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Sending bulk email to individuals within and beyond the University of Cambridge

Email communication has become a fundamental part of many research methodologies, and it is recognised that at times the sending of bulk email may be a necessary part of research activities.

Particular care is required when deciding whether to send bulk email messages intended for some or all recipients outside the University of Cambridge. It is these messages that present the greatest risk of the University being blacklisted as a source of unsolicited bulk email, or for complaints against the University being made to regulatory bodies.

In many cases, bulk email can be sent by submitting a single message to a managed mailing list service that then distributes a message to subscribers. When sending messages to such mailing lists members of the University should ensure that they conform to the guidelines of the list and each message is appropriate for dissemination through that mailing list. At times it may be unclear whether a mailing list includes members of the University only, or a wider constituency. In such cases senders should assume that these guidelines apply.

Additionally, senders of bulk email who are not using a managed mailing list service should ensure that:

  • All lists of email addresses intended for use in a bulk mailing have been manually validated to ensure they are active accounts and relate to an individual prior to their use.
  • All bulk mailings should be carried out on an opt-in basis. It is the originator’s responsibility to ensure that all recipients have elected to be included in each mailing.
  • All bulk email messages must contain an explicit opt-out clause enabling people to automatically remove themselves from all future mailings.
  • All bulk email should clearly identify the originator of the message and their Faculty, Department or other Institution. Typically this will be done by stating the name and contact address within the body of the email. Bulk emails should not indicate that they are official communications from the University of Cambridge.
  • Email addresses used to send bulk email and those which appear in the message headers must be hosted by the same infrastructure and not appear to be from another domain. For example, in the case of messages inviting people to participate in an academic survey an email address provided by the service used to host the survey should be used to send the invitation.
  • A statement confirming that bulk email has been sent in relation to a research project will be made available on the hosting institution’s website. Typically this will be implemented as a single page and include link(s) to the web pages about individual research projects.
  • The URL for each web page should be as clear and plain as possible, for example:
  • The web page including the institutional statement must be directly referenced in the body of the bulk email message. This enables the recipient to confirm that the message has been approved by the sponsoring institution.

Please note that the individuals may be held liable for any legal expenses incurred by the University as a direct or indirect result of the sending of bulk email.

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