I recently received an email asking to participate in a Carnegie Mellon study regarding my use of the Workplace StackExchange for career guidance. I have included an image of the email just in case any of the links are malicious. I have visited the CMU review board site at http://www.cmu.edu/research-compliance/human-subject-research/faqs.html but I am unable to find somewhere to search for a specific study.

Has anyone seen an email like this before? It specifically says it is not associated with Stack Exchange officially. enter image description here

Update: I received a follow up email. Instead of providing a link to anything official, they instead decided to provide a link to THIS META POST to prove the legitimacy of the study. CMU probably needs to rethink this whole research thing... enter image description here

  • That's... interesting. I've pinged a SE Community Manager to see if they know anything, my guess is they guessed your email based on your username? I know that's happened before, ie [email protected] type of setup.
    – enderland
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:07
  • @enderland My username does not match my email. Maybe if I logged in/linked my SE account through Google/G+?
    – dfundako
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:09
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    @dfundako unless you've publicised your email address somewhere on the network no one without a diamond or database access should be able to see any credentials you have associated with your account.
    – ChrisF
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:29
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    I looked up some of the names in the signature line. Looks like Prerna Chickersal is misspelled. So, that seems suspicious. If I had to guess, they got your email from your GitHub profile. (Not linked for your privacy, but easy to find via Google at the moment.) Apr 5, 2017 at 15:38
  • @JonEricson Fine sleuthing. I have removed that link.
    – dfundako
    Apr 5, 2017 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


That seems suspicious; in particular, you don't publish your email address on the site that I can see. The IRB email address looks legitimate (andrew.cmu.edu is the main domain at CMU), so you might forward it there to ask.

I personally know one of the researchers listed there and will pass along a link to this post.

Update: I asked one of the listed researchers, who confirmed to me that the project is legitimate and put me in touch with Maria Tomprou, the PI (using a CMU email address). Maria explained that they sent out the email from their lab account but followup would come from CMU. The researcher I contacted has also asked the IRB to make a searchable list of approved projects available online.

Here are some excerpts from Maria's email to me (quoted with permission):

This is the project that I am responsible for. We have received an IRB approval about this. Please see the attachment. We use the gmail account of our lab (Connected Experience or CoEx) that we have created for research purposes and if participants contact us, we use our regular cmu e-mail.

Attached was an IRB approval form signed by John Zimmerman, IRB Chair.

Also in the momentum to reduce any inconvenience I might have caused to you or the Users, I completely skipped to offer some background about my project and its importance.

Brief description:
Online communities like Workplace have completely transformed the meaning of career advice seeking and offering compared to more traditional forms of mentoring (e.g. with your supervisor, peers) that may hinder your career or offer biased advice (often called the dark side of mentoring). So we want to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms such as motives, usefulness, attributions of how this new form of mentoring functions as well as the impact of the advice from Workplace channel on people’s careers. How does this online community impact User’s career trajectories, negotiations, finding a job, changing careers etc? Does Workplace replace the traditional mentoring? All these are important issues not only for the role of online communities but also what organizations can learn and benefit from these kinds of communications.

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    We're famous! Our fake rep points finally mean something! (or not, since I didn't get the email, hah)
    – enderland
    Apr 5, 2017 at 20:23
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    I didn't get it either, and one of them knows me! :-) Apr 5, 2017 at 20:40
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    Interesting, though still doesn't explain how they got the OP's email address in the first place.
    – David K
    Apr 6, 2017 at 11:58
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    Wonderful, time now to make a fake email account to contact them, and then reply from my real account only if they respond. :p
    – Masked Man
    Apr 6, 2017 at 12:51
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    @DavidK right, I don't know that. It's one of several things that made the email look suspicious, which I pointed out to them, but the OP would have to ask them how they got the address. Apr 6, 2017 at 13:16
  • Do we know where they are getting people's email addresses from? Apr 7, 2017 at 0:20
  • @MonicaCellio Interesting. Do you know if they just pick random people to participate in this or can anyone? If so, where?
    – Magisch
    Apr 7, 2017 at 6:15
  • @Magisch sorry, no idea. I didn't ask them about the study and its conduct. Apr 7, 2017 at 13:26
  • It just gets better and better. Instead of providing a link to an official CMU page to show this is an official sanctioned study, they provided a link to this post as proof. Can't make this stuff up.
    – dfundako
    Apr 13, 2017 at 2:55
  • @MonicaCellio Probably why you didn't get one, you knew someone. ;-) Apr 19, 2017 at 15:10

I think the email is genuine.

They probably removed the email from the website after getting spammed once too often.

I find it rather strange though that they cannot get an email address on the CMU domain, but that alone does not make it spam. Perhaps Ann Matthias can shed some more light on that. ;-)

  • 1
    The email may be genuine and still spam - I certainly would consider it so.
    – Joe
    Apr 6, 2017 at 16:26

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