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An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

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An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Jun 21, 2015 12:36 pm

I've been trying to reach a well known Professor who is an expert in the area of a current search. The project I'm working on affects millions of low income people around the world; getting a response from very senior people has been easy for me because they all care to see this organization succeed in an important mission.

That said, I'm always surprised. Here's what one Academic wrote back to me when I sent a request for 5 minutes:

"Dear Valued Email Correspondent: Due to the high volume of email I am unable to reply. If you do not hear from me and the matter still requires a response, please contact me again in 1 week. I am not available for letters of recommendation, grant or manuscript reviews."

Wow. I feel so valued.

Dave
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby John D. D, » Sun Jun 21, 2015 8:23 pm

Try not to let a person's lack of interest define you. If they treat you like you don't exist, it is probably wise to do likewise, or perhaps the next time, maintain a casual "Hi, I hope things have settled down. You seemed really overwhelmed the last time we tried to meet."

One can always give people the benefit of the doubt, but I avoid entering into really harmful paradigms of relative value which can be pervasive in some settings.
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Lydia » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:03 pm

I can't imagine sending out an automated response like that, but I'm not particularly important. I have on occasion sent out a quick response to an email saying yes to helping with whatever, but setting a timeline, and warning the sender that they should probably follow up with a reminder if they don't hear from me.

It is really too easy for emails to fall through the cracks if they are not one of my top priorities! My guess is that this professor doesn't care how the email comes off and is asking for a 2nd email as a filter/screen.
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Dave Walker » Mon Jun 22, 2015 7:47 am

In a word: curmudgeonly!

Reading this, one specific professor from my work comes to mind. Being an engineer, he has a very curious, non-emotional take to e-mail: it's nothing but a distraction to his higher calling. His website has, in lieu of an actual e-mail address, a screed about spam reduction and literal operating instructions about how he will process his e-mail. Like some kind of professor robot.

But at the end, it does say: don't let all this dissuade you from contacting me!
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Dick Woodward » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:51 am

This rather reminds me of the automated phone answering systems that say "we value your time - please leave a message."

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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Nate W. » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:21 pm

Dave,

Welcome to the academy! Can you only imagine working for this socially inept professor as a post-doc? Sadly, this is a common occurrence where mentors don't give a damn about those doing the work in order to help their own career or anyone else for that matter. Often, they are too inwardly focused on trying to win grant money that they have very little chance of ever obtaining. Less than 10% of all NIH/NSF grants are successful. Yet they cling to the unsustainable notion that the federal government should subsidize their professional career and lab members are merely pawns needed to gather essential data for their grant applications w/o any expectation of anything in return.

See John DD link to these comments:

"The big issue here—much bigger than independent funding—is your unsupportive adviser, who seems to view you (and the other postdocs in the lab) as instruments for his own success rather than as protégés whose career success he is responsible for. By forbidding you to establish any degree of independence, he is intentionally blocking your career. His behavior is unethical. You should not honor his prohibition.

You will not succeed at establishing independence as a researcher in this laboratory. So go find another lab—a new postdoc or a research associate position, with a better PI or adviser. Your chance of finding another job may be highest with colleagues or competitors of your current adviser. It is high time to get out of your current position.

—Alice"

Source:

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ca ... t.a1500130
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Ok , Guerrila phone skills?

Postby P.C. » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:42 am

I thought this is where Dave Jensen uses his phone skills to talk to the man.
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Re: Ok , Guerrila phone skills?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:42 pm

P.C. wrote:I thought this is where Dave Jensen uses his phone skills to talk to the man.


Yes, I've tried in every way possible, including the phone. Sometimes, no matter how you persist, things just don't work out. I've moved on -- but I thought the lesson learned was interesting about how some professors feel about hearing from people by email,

Dave
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby John D. D, » Tue Jun 23, 2015 5:21 pm

What can be difficult for me to resolve on occasion, is whether the problem is a personal one, or whether it is one created by other entities: lawyers, etc. It is hard for me to accept the latter's power to influence relationships between otherwise consenting parties, but they occasionally do, and the other person may not even know that you have tried to contact them. It would be better if there were a direct, no BS, I'm not interested response, so that you could just move on.

You apparently have, anyway. But it can also be a way of the system forcing you to recognize how much muscle they have - which is distasteful, IMHO.
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Re: An Interesting Email Reply from the Ivory Tower

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jun 23, 2015 5:43 pm

Today I had absolutely the opposite response, from a professor who was referred to me by a dozen others as the guru in the field.

He not only took the call, but spent 10-15 minutes going over a rather lengthy list of contacts he would recommend. Readers take note: These consisted of former Grad Students and Postdocs in his lab, first and foremost (although some of these were 12 or more years ago). He's still thinking about "his people" despite the years that have gone by, and he understands the networking process.

I call this "reverse networking." He's been repaid a hundred times, I'm sure, for thinking like this. This is opposite from the one I first griped about, who needs to feed the ego by replying in such a manner to what is probably perceived as a "nuisance contact."

In reality, the expert I just spoke with planted a few seeds of good. For one, my search involves a non-profit that has a huge mission and if the names proceed into candidacy, he will have made a personal impact on millions of people,

Dave
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