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What is the best email to use as corresponding author when publishing academic papers as a graduate student, postdoc, pre-tenured faculty or other potentially non-permanent position where your email address may change in the next few years? I know many academic institutions will let you turn your email address into a forwarding address, but in cases where this is not possible and your email address will cease to exist when/if you leave, what is the solution? Using something like a gmail address seems practical but rather unprofessional--or is it?

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    Strongly related: E-mail address to use in publications. – Clément Sep 26 '17 at 16:04
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    My university offers mail forwarding from the institutional address to a private one after finishing the thesis. Maybe other universities offer this, too. – Ian Sep 27 '17 at 8:37
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    @Ian Some do, some don't. – David Richerby Sep 27 '17 at 9:42
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    @Ian True, but this question is specifically about situations where they don't. – Dandan Sep 27 '17 at 14:46
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    @Dilworth why Gmail and not any of the other hundreds of email providers available? – Herman Toothrot Sep 28 '17 at 13:15

10 Answers 10

55

It has become quite obvious by now that most researchers are on precarious employment for an extended period of time when starting their career.

As mentioned by Michael and Mark, it is very common to find gmail email addresses in scientific publications. I believe that nobody would find that objectionable.

Tips, anyway:

  1. Do not use party.dinosaur@gmail.com but a variation on firstname.lastname@gmail.com.
  2. The issue of perenniality remains: GMail deletes inactive accounts after some time. Check their tools to address this issue: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3036546?hl=en
  3. Self-hosted email (i.e. firstname@lastname.tld) is also subject to cancellation if you don't renew your domain/email host.
  4. If you maintain a web presence, your email will be easily findable in the future.

As a kind of "non-requested bonus", I would advise to register an ORCID and have your paper include it (most publishers will include it by now). The ORCID is a unique permanent researcher ID, see their website. On your profile, you can have a list of all your publications and also of your web page. You can include several URLs, meaning that you can list your current institution homepage, your personal hosted homepage, your google scholar account, etc. The ORCID page will be permanent, easily findable and you can update it.

EDIT: you can also list an email (at your preference) on your ORCID profile.

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    I think I've actually just updated my long term career goals /success metrics to include reaching a point where I can use party.dinosaur@gmail.com professionally without worrying about repercussions. – Dandan Sep 25 '17 at 20:52
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    @Dandan: It's taken already :( – Mehrdad Sep 26 '17 at 4:40
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    @Mehrdad Nuts, I guess I'll never be that successful! – Dandan Sep 26 '17 at 13:43
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    "If you maintain a web presence" and your name isn't Jim Meyer or Wang Wei... – darij grinberg Sep 26 '17 at 18:21
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    I'm a simple man, I see "Party Dinosaur", I +1. :) – Deepak Sep 27 '17 at 4:12
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Many people I see use gmail by now, however, the majority still uses temporary institute email addresses despite losing it at some point - those who want to reach you will still find you, as long as you stay in academia.

  • sorry I entered this comment in the wrong answer, apologies. – Herman Toothrot Oct 3 '17 at 14:22
  • oh good, no problem then @user4050 – Mark Oct 3 '17 at 15:02
10

One option would be to use a permanent alumni e-mail forwarding address provided by an earlier institution you were associated with, in particular the one you got your degree from.

Eg: MIT, Oxford ...

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    The question specifically asks about the situation where this is not an option. – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 26 '17 at 9:22
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    In my understanding OP referes to the situation where the current affiliation email is likely to expire. My solution is to use a permanent address from an earlier affiliation. (I edited my answer to make this more clear.) – Simppa Sep 26 '17 at 10:17
  • @Simppa Good point... assuming at some time you had the opportunity and bothered to turn a previous email into a forwarding address that still functions (my undergraduate address was originally set up as a forwarding address, but I noticed a few months ago that it's stopped working), this would be a good solution. I suppose it might look a little weird using an email that doesn't match the affiliation listed, but no more so than a gmail address and possibly more professional-looking if you're worried about that. – Dandan Sep 26 '17 at 14:17
  • Joining an alumni association is usually far from cheap. Few would consider a permanent email forwarding address worth it. Furthermore, it isn't even the same address as one had during employment, so the problem of address change still remains! – darij grinberg Sep 26 '17 at 18:24
  • @darijgrinberg: “Joining an alumni association is usually far from cheap.” — This I guess varies hugely between institutions. My alumni email address (from Cambridge) was provided for free, and 12 years later is still working fine with no strings attached. And “it isn’t even the same address as one had during employment” — that’s not the point; the point is that going forward, once you get it, it’s an address you expect to remain valid in the long-term, so is suitable for putting on the record in publications. – PLL Sep 28 '17 at 9:38
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Some professional associations like ACM or IEEE provide email forwarding services or full mail accounts (like IEEE). It's not free as it comes with the subscription costs.

I used one of those emails on my business cards as the likelihood of changing institution was high.

Personally, on papers I use the email of the institution that paid me while writing the paper. If I moved in the meantime, I would hope that anyone who really wanted to contact me is able to google my name.

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    Re: "not free": if the service is provided by an organization you're expected to be a member of anyway, it's effectively free. Which is definitely not the same thing as truly free, but it's also not the same as costing, say, $100/year (or whatever) outright. I'm not saying you're wrong, just pointing out that it's important to consider the nuances. – David Z Sep 26 '17 at 20:36
5

I don't think Gmail is unprofessional. You could also spend the money to set up your own domain and email address - something like Dandan@dandan.com - which may seem more professional. By having your own website, you could also update with your publications.

3

Another option that I have not seen so far is the use of an email alias. Many academic institutions will allow students and other university community members (including faculty) to obtain an alias that they can use after they leave the institution. These addresses are not email accounts but can be used to "point" to existing email accounts elsewhere. Thus, you can list one address—your alias—and have it point to your active account wherever that might be.

3

I'll go against the flow and advocate that using gmail or any third-party email is unprofessional. It is widespread, common, and won't offend anyone, but I believe it is unprofessional nevertheless.

I understand unprofessional as against the regulations and policies, conforming to, for instance, the way the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct phrases it:

  1. MORE SPECIFIC PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES.

2.3 Know and respect existing laws pertaining to professional work. ACM members must obey existing local, state,province, national, and international laws unless there is a compelling ethical basis not to do so. Policies and procedures of the organizations in which one participates must also be obeyed. […]

But will also argue that it can go against the natural operation of your institution, and lead you to delicate situations.

I - It can be unlawful, or disapproved.

University's policies (that huge booklet you were asked to read) can be weird, go against the usages in your domain, but they still bind you, as an employee.

Some examples: Auburn University's Employee and Student Email Policy reads

The use of non-Auburn email for sending confidential or sensitive Auburn University information is prohibited.

Regent University Electronic Mail Policy reads

Staff are required to utilize their university provided Email (username@regent.edu) account for all business or educational related communications to and from all other university representatives (faculty, staff, students), business partners, and educational partners.

University of Southern California says

When using email to conduct official university business, employees must use USC email exclusively.

The Use of Third Party E-mail Systems at UCSF reads

The practice of using a third party email service by UCSF faculty, staff and students is not approved by UCSF

II - You can be held responsible for a loss, but don't have any control

You have no control on the way your professional identity will be managed, and yet might be held responsible if something happens. If your third-party get hacked, you can get into trouble for using that address instead of the one provided by your institution. If your institution gets hacked, dealing with the problem will be the responsibility of the institution, not yours. The fact that your institution might more prone to be hacked than the third-party is irrelevant to that point.

III - You are subject to change of clauses

Remember that you have no control over third-party emails. If the third-party decide overnight to go bankruptcy or to impose a $50.000 to access your email, you're screwed. As an employee, you will always be provided an email.

IV - Your are not a product

From an economic perspective, it's not the job of a third-party to provide you with an address: remember, if it's free, then you're the product. And in that case, you were given, as an employee, an email by your institution, so you don't have to look for a free alternative. And providing "brain time" to a third-party on your employer's time can be frowned upon.

V - You are a public person

From the point of view of the outside world, you represent your institution, and using the email they provided shows that you are a full member of that institution (I know that some statistics can be based on the domain of the email you provided to register).


So what?

About the practical aspect, I recommend to use the email provided, and when / if you leave, to

  • Ask the institution you left to forward your emails (you don't know for sure that they won't provide this facility if you don't ask),
  • Inform your contacts that you changed your address (prospective readers trying to reach you can email your co-authors as well),
  • Update your CV, website, and every professional account you have (including ORCID).

If someone try to contact you using that email and gets an error, a quick search (title of the paper + you name) will give them your email if you have a properly done webpage / professional account.

In the end, I believe that, as this similar question, the answers you'll get will be primarily opinion-based. This one is also strongly related.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – aeismail Sep 26 '17 at 19:22
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    -1. I have many objections to the reasoning given in this answer, but one simple one is that "unprofessional" is defined by the dictionary as "below or contrary to the standards expected in a particular profession". Since you yourself acknowledge that use of a third party email service by academics is "widespread, common, and won't offend anyone," I don't see how you can logically argue that it's unprofessional. Inadvisable, perhaps (I'd still disagree but at least it would make for an interesting debate), but not unprofessional. – Dan Romik Sep 26 '17 at 20:59
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    A lot of universities use microsoft 365 or even gmail based services... so having no control, security arguments are a bit irrelevant. The accountability part is true – S. Diaxo Sep 26 '17 at 22:11
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    Yes, some administrators are obsessed with regulations of the sort you describe. My goal as a scholar is to ignore them. – Dilworth Sep 27 '17 at 15:26
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    "To me, not respecting the policies is not professional." Well, I'm sorry but the dictionary disagrees with you. (It also disagrees with you about the meaning of "unlawful", incidentally.) – Dan Romik Sep 28 '17 at 2:11
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I'm a member of the (UK based) Institute of Physics and they provide an email forwarding services that any emails sent to myname@physics.org is forwarded to my yahoo account. If you are re you a member of some similar professional organisation, check that they provide this service.

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Your name is known as it is written on the paper. Everybody can google your name and will find your latest website within seconds. I don't think that a no longer valid email address is an issue.

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    This is not the case if you are called John Smith, though. – svavil Sep 26 '17 at 13:26
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    Agreed with @svavil above. Also, in the off chance (not entirely unlikely, given the competitiveness of academic positions these days) that a grad student/postdoc/pre-tenured faculty member ends up someday leaving academia and changing fields completely, they may not bother maintaining their professional website indefinitely in case someone wants to talk about their old papers. Or say they become a florist and are named John Smith--their website is unlikely to be identifiable as belonging to the author when you're searching for the right John Smith. – Dandan Sep 26 '17 at 14:11
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    @svavil : while I won't defend particularly usr1234567's answer, I still believe that a search with the title of the paper + you name (+ your previous institution) will probably lands you on the right page, if it exists. – Clément Sep 26 '17 at 14:34
  • @Dandan: Once people leave academia, many are no longer interested in their papers. If people would be interested, they would maintain some homepage where they list their publications, maybe LinkedIn. – usr1234567 Sep 27 '17 at 5:40
  • @usr1234567 As I commented on another answer, I think (and know of) plenty of people who leave academia would still be excited to know that someone is following up on work they spent years on, even if they no longer bother maintaining a website on it. Many people leave because they can't get permanent positions or find academia too demanding, not because they stop caring about their fields of study. The point of this question is how to maximize a reader's ability to contact you once your status changes, regardless of whether you move to a different institution or field. – Dandan Sep 27 '17 at 14:45
-1

Google is an inappropriate email address to use, regardless of precarity

Please don't use a GMail on your papers, it is inappropriate, as it encourages and legitimizes use of that platform.

You see, Google has been verified to pass the contents' of users' emails on to the US government's intelligence agencies, as part of the PRISM intelligence gathering program. This was one of Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013.

While the wide-spread use Google's email service is a fact of life we must contend with - as an academic, you must hold yourself to a higher standard when authoring paper than as a mere individual user, and at least not-encourage your readers to use/communicate with GMail accounts.

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    I can't believe so many academians are so easily sold to gmail... – Herman Toothrot Oct 2 '17 at 13:08
  • @user4050: People used to smoke for the longest time too until it went out of fashion. – einpoklum Oct 2 '17 at 14:21
  • Sorry, but my scientific papers are not a platform to insert political messages. I don't care what kind of political wrong doings Google is responsible for. I use their email irrespective of these. – Dilworth Oct 24 '17 at 13:36
  • @Dilworth: Your use of GMail is a political and public action rather than a private action. Mentioning that on your paper is another political action. The fact that something is the status-quo for you does not make it apolitical. – einpoklum Oct 24 '17 at 13:38
  • I disagree. Conforming to the status-quo without being aware of the political context of something, is practically speaking, being a-political. If I use gmail with no political intentions, it cannot be described as a "political action". Something is political only if it has a political intention. – Dilworth Oct 24 '17 at 14:26

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