I am scientifically isolated in my country as nobody works in my area, finding funds for participating in conferences and workshops is also very difficult. So the only possibility of a collaboration that I envisage is doing by email.

I am very optimistic that my problem interests him and if we collaborate, the result would be very fruitful. I have had some experiences to do scientific collaboration with some people that I knew by email. But the story with this mathematician is different because we don't know each other personally.

I feel that sending an email saying that my name is X and I am interested in the question Y, I would be glad if you are interested to work on this problem is not perhaps the best approach.

What is the best strategy to maximize the chance of starting a scientific collaboration with him? How I can formulate my request of doing a scientific collaboration with him? Is it wise to 'reveal' my problem while I don't know if there is a chance of collaboration?

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2 Answers 2

Be specific and brief, with a clear action item.

BAD:

My name is X and I'm interested in Y, and I'm hoping you'd be interested in working with me.

SLIGHTLY BETTER:

My name is X, and I'm interested in Y. I read your recent papers on Foo1, foo2, and foo3, and I was wondering whether you thought Theorem eleventy-seven in your paper on foo2 could apply to the problem of Y''.

MUCH BETTER:

My name is X, and I'm interested in Y. I read your recent papers on Foo1, foo2, and foo3. I had an idea about how to apply theorem eleventy-seven in your foo2 paper to Y'', by inserting the well known lemma Bar1, and Bar2. I was wondering if you were aware of approaches that have tried this ? I looked at refs 1-157 and didn't see anything relevant.

I'd love to chat more about this if you're interested.

Again, YMMV. There are cultural variations, personal variations and so on. But I've had success with emails of this kind.

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4  
I fully support @Suresh's answer, and only want to add one thing: if you have the possibility to invite your senior colleague for a few days, maybe ask him/her to give a talk, then that often serves as a good context for discussing topics of common interest - and allows both of you to find out informally whether working together might work out. –  Mark Peletier Apr 19 at 9:49

Could I suggest:

My name is X and I am a\the junior mathematician at the University of Somewhere. My credentials available at www.some-academic-site.ac.xz. I am researching numbers and have some of your papers, foo, bar and baz.

I think that your work on special numbers would greatly helpful and hoped you would be willing to correspond with my on how this relates to my own work on some different numbers. I have enclosed a brief summary of my work, and how it relates to your own.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Yours Faithfully

my name

Unsolicited mail needs to be interesting to the participant, and it's integrity verifiable, hence the inclusion of your academic credentials, work you have done and proof that it does indeed correlate\support etc your own work. (You also show that you have actually done work, and this isn't some attempt to get someone else to do work for you)

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