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I am a postdoc with some experience. I collaborated with a well known scientist (S), which resulted (after around 3 years) in a paper in the Nature Publishing Group, where I was first author and S was the last author.

In this multidisciplinary collaboration (involving two research fields/communities, mine and his one), my line manager stepped back to the second-to-last author, since the methodology used was closed to that of S.

The collaboration was very nice all the time, with an insightful exchange of ideas and opinions. The only "negative" thing in these years of collaboration came at the moment of taking a decision on the corresponding authors. In one community a less experienced researcher would usually be corresponding author, while in the other community, the last author would usually be the corresponding one. At the end we decided to put both names as corresponding authors, and after a while, everything was smooth again (at least that was my impression).

Just after the publication, and very happy about the published paper, I asked S if he wanted to collaborate again on a second paper, where already some results were achieved (sending him a summary of the results, basically plots with a brief explanation,...), but no reply came from them. Just silence.

Obviously, I do not understand this silence. A gentle reply could always be sent with an excuse like "sorry, I am very busy in this period" or something like that.

Any clue about this "ghosting behaviour"? Is it common?

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    This is too little information for anyone here to have a clue. I think the tiff over corresponding author is irrelevant. Feb 7, 2022 at 12:26
  • Many thanks @EthanBolker for your reply... Already knowing if a sort of tiff about the corresponding author could irremediably damage an academic relationship is already something to me, since such a kind of unexpected behaviour never happened to me before... Btw, I can say that S was always very nice, professional and available, replying quickly to the emails most of the times (I would say 95% of the times within a hour or two)... a very few times did not reply to some emails.. but I think it can happen to everyone to forget, or something.... [IT CONTINUES IN THE NEXT COMMENT]
    – Ommo
    Feb 7, 2022 at 12:45
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    Do you assume that you are being "ghosted" on the basis of a single email remaining unanswered? Can they not just have forgotten to answer?
    – xLeitix
    Feb 7, 2022 at 12:46
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    @user153141 I mean, sure, there could be any number of reasons why somebody stops a collaboration, but I would assume that common courtesy after 3 years of working would be to tell the other person.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:20
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    @user153141 And about the "forgetting" thing - I think you underestimate how busy many people are. I have certainly forgotten about emails in the past, and I am probably one of the more organised people in my department ...
    – xLeitix
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:21

1 Answer 1

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Only your collaborator can really tell you what the reason for ghosting you is, I'm afraid. There are many possibilities. Here are few:

  1. A common problem with academics when they receive non-trivially-answerable mail is that it takes more time to answer than they currently have available. The mail then gets onto a "TODO" pile, which doesn't exactly get smaller over time. After a while, it gets awkward to reply to a mail and/or the mail is forgotten. This is especially possible if after an intense crunching period for getting a paper submitted, the other obligations of the researcher want some attention.
  2. Perhaps there is currently no interest in spending time doing more work. For instance, funded project may need to be worked on with more priority (as there are reports to be written), and some researchers have a habit of not talking about the business aspects of science, which may cause them not to tell you this.
  3. Perhaps your mail was just forgotten and got hidden under a pile of other mails when the researcher had too many other things to do for ~2 days or so. Again, after a while such mails are awkward to answer.
  4. Perhaps there is really no interest in continuing this line of research for whatever reason.

One way of finding out is to call in by phone if you think that it's urgent. But perhaps you want to send a reminder mail first. If your past collaboration was fruitful and your mail suggesting doing future work contained preliminary results, reason no. 1 of this list sounds like a very possible one.

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    thanks a lot! A very nice reply and analysis! :)
    – Ommo
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:16
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    Recall that sending an email does not mean it is received. In addition to junk mail filtering, there are things behind the scenes that block email. These can change over time. Feb 7, 2022 at 19:28
  • Thanks @TerryLoring for your comment (I did not think about it) :-)
    – Ommo
    Feb 7, 2022 at 20:46

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