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?
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.
- Do not use
firstname.lastname@example.org a variation on
- 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
- Self-hosted email (i.e.
email@example.com) is also subject to cancellation if you don't renew your domain/email host.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Staff are required to utilize their university provided Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) account for all business or educational related communications to and from all other university representatives (faculty, staff, students), business partners, and educational partners.
When using email to conduct official university business, employees must use USC email exclusively.
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).
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.
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.