Eaten E-Mails

We all dislike junk mail, but this week I learned there’s potentially something worse: e-mails that get ‘eaten’ by the internet and never arrive. I’m usually annoyed when people ask “Did you get my e-mail?” — because we always do; it’s more of a question whether we have read it or why we did not react to it. I don’t think this will change, but this week I have learned about e-mails that disappear without a trace.

I have been using a ‘for-life’ forwarding service from Oxford because I thought this would be a good way to ensure I could be reached irrespective my current academic affiliation. Unfortunately, on several occasions I have not received e-mails that I know were sent to my alumni account. These include a confirmation mail from COST actions ( — brilliant support from their IT), information on changing contact details (sent to the ‘old’ and ‘new’ e-mail, but only received on one), or more seriously decision letters from journals (which I can check on the journal website). There was no trace of these mails (not in the spam folder or the spam quarantine). Once I figured out this was not an isolated case, I checked with IT at Oxford to learn that this is a ‘known problem’ (just nobody has told me about it):

Some domains have chosen to publish a policy that says that if mail is relayed (that is, if recipients receive it from servers other than the ones the domains specify) it should be rejected. Providers are obeying this policy, and thus are rejecting the mail, because it comes via our servers rather than from the source servers they specify.

It’s apparently a generic problem with e-mail forwarding, where the policies of sending domains are to ‘blame’. This means there is nothing I can do about this, except for (largely) abandoning the forwarding service.

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