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PSA: Current contact information

October 29, 2018

As a mentor, you become linked for internet eternity to the names of your trainees.  And, especially if your trainees stay in science, but even in other circumstances, you are likely to have some sort of current contact information for all of them. The requests for letters of recommendation, protocols, reagents or code or perhaps less formal communication about wedding celebrations or baby pictures will keep your in-box contact information more or less current.

If you receive an email from someone you don’t know who is looking to get in touch with a trainee, by all means, forward the query along.  You can even write back and tell the person searching that you forwarded their email along. But please, don’t give a random person with an e-mail account your old trainee’s current contact information or updated personal information without your old trainee’s okay.

Consider.  If someone is hard to find on the internet, it is probably intentional.  An “old friend” should be able to find another “old friend” though a network of mutual old friends.  Online social networks are robust to geographic mobility and name changes. That the default routes haven’t been successful suggests caution. Don’t give an unknown person your old trainee’s current contact information.  No matter how reasonable, grammatically-correct and benign the query appears, put the ball in your trainee’s court.

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