Monday, April 12, 2010

email addresses with/without academic domain names

Most academic colleagues use email addresses that end with .edu or .ac.uk, or related endings for other countries. But some (more often, younger people) use gmail, for example. I suspect that it is a mistake to do that, and that academic domain names are a genuinely good thing, simply because they help to certify the identity of the sender. I have a gmail address but I only use it for personal, not professional correspondence.

If someone emails me who is interested in a job or studentship with my research group, I give the message more credibility if it's an academic address (is it wrong to do so? I try not to be biased in how I respond to the message... but certainly there's a bigger risk that it looks, at first sight, like spam.) Or, if someone writes me a reference on behalf of someone else, the fact that it originates from a sender with a university email address is as good as a signature on paper - better in fact, since I don't recognize most people's signatures.

Is the above opinion sensible, or old-fashioned (or possibly, both)?

14 comments:

jonas said...

Or, if someone writes me a reference on behalf of someone else, the fact that it originates from a sender with a university email address is as good as a signature on paper - better in fact, since I don't recognize most people's signatures.

This doesn't sound as a good idea, since the sender address in email can easily be forged.

Paul Goldberg said...

OK, but you could similarly write a pretty nice-looking forged paper reference... I think the sender email address is still competitive with a paper signature in that sense.

Anyway, the main point I am making is just that the sender address can contribute - or fail to contribute - to the receiver's sense of the sender's identity.

Micha said...

Still, I second Jonas's comment. It requires way more effort to forge a signature than an email; that is, it is technically harder and asks for a greater deal of willingness to cheat.

In a perfect world, I would use GPG and a keyring cosigned with a group of researchers I trust. That would be better than any hand signature.

Anonymous said...

Here's my two cents as someone on the job market. I have changed affiliations three times since I graduated with my PhD. I presume this is quite common these days with people having to wait longer for permanent positions. (In my case, I dabbled in industry before returning to academia as well.) Anyway, with these changes, it is difficult to maintain an academic email address. Gmail and the like are far more convenient. Even so, when I send in an application and even in my CV, I use a .edu email address. For regular correspondence, this becomes cumbersome. I think for very formal correspondences like the first email to a potential employer or the formal application packet, you can, perhaps, expect a formal email address. I, as a representative of the pool of people waiting for permanent positions, would like to urge you not to be too strict in these matters.

Paul Goldberg said...

A quick answer to the above - I would certainly not be "strict"; I just claim that using an academic (or indeed, industrial research lab) address looks like a relatively quick and easy item of evidence (evidence, not proof!) that you're in the research community. (And maybe it only works because in practice people don't forge these addresses; if people start doing so, the advantage vanishes.)

v4us said...

Alot of Uni/Colledge foreign doesn't offer .edu names for students, stuff, professors. think again

Anonymous said...

I think what Paul is saying is simply a reflection of the way people think. The thought is that the probability of an email being a scam is higher if the address is non-edu then if it is. Is such a thought correct or not> (regardless of whether this may or may not be an unfair method of discrimination)

Edith said...

I am with the anonymous commentator here: I use gmail for most of my correspondence, since NTU has a very cumbersome webmail interface, but if I have to contact someone for the first time in my official capacity, e.g., to request recommendation letters, I use my university address (cc'd to my gmail account). In fact, recently I contacted my medical insurance provider from my gmail address, and apparently the letter did not get through; I had to write them from my university account to get a response.

All in all, I think many junior people (including myself) perceive gmail addresses as legit, but it does not apply to other non-academic domains, like yahoo or hotmail. So, not all non-academic addresses are created equal... :)

Paul Goldberg said...

Edith - it's a good point, that gmail is better than the other ones. Maybe because they seem to have mechanisms to stop the addresses being used for spam, also because people in CS have decided to favour gmail. So I'm on safer ground to encourage people not to use e.g. hotmail.

aram harrow said...

You can (probably) set your academic address to forward to gmail, and gmail in turn will happily spoof your academic address when sending messages (even using your university's POP server). So this way you get the gmail interface with a .ac.uk appearance.

To address the problem of a forged sender address, you can simply reply to the email, e.g. with a "Thanks for sending this letter of recommendation."

UNA.ac said...

Hi there.
Today there is a solution: a permanent academic email address: www.una.ac
best wishes,
UNA.ac Team

aram harrow said...

An update: after leaving the U. of Bristol, my @bris.ac.uk address started bouncing within weeks. I had assumed they'd redirect for at least a year, and maybe permanently.

It was a huge pain! It made me wish that I had used gmail (or even @alum.mit.edu) more while I was working at Bristol.

LunaticNeko said...

It depends. In Thailand, undergraduates are always offered prefixed-numeric addresses which are not memorable at all. We therefore usually restrict use of academic emails only to in-academy or formal purposes. (that we MUST verify our membership to the academy)

In fact, even professors get their names shortened into something ugly like "John Doe" to jodo@myacad.edu and usually opt to use gmail or their "lab addresses" like john@mylab.myacad.edu instead.

When we sign up for courses, professors collect our "real-world" addresses and not academic addresses. Says a lot about our academic email culture.

Anonymous said...

I agree with v4us. There many universities that do not (or do not have the means) to offer their researchers an institution-affiliated email. These researchers will not be able fir example to join and benefit from a vital research community like RsesrchGate that requires such affiliated email for registration. This automatically excludes researchers from certain countries or universities, and denies them the chance of being part of the global research society, in addition to giving less credibility to their email messages apparently.