With networks like ResearchGate and Academia.edu, it's easy to connect with and follow researchers from a variety of different nations and backgrounds. I personally think this is great, and I hope such networks can help reduce redundancy in research.
Every now and then, though, I get a request from someone whose English is poor enough that it obscures meaning, and they are usually from a non-Western country with limited access to research materials. Recently, I received an e-mail from a PhD student wanting me to suggest a thesis topic.
I'm all for helping people, especially if they are bright and eager and trying to work their way out of a crappy situation. But I honestly have no idea how to respond to such an e-mail. I intend to ask for more information about who the student's advisor is, what people in their group work on, etc. But are there are other things I should keep in mind? Is there anything I should be wary of?
P.S. I'm trying to choose my words carefully-- I don't want to play "Western savior," but I also acknowledge I have a real advantage as a Westerner and don't want to lightly dismiss a request for help when it could have a real impact on the student.