I work as assistant professor in a STEM field. I have been receiving a large number of emails from professionals, usually from government organisations and companies, asking for various advices and information. One example is about asking me which software product is currently best at accomplishing the task X in the Y setting. These are usually short emails which take no more than 10 minutes to process (reading, searching, and replying).
I think I have responded to over 100-200 such emails so far, and now I am at a point of asking myself whether it is worth to continue. Academics do a lot of uncredited and unapreciated work, but I feel that this is especially pointless and even harmful. Initially it felt good to be an internationally recognized expert in academia and industry, which is very encouraging and important for an early career researcher, but now I am evaluating whether I should start ignoring them.
I am here to ask opinions and experiences of fellow academics on this matter. When I think about disadvantages and advantages of replying to enquiries, these are…
- They take time. Each may take less than 10 minutes, but accumulating a large number of emails means lots of time that could be spent on something else.
- They entail responsibility: I don’t think that I get anything by giving a correct answer, but once I give a wrong answer leading to a bad decision my reputation can be put at risk.
- They don’t seem appreciated in industry. I never got any follow-up or feedback on what happened later. Replying never led to anything for me. Also, I don’t think I learned much (only in 10% cases I learn things like “Oh these people are working on that, cool”, but that’s usually it)
- These things don’t go on your CV (let’s be frank).
- They can help building one’s reputation as an expert outside academia
- They can extend one’s network
- They can lead to a relationship bringing new projects (never happened to me personally)
Alternatively I was thinking about starting a part-time consulting service, but it doesn’t look viable.
So the question is it worth responding to emails from non-academic strangers asking you advices?