I am a professor in a popular STEM field with a reasonably prominent list of publications, enough that if you Google AREA or method XXX you may encounter my name. About once a week I receive emails like this (copied textually).
I realized that you have experience in THIS AREA, and I have a question, I'll be grateful if you answer. I have used the XXX method to determine the number of YYY, considering that I have no training data, What criterion or method can be used for verifying the accuracy?
I do not mind giving advice to unknown persons who ask for it. In fact, one reason I am a professor is that I like to teach others. But if I write another person, I do not call them by their first name, I introduce myself and explain what problem I am trying to solve, and only after I ask politely if they can help point me to the information I need.
I would like to tell people who send me these emails that
- I would like them to introduce themselves
- They are not welcome to call me by my first name, I would prefer them to write Dr. LASTNAME, or something similar,
- I would like them to acknowledge that I may be busy and under no obligation to teach them
- That answering the question will take some time and in general, since this question is important to them, it doesn't look good that they took less than 1 minute to ask it.
- In addition, some questions aren't even clear enough; I would have to write back to ask what they really want.
Details: I am in the US, but I grew up in Europe, and I am a woman. I suspect that the letter writers (who are either male, or gender unknown) would be more respectful if I was a man.
Things I thought of doing:
- not replying
- replying in 1 line e.g "try this.." or "I don't know". This encourages the behavior I want discouraged, so I practically never do it.
- putting up something on my web page asking people to be mindful of my numbered points above. This would make me look stuffy to everyone know does know me, and may be easily missed by those it is aimed at.
- replying with a message explaining that I would like to be asked nicely. I have not tried this because I do not know how to start writing such a message.
What I would like to ideally happen is to receive requests for help that are considerate and reflect the writer's effort to make my work of responding easier, as explained.
I do not know if my cultural expectations are in line with those of the letter writers. I hope to get help on how to act in response, including how to phrase a possible response email.
Please keep in mind that I DON'T have the time to get into prolonged email exchanges with random people on questions of etiquette. I don't want to make them feel bad either, I would like to help or not help with their issue and move on.