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Almost immediately after becoming a corresponding author, my academic email account quickly become inundated with unsolicited communications from predatory open access journals and “conferences.” My spam filter does a fairly good job, catching maybe 50-75% of these messages. But now that I will be using a new academic email address, I’ve thought about what I can do to prevent this problem from recurring. My idea is to publish the following text in the corresponding author field:

Email: myname9@university.edu (remove digit “9” for correct email address)

Will journal editors let me do this? To my surprise, I’ve never seen another author try something similar. I’m confident that no one has (or will ever have) the “fake” email address indicated above, so there is no risk that the spam will go to an innocent third party.

Previous questions on Stack Exchange relate to email forwarding; none addresses the spam issue.

  • 2
    I doubt you can do that in a published article! – The Guy Apr 11 '18 at 2:54
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    Anecdote: I'm corresponding author on a few dozen articles published over the last 15 years, and I find that (with a good spam filter) the volume of such messages is not problematic at all. They're a tiny fraction of all the email I receive. – David Ketcheson Apr 11 '18 at 5:39
  • I mostly see repeated offenders, which can be filtered i.e. by subject or sender real name field. Of course you will need new rules from time to time, but probably you're meaning like at most 1 message per day and not like 100 and a lot of work to sort the inbox. So setting up rules until (almost) nothing gets into the inbox anymore is often possible. – allo Apr 11 '18 at 8:12
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    How about asking the editor if they are fine with "myname [at] university.edu"? – user68958 Apr 11 '18 at 9:04
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    I have not been a corresponding author yet, still, I get the same spam. Conference participation, posters that can be found online... an academic email address seems to spread like wildfire in general. Filtering it out sounds like the only reasonable option. – skymningen Apr 11 '18 at 10:31
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We all deal with this curse. Sad as it is, I suspect that your only option is to endure it -- my take is that papers ask you to provide an email address of record in some sort of official way, and playing games like the one you suggest would look inappropriate in this context.

  • 1
    In that case, would it be appropriate to try something like “myname[DeleteThisBit]@university.edu” or “myname @ university.edu”? I’m sure that there are ways to prevent email harvesting that would be acceptable in a formal publishing environment. – Maroon Apr 11 '18 at 3:23
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    @Maroon In what way do you think that prevents harvesting? If people make a habit of doing that it's a trivial matter to account for it in a script. – zibadawa timmy Apr 11 '18 at 6:28
  • @Maroon: That's precisely the point. I've seen lots of my colleagues write the email addresses as name (at) institution.edu on their websites. You can bet that no harvester has even been annoyed by this, but lots of colleagues who want to send emails have. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 12 '18 at 6:15
5

If your email server supports this version of email aliasing, you could set up:

myname+Journal@university.edu

Alternately, if you have your own domain name, you could host your own email:

correspondingauthor@myname.com

These are legitimate email addresses for correspondence, and so the journal should not object on that front. You would just know to expect a lot of spam there.

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    This might prevent a lot of spam from reaching your primary inbox, but it also makes it much more difficult to sort out any real emails you would receive at that address. – David K Apr 11 '18 at 13:19
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I sometimes read these spams, for the purpose of finding key phrases/words that can be used to filter them out (not delete, in case they are legit), I've noticed the following wording/phrasing:

  • Dr [your entire name] or reversed your first + last name, or your initials followed by your full name
  • "Greetings of the Day!" or "Greetings and Good Day!"
  • followed by "Hope you are doing well"

so far it's working okay for me, it's not fool proof, but it helps cut down clutter a bit.

  • 4
    to add a few: "Dr Colleague", "Dear Researcher", "Dear Colleague", "Dr httporcidorg" (my personal favourite), "M Mark" (initial + Firstname) – Mark Apr 11 '18 at 8:32
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    I swear, if I ever get some downtime I'm sorely tempted to write something I can forward emails like these to and have it sign them all up for each other's conferences. Fight fire with fire, and all that. – Ed Daniel Apr 11 '18 at 10:06
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    @EdDaniel It's hard to imagine that being a productive use of your time. They can much more easily dump their email address and start again than you can dump your university address. – David Richerby Apr 11 '18 at 12:27
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If this is really important to you, I think the only reasonable thing to do is to contact the journal's managing editor and suggest that they implement such obfuscation across the board. Journals tend to pay a lot of attention to publishing all their papers in a consistent format, and I don't think they will want to allow obfuscation for your paper alone. I suppose you could ask, but I don't think such a request would be well received.

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    Any obfuscation applied consistently across the board would be relatively easy for the spammers to script around, while increasing cognitive burden for humans. – WBT Apr 11 '18 at 18:44

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