A postdoc has published some works that I am interested in. I have some questions about the work, and I would like to share some idea about the topic.

Is it considered polite to send the email to the postdoc and CC his PI? If I email the PI only, I might have to wait for a long time. However, the postdoc could not even be in the city. So I am not sure what is the best and politest practice.

  • 9
    Why not just address both? "Dear X, Dear Y, ...."
    – user9646
    Apr 19, 2018 at 14:36
  • 19
    The corresponding author of the paper. Apr 19, 2018 at 14:41
  • 22
    Why is it necessary for a postdoc to be in the city to respond to your email? Apr 19, 2018 at 15:59
  • 3
    "PI" means completely different things in Australia and the USA. Apr 20, 2018 at 7:43
  • 7
    @YYY I am an ESL (English as a Second Language) and the only thing that comes to mind by PI is Private Investigator... which doesn't make sense to me in the context. I've been struggling for a bit to figure it out. I've searched this list and I guess the best fit would be... "Principal Investigator"? Is that what OP means? Is it too obscure of an acronym or is it just me? Will other struggle as I have?
    – xDaizu
    Apr 20, 2018 at 9:23

3 Answers 3


If the paper lists a corresponding author, then that is the person to try. Otherwise, I would just email all the authors and let them decide which one will respond. I don't think it's impolite and I'd rather email too many than too few authors (and risk getting no response).


First, it's not entirely clear to me that the PI is listed as an author on the paper. (I assume the PI probably is, but if not, then it would odd to email the PI for this.)

If you have had prior contact with either the postdoc or the PI, such that they might recognize your name in their inbox, then that might be a reason to start the contact there first. If your name is familiar to them, they are more likely to see your email and remember to deal with it.

With those caveats, I agree with Thomas's advice to contact the corresponding author (if any) or all authors at once.


Who should I send the email to?

Is the PI is listed as an author?

  • Yes: Write them both, as 'To' addressees.
  • No: Post-Doc as 'To', and 'CC' the PI if s/he will want to be aware of the interaction with you.

Also, if somebody else is the corresponding author, they should be a 'To' addressee as well.

Is it considered polite to send the email to the postdoc and CC his PI?

Not if the PI is listed as an author. Better to mail them both and let them sort out who wants to answer you. ... that is, assuming PI and the postdoc are on good terms with each other.

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