Do you answer emails?

(8 Posts)
MedSchoolRat Tue 04-Sep-18 05:50:03

It's not just a late summer thing, this is a chronic problem for a few of us. I can't decide if it's because our PI (Professor) is so hands off (also doesn't answer most emails), when our PI should be cracking whip at colleagues for us to help us get stuff done, or if it's just some specific colleagues who have a culture of never-reply (yet I know some Profs & colleagues who are hyper conscientious about answering all emails, tbf), or if it's just a rampant practice in research & academia (I think this is the truth).

We're not sending cold call publish-in-my-dodgy-journal emails. We send genuine work queries to people who seem to be paid to collaborate with us. And mostly feck all replies.. delay... never... delay... never... delay. For months on end. Sometimes with a sporadic spontaneous query "Did you still want me to comment on this?!" It takes me 20-40 minutes to read a journal article & 45 minutes to send back very detailed comments. How tight is their time they never reply after 2 months, even though they are coauthors? I resort a lot to "If I don't hear from you by X-date I WILL assume you approve of this report written as is."

Do you answer most your work-related emails? If not, why not? If you recognise what I'm talking about, why do you think there's so much ignoring emails in research environments? DH works in private sector & is appalled by my stories of never-replies & very late replies from supposed colleagues.

Even telecons... we agee action points but then others do none of promised followup, especially if they are based somewhere far away. Out of sight out of Mind.

OP’s posts: |
MedSchoolRat Tue 04-Sep-18 05:51:52

ps: I should explain, the lack of replies delays us getting things done. Decisions can't be made, coauthors don't agree to submission, money can't be spent, etc. Feels rude to set deadlines for reply to emails but get even fewer replies if no deadlines.

OP’s posts: |
Orchiddingme Tue 04-Sep-18 08:00:14

I answer everything but I'm not a PI on a very large grant/several grants at once which some of my colleagues are.

There is a type of person in the academy and everyone knows who they are who are just freeloaders. Often exceptionally clever, they use this cleverness to let others do the pedalling for them. So- in the report example, they mostly don't want to write the report themselves but want their name on it. By saying 'we'll submit it at this date if you haven't replied' they are more than happy with this outcome. I've found the only thing that gets them more active is talk of authorship and what the new grant will be- they suddenly spring to life at this point. Sensible people try to throw them off the new grant before it starts but if they are a big hitter, they may just get put on to repeat again and again.

I know lots of people not like this though! Who are really diligent and keep a tight rein on their associates/RAs/post-docs and work with them a lot both on the project and their careers.

I think it's a bit of luck who you have on your grant. It sounds like you are really unlucky at the moment!

Orchiddingme Tue 04-Sep-18 08:01:42

Also, practically, Aug is a month a lot of academics go away, start pestering them from now onwards. Your 'I'll go ahead if I don't hear by X date' is the right approach to deadlines, if annoying as some of the lazier ones will still not reply.

MedSchoolRat Tue 04-Sep-18 09:02:56

Thanks for replies. It's not just August & not just one PI & not just academics (I have researcher colleagues in other institutes) & not even just me (listening to fed up colleague rant yesterday). It's lots of PIs & other RAs & other staff even, most of the last 5 years, since I started working in public health. There is a huge culture of simply ignoring emails.

Come to think of it, I resort to twitter to get most companies to respond, they sure can't be relied upon to answer email, either.

I understand the companies a lot better. But colleagues I can't understand. Maybe we tacitly enable them by acting as though "Poor you must be so overwhelmed" when secretly I suspect "Poor you, are so disorganised and/or don't really give a Fig" are bigger reasons.

OP’s posts: |
Orchiddingme Tue 04-Sep-18 09:27:17

I agree some RA/post-docs are quite lazy/email-dodging as well. I know lots of great hardworking ones (and was one myself) but a few who really weren't interested in academic careers but couldn't think of anything else to do and they needed constant deadlines and meetings to get anything done.

I think there aren't many consequences to being crap in this way in the academy. The PIs get their names on reports and papers and are rewarded for bringing in the money even if they are rubbish on the project itself. The post-docs who aren't doing much just sit out their 18 month contract and ignore all requests to write papers. There's hardly any comeback on either group. The only people who usually fear this type of accountability are lecturers on probation as they may not get kept on if they don't perform very well in all areas.

When they don't reply to me I don't think 'poor you', I think 'lazy you' but then I usually just get on with what I have to do and try not to work with them again.

MedSchoolRat Tue 04-Sep-18 09:43:07

I haven't sensed laziness. More like the PIs take on too much & don't attend to details. RAs... I dunno. Colleagues outside universities, I'm not sure. Don't see you don't do anything for you might be the dominant reason.

Prof1 (who does answer every email) moaned about saying yes to favour for Colleague2, thinking C2 was overwhelmed, but no, C2 just wanted to go on hols instead! Several times C2 has said he'll do something for the dept. and then I never see him, someone else steps in coz C2 is so unreliable. Naturally C2 got promoted to be Professor 2 confused. Prof2 is so nice but I would be very wary of working again with him. Prof3 I mainly work with, is extremely in demand so I understand him better. I have a system for getting decisions out of P3, at least.

OP’s posts: |
Orchiddingme Tue 04-Sep-18 09:57:09

My experience is that some profs are really overwhelmed, they have too many grants and pay a lot of attention to them and to their colleagues. I also know some who are really lazy as well, though, who disappear for long time periods, teach the absolute minimum of classes, don't produce much for years on end. With increasing performance assessment, life is getting slightly more uncomfortable for these, but I've known several in the past ten years, all near to or a few years off retirement and the desire to get that next grant/write more just seeps out of them as they contemplate their final salary pensions.

They have all been men. I don't know any women who are like this, I don't believe women profs/assoc profs in general are like this right now as they tend to have to have worked harder/fought more for their positions. That said, I know a few who are not above tactics like forgetting to author more junior people, presenting other people's work as their own, not marking/answering emails on time.

They are not all 'too busy' at all, they make time for long holidays every year and aren't all writing books in them judging by their outputs. The hierarchical nature of grants means some people end up sitting on them doing not that much whilst others are doing all the pedalling.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in