18 - Bad Recycling

Unsichtbares Akkordeon

The university saves resources, but now his quotations are a mess.


A researcher begins his career enthusiastically. For this purpose, he is provided with a new laptop and a new email address and shown the way to the coffee machine. He quickly got to work and soon he had published his first scientific publication! To see if his publication is already listed in search engines, he checked in Google Scholar whether he found his work there. In fact, the website had listed his publication ... unfortunately, however, this was not the only work he found there related to his "new" email address. What had happened?

The email address assigned to the researcher in question had previously been used by another scientist. After this person with the same first and last name changed employers, the address was "recycled". The existing email traffic was deleted and the address released for the new researcher. The university, or rather the responsible data center, probably did not expect publications and other services to be connected to this address. It was easy for the new researcher to get a new address, but it was very difficult to have his incorrect citations corrected on Google Scholar. On the other hand, the researcher was able to access all registered services with the recycled email address, which was a security risk for the previous user.

Although the blame was clearly not with the researcher himself, the story shows how one has to be careful when reusing addresses, because at first glance it is impossible to see what they are associated with. If it is unclear whether your own email address is unique, for important registrations you should always use a persistent identifier such as ORCID or ResearcherID, which is related to a single unique person. This has the further advantage that it remains unchanged, even if the person concerned moves or changes their name or affiliation. In addition, it should be good practice to document your own registrations and to switch the registered services to the new mail address after changing institutions to minimize your security risks.