Dear Distinguished Professor

Arrogant professor*

Arrogant professor*

Don’t be a jerk…

I know that Professors must get many many more emails per day than I do but I still think that they could, and should, maintain a level of email etiquette in responding.

Here is a recent email interaction:

[The initial email was sent to a large international mailing list covering a particular research area]

PROFESSOR: “Am serving as Editor of this article for JOURNAL NAME and am looking for 2-3 ad-hoc reviewers. If you can do this for me, please let me know ASAP. Thanks.
PROFESSOR’S INITIALS.
TITLE OF PAPER.
ABSTRACT OF PAPER.
PROFESSOR’S CONTACT INFO.”

[I read the abstract carefully, it looked interesting, and was right up my street. I have done ad-hoc reviews for two related journals and have publications in this field]

ME: [Replying to his initial email] “Hi FIRST NAME OF PROFESSOR,
I’d be interested in reviewing this article for JOURNAL NAME.
Best wishes,
Helen.
MY AFFILIATION AND CONTACT INFORMATION.
Copy of his initial email.”

[I probably should have addressed my email as ‘Dear PROFESSOR LAST NAME…’ but his email to the listserv was quite informal]

PROFESSOR: “You should email them directly.”

ME: “Dear FIRST NAME OF PROFESSOR,
I’m sorry, as you had requested that potential reviewers should “please let me know ASAP” I thought that I should reply to you directly. Also, by “them” do you mean the editors of the journal? I do not see any place on their website where one can volunteer to act as an ad hoc reviewer for JOURNAL NAME.
Best wishes,
Helen.”

PROFESSOR: “They should have a web site and a contact part.”

—————————–

As one of my mentors put it “The arrogance just seeps out of the email”. The professor here has asked a whole mailing list for help and then not been helpful, or even polite, when an offer of help was provided.

Bah!

The majority of the ‘big name’ professors I’ve had any contact with in my field have generally been very pleasant, polite, and encouraging to me as a more junior academic (though some never reply to emails at all!) Because of that it is actually quite shocking to me that this professor replied in this way.

In the end I contacted the journal offering to review the paper and after TWO WEEKS they responded and asked me to review it. By that point I’d got rather busy with organising my move from Canada to the UK and felt that I should prioritise other work so I had to decline. I did feel a bit bad for doing that and probably would have made more effort to make time if the initial interaction with the editor had not been so annoying.

——————————

* Photo is not of the ‘arrogant professor’ in question, but it is one of the top Google images results for that search term! Photo is apparently of  Professor Charles Kingsfield (played by John Houseman) in the film The Paper Chase. Photo from www.bluethenation.com

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