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A couple of weeks back I sent an email to a professor in a University in my home country with whom I have never known on any personal or professional level. My intention was to seek potential collaborations with him as a recent graduate with a BSc should I return home.

He did replied and to which I responded. One of his question to me was whether I am happy to collaborate without being paid to which I replied, "Yes, I am happy but I am only able to work on any project outside of standard office hours due to foreseeable industry commitment".

Since then, I have not received any replies.

Would it be appropriate for me to ring him up?

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    Did he include his phone number in his signature? Have you tried a second email where you ask if all is well? Who knows, he may have the flu, be on vacation, be in the midst of a work crunch. Jan 18 '18 at 3:03
  • No, there are no contacts in his signature but his mobile phone exists in his CV which is on the directory. I have just dropped him a second email. Jan 18 '18 at 11:56
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    I would hesitate to use the phone number in that case. If he had included it in an email directed to you, that would give you more of an opening. Jan 18 '18 at 18:44
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    @aparente001 The professor in question has replied and extended an in-person meeting. Thank you. Jan 19 '18 at 2:36
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You can ring him on his office phone if that is helpful

Unless you already have a close pre-existing relationship that would make a phone call to a personal number appropriate, you should avoid contacting a professor on their personal phone number. However, you can contact the professor on their office phone if you want, since that is a general line appropriate for enquiries. (Most professors will have a phone number listed in their email signature; you can use this number to contact them.) I see no reason to avoid contact by office phone for any enquiry relevant to this professor --- that is a standard method of contact for professionals.

Bear in mind that many professors pay less attention to their office phone than to their email, especially if they are working away from the office (e.g., due to COVID). Phone calls to the office phone will often go through to voice-mail and some academics take a long time to respond to this. (Some never check it at all.) Partly for that reason, phone contact in academia is actually quite rare, but you can certainly give it a try.

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I don't quite agree with the other answer, even though the author certainly had good intentions when writing it.

The answer to whether or not it's appropriate to phone a professor, when you've only briefly communicated with them in the past, will depend on where you are and the culture in that region, but in most countries it is not a good idea anymore (in the year 2021).

In the past, phoning people (perhaps including professors) was much more acceptable, but things have changed and nowadays even some of my closest friends won't answer my phone call if they don't recognize my phone number, because of the increased prevalence of spam phone calls these days. Occasionally some of my students add me on LinkedIn or other social media, but the vast majority of them do not even contact me electronically, and contacting me by telephone is absolutely unheard of nowadays.

In your specific case, based on the reply this professor gave to your email, and the fact that he had made his phone number available in a place that's publicly visible, phoning him could be okay, but the risks outweigh the benefits because it may be seen as being very unusual, and not all professors will be happy to find that a student it phoning them. It's a risk I personally would not recommend for you to take, if the gain that you get from it is simply a chance at a faster response to your email.

The best course of action is to:

  • send follow-up emails,
  • ask mutual connections (such as friends of yours who are already working closely in this professor's research group),
  • visit the professor's office (if the university isn't in some type of COVID lockdown!),
  • (specific to your case): find alternative professors with whom you may wish to do your research project, because if this one is not replying several emails in a row, maybe they are not very interested in taking a new student right now, or perhaps they're not very good at communicating via email (my ideal supervisor would be one that responds to emails in a reasonably timely manner when compared to others in the same industry).
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I don't see any problems for you to call him.

If you want answers quick, this is the best way to achieve it. If you feel a bit uncomfortable calling him, then I suggest that you "ping" him by re-sending your last email, or that you ask him if he can reply to the previous message.

Teachers at my university, some have their phone number or numbers (both private and work, though private is not mandatory) listed at the university website so that students can reach them outside of working hours if it's urgent.

So having students call them is nothing new and shouldn't be a problem.

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    Private number? This is odd to me. I would never put my private number online and I would feel very uncomfortable being reached through my private number.
    – The Doctor
    Jan 18 '18 at 8:33
  • It is not mandatory for the teachers to put their private numbers up, but a few have done that for students the reach them within reasonable hours. @TheDoctor
    – Bojje
    Jan 18 '18 at 12:10
  • @TheDoctor - I've seen people put their phone number in their CV, which they then post online. I think they are trusting an unspoken honor system, whereby if they haven't offered their phone number to someone specifically (such as in a signature), people will hesitate to use it. Jan 19 '18 at 4:21

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