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I work for a technology company and our company is interested in inviting some professors to review some of our recent technological innovation. It'd be more like writing an endorsement, or a preface for a book (and of course the professor needs to be comfortable with our work), so we can promote our products to the clients.

We don't have strong academia connections, so we might have to write some unsolicited emails to approach professors. Are there some tips regarding this kind of emails? I understand professors receive thousands of emails every day, so I want to make sure our email doesn't get buried.

Also, should we bring up compensation numbers in the first email, or this should be left for future discussion?

  • Why should a prof be interested in using/evaluating your tool? That's the question you should ask yourself. This is not a paper to review, so this is the question you have to be able to have your target reviewer answer themselves. – Captain Emacs May 16 at 5:33
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    @CaptainEmacs Not sure if it's a good answer, but we are willing to pay for his work. – Vlad Zkov May 16 at 12:42
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It's absolutely OK to write an unsolicited email to a Prof. Academics are contacted for all sorts of things, and your email will definitely be read. In writing your email, it's important to remember two things - 1. professors engage in things that they find interesting; 2. they fiercely protect their reputation.

So, since you are asking for tips, here are a couple:

  • Find those professors who are interested in maintaining and developing links with industry (as opposed to those who are focused primarily on advancing the theoretical foundation of their discipline). If you look at their profiles, such profs would mention consulting work, executive education, industry-sponsored research, and membership in professional bodies. These are the guys/ladies you want to talk to first.
  • Describe your product/project in terms of its intrinsic interest or novelty - that's what most academics will find interesting. From an academic's viewpoint, writing a preface or endorsement for your report is just a byproduct of learning something new and interesting about the field they care about.
  • That said, be upfront about the fact that you want something from them and that you are not seeking to influence their judgment in any way.

Whether to mention compensation in the first email depends on where you/they are country- and culture-wise. But to be on the safe side, I would not mention money in the opening email but use words like "consultation" or "expert opinion" to signal that you are happy to pay for their time and expertise.

Good luck! ))

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    "your email will definitely be read" I'm not sure about that, but agree with the rest – Daniel K May 16 at 15:29
  • In my fields at least, professional membership isn't correlated at all with willingness to consult. – Azor Ahai -him- May 16 at 16:06
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It is possible that the university has a section or even "subsidiary company" through which academic staff is "outsourced" as consultants to industry. What I just wrote looks horrible, so I will try to elaborate.

There might be a conflict of interest issue when an academic works for both a university and a private company, depending on the situation. That can be overcome in legal ways via separate companies etc, and I am not experienced enough to delve on that issue. Suffice to say, it happens and in ways that are the whole package: right, moral and legal.

In addition, some universities have a specialised agency (or provide the opportunity) to liaise academic staff to companies. They act as the intermediary, negotiate terms with the company, undertake the contract, arrange for payment and terms etc, and therefore there is no violation of some kind. In essence the university arranges for a fractional or consulting contract and centralises the process. I do not know enough to provide details, but the University of Oxford comes to mind. This is an option worth exploring and means a company will be negotiating with the university instead of a private individual.

I will not go into the moral aspects of academia - industry relations, but I see nothing wrong on the outline of the cooperation the OP suggests. It is something fruitful for both sides, and most academics would at least consider it. The obvious option is to email a spacific person, if the profile fits, and a to-the-point factual but not overly detailed email that intends to lead to a face-to-face discussion sounds fine. Another avenue is the Head of Department and/ or administrative contact, which might be difficult to locate for the uninitiated to the supreme mysteries of academia. There is typically a point of contact on the Staff list, and if the OP is looking for a list of people that is also worth considering. It is situation specific, however - some departments/ people are slothful, while others hyperactive.

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