How you should really be emailing life scientists

Insights from ResearchGate’s email specialists.

Over the last 10 years ResearchGate has been the platform for scientists to collaborate, share and upload publications. As we’ve grown the network to 15 million scientists, we’ve found email – specifically when well-timed – to be a very successful method of keeping in touch.


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We often hear marketers ask us “So when is the best time to email scientists?”.  The short answer – it depends on who your audience is. What resonates with subscribers of retail or hobby brands will differ vastly from subscribers of scientific institutions. With that in mind, we’re here to break down the life science categories and offer insights into when specific scientific audiences should be emailed, and the frequency of which to send these.

The best day to send scientific emails is Friday

The controversy behind what you just read (most marketers believe the best day to be Tuesday) comes down to a 2017 ResearchGate survey which analyzed open and click-through rates of all emails sent to scientific members. It found that emails sent on Friday have the highest open rate (34.09%) and click-through rate (4.31%), compared to any other day of the week.


While Tuesday is arguably the most productive day when the ‘reality of the working week sets in’, on Friday they’re more likely to be at their desk rather than the lab. Many scientists also open these emails on Saturday when they have more time to engage with content, rather than during the week when they’re more likely to respond to urgent emails.


However, when looking at the difference audience segments, it is clear that there is no consistency when it comes to life scientists. For example, the best open and click-through rates among scientists in immunology are on Monday, while microbiologists are more likely to open emails on Wednesday and click on Thursday. Interestingly, the only category that includes Friday is DNA analysis (open rate). Which could be cause they’re more willing to engage with a scientific email if they’re in ‘work mode’, and are thinking about scientific products.

A breakdown of best-performing weekdays for life science categories:

Scientists read emails at 10.30am

The time of day can be just as influential as the day you send scientific emails, and it varies depending on content type. For example, hobby-related emails generally have more success at 8am, as this is most likely when the recipient has time to check personal emails before work.  


When we look at the ideal send time across ResearchGate members, the optimal time is 10.30am in the time zone of the recipient, and this doesn’t appear to vary between the life science categories.


Stephen Mansfield, ResearchGate’s Head of Growth is responsible for increasing the number of members and their engagement. He sees the best conversion rates for emailing life scientists during earlier work hours. Stephen explains: “This is when they are engaged and thinking about scientific products. Plan it for when they first get into the office, as this way their inbox isn’t as crowded.”

A 2017 ResearchGate survey on email engagement time:

Scientific email frequency directly relates to grants

For life scientists, the frequency of email campaigns often relates to the grant process. It is a competitive field with limited funding, so many researchers apply for grants; a process that can take months. This increases the buying cycle and is much slower compared to other B2B industries, so one-time promotions are likely to be less effective. Life scientists need to be exposed to brands long before they’re ready to make a purchase, and when the decision is upon them, the accumulated impressions gathered will become crucial.


Panagiotis Loukas, ResearchGate’s Senior Ad Operations Marketer who specializes in email advertising, recommends spreading an email ad campaign over a few months. “This makes the brand appear more consistent. We have the best success when an email blast is sent once a month, following the same story but with a slightly different call-to-action”.  This call-to-action could start off as a low-friction message (e.g. ‘view details’) and move into a more aggressive ‘buy now’. Panagiotis says “It’s even more effective in a multichannel approach; combining the same messaging in an email campaign and banner ads.”

To conclude

The timing and frequency of an email campaign plays a huge role in their success, and it relies largely on having a strong understanding of their audience. It takes time and testing to understand what emails work for your business model, but hopefully this post has offered some valuable insights into what we’ve learnt from emailing 15 million scientists.

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