1. Some thirty years ago (pre-internet as research tool), I wrote my doctoral thesis on post-war Poland. Whenever I had an obscure question I couldn't answer I called the Polish Consulate in Chicago. A very nice man would always take my calls and help me figure out what I needed to know.

  2. I mean, he probably enjoyed it a bit to talk to someone who took an interest in his country. Did you send him a copy of your thesis?

  3. How do you find the right expert? I've definitely got a couple questions on my list that I'd love to ask an expert

  4. It’s a regional thing. For me, I live in Charleston, but the department of agriculture put me in touch of the botany department of Clemson University, which is also in SC but it’s pretty far away. They sent a van with two inspectors, they answered my question about the vines I had, plus they surveyed all of my trees, and even fed them all. For free!

  5. If you're living in Britain, I suspect that a polite email with a JPEG to Kew Gardens would get you an answer.

  6. Google results often bring up academic papers. Find a paper that appears relevant to your question, even if you can't access the full text. The list of authors will have one (sometimes two) marked as the corresponding author, with an email address. Try emailing them.

  7. If you live in the US, reach out to your local extension office (google county or state name extension office) - they have gardening experts on hand who will give you free advice. In some places, they may even come to your property and do a walk-through with you.

  8. Plantnet (I'm sure there'll be others) for your mobile to the rescue - you take a photo of the leaf or flower, upload it and Voila! it tells you what it is.

  9. If you live in the US your state likely has a Co-operative Extension center. But invasive plants are usually best pulled or dug out and placed in black trash bags. Burn the remaining roots with boiling water. Although this would be not cover all the details for some plants like poison ivy/oak which you want to protect yourself from.

  10. There are apps that you can download, and take a picture of the plant and it will ID it, give info on it, care advice, etc. you can also connect to experts in the app for advice or troubleshooting. I use the Picture This app to manage my garden, but there are other apps too.

  11. Take a clear picture and do a reverse Google Image search. It will get you on the right path for identification.

  12. Check the websites of some related research institutes. I work at the Institute of Physics in Prague and we have experts listed on web for every imaginable topic. We are a publicly funded institution so we think the public should be able to solicit our help within reasonable boundaries. As mentioned in the OP, most people love talking about their area anyway. But it can go further - I have been recently contacted to give some lectures for a high school, because remote covid setup is hard enough on them already and I'll gladly do it basically for free.

  13. Universities or government agencies are good place to start. I've gotten a lot of useful information from the BLM about old mining laws and geology of the Sierra.

  14. Your specific question about plants aside, most universities have expert lists on their websites with a bit of info about their area of expertise (at least here in North America where they want their experts easily accessible for media interviews etc.)

  15. Don't know if it still works but call your local library, use to do that here and there just to find out the answer to random questions . The one that sticks out to me was my dad once wondered if the old ford plant in town actually assembled the cars. Didn't know so called the library the librarian didn't know either told me to call back in a hour. Called her back and she gave me the number to a historian that had written the book on the history of omaha. Called him had a nice little covo about omaha and found out that the ford plant just made parts here. Though these was late 90s so may be a outdated way to do it nowadays might be easier to google then send a email

  16. A lot of universities in the US have a master gardener program through the extension. The Master Gardeners have regular phone hours, and volunteer at local garden centers and community gardens to help the general public with questions exactly like this, specific to your actual area.

  17. Local colleges would probably help with this. My state's state college has a thriving agricultural program and has a lot of resources for residents that very easily accessible for this sort of thing

  18. The one to worry about is Japanese Knotweed. Look for a pic of that and see if it is it. If it is, seek advice away from official channels because it's presence can massively devalue your house.

  19. In the US call your local cooperative extension service! Our entire jobs are to help with agriculture and natural resources questions like this one!

  20. My sister has a phone app that costs about a fiver which identifies plants with impressive reliability from photos of leaves and flowers. Don't remember what it's called, but I'm sure Google will know.

  21. Google lens isn't too shabby for plant id's. Once you have the name you can look up all that info. If you're looking for a personal touch you may have some luck with a government extension office weeds specialist

  22. It might sound useless compared to the example you've given, but I love giving people tips on fish keeping as I keep multiple freshwater and Saltwater aquariums. It's not as simple as some think.

  23. Can you give me advice on how to deal with the green water I have in my cold water tank? I’ve used anti green water chemicals, I have a UV filter etc yet within days of a water change it’s green again.

  24. Some people think they are easy lol? I had a fresh water tank once and it was so tough I couldn’t imagine salt

  25. Seems to hold true. A friend of mine just emailed a University Biology Professor last week, asking to settle a debate. "Who would win in a fight? 100 squirrels, or a grizzly bear?"

  26. Live in UK. Wanted to impress my gf who lived in Sweden (long distance affair) with a valentine's card in her language. Phoned the Swedish embassy in London and a very kind member of staff translated my romantic words into Swedish. 12 years later my gf and I are married with a lovely little anglo-swedish family. I wish I could thank that wonderful lady at the emabssy who changed my life. If you were that person, tack så mycket: You made my life brilliant

  27. Please don't do this if you're some crank though. Literally no academic or senior expert wants to read some psychotic manifesto you've cooked up.

  28. I’m doing reptile research with my fave prof and he gets a lot of emails that are like complete word salad from people who are concerned about reptilian shapeshifters and it’s so fucking funny but also sad, I hope those people get the help they need and it probably won’t come from our turtle physiology work

  29. I work in a university theology and religion department. You would not believe some of the emails I get from random insane people. Though not as many as a colleague who appears on TV and talks about religion while being female, which seems to attract a special kind of insane.

  30. Most experts enjoy the opportunity to get the correct information out as they often see their work misrepresented in media and politics.

  31. Just to build on this. I find If you have to ask a question on something very specific it would be worth asking an academic. I've found they are usually very happy to talk about their work and their email is fairly accessible. Obviously they won't all be but when doing research they were usually the first to get back to me. The only issue is that you might get a shit ton of information about something ridiculously narrow

  32. Maybe that's one of the reason why the western hemisphere is still ahead of the east. I'm living in Singapore, a country claimed it highly values the importance of science and education. When I did a similar thing, the answer I got could translate into: hey, this is a governmental agency not a school.

  33. The great thing about the internet is that you can use it to email other people across the world. Which doesn't help if you're looking for gov statistics, but oh well.

  34. When I was in high school I made a film about astronomy as an assignment, and I emailed this physics professor who also has his on tv show in germany about astronomy, if he could answer some of my questions I had. He even agreed to a phone interview! I was really happy because I was a big fan, such a nice thing to do even though he is probably really busy.

  35. Can confirm. Epidemiologist here, and I love explaining outbreak and disease related stuff to folks. Even covid (despite the deluge, as you might imagine...)

  36. Out of interest, how has this pandemic been for you? I almost imagine epidemiologist being conflicted between the joy of having a real life case study and the obviously tragic loss of life/wellbeing.

  37. I feel like the only place that this works is when the question is specifically for someone who wouldn't get paid for their knowledge in the capacity that you're requesting it. DO NOT DO THIS if it comes to a service that the person might be providing as part of their job.

  38. That's like that LPT that is being reposted over and over - if you're a student needing paywalled scientific article and you can't afford it, just ask the author nicely.

  39. To add my anecdotal evidence to this, I recently took delivery of a new Toyota and as both a nerd and a person who likes the break things, I had a list of questions I had about various mechanical and electronic systems I was intending to mess with and dug around on the toyota owners portal until I found a place to submit questions. Within a week I had a response from Toyota's engineering department with detailed responses to each of my questions. It's stuff the dealer would never have the answer to, so it was really nice to get clear information from corporate, even if I didn't like some of the answers.

  40. I've used this in a similar fashion. I had a Calculus I or II project where we had to create and answer a word problem by using a real world object/location etc. What my group chose was to calculate the water pressure exerted on the bottom of the nearest dam in my state. I searched through the local municipal websites to find an employee, in this case an engineer, who worked there and politely explained my project asked for the information. Very quickly they responded with the information. It was quite nice and easy.

  41. It's because it is finally something that you can take pride in. It makes experts feel as though the work put in to be considered an expert is worth it. Ask a physicist anything, they will be glad to get back to you with an explanation.

  42. As a physicist, this is true. You might not understand the answer though as communication of ideas to non-physicists is not usually a physicist's strength!

  43. On a related note, in Corporate or event AV sometimes you will be working with some pretty complex equipment and pushing it to its limits... if a glitch or a big issue is found, calling a help number can sometimes be less than helpful. However, sometimes you can find the information for the engineers that actually designed it and give them a call. I have been on multiple shows where we called up the designers to help us through some issues. When a client is paying top dollar, getting a problem resolved is paramount.

  44. I just started working at a small brewery as both a bartender and brewer, and I love answering questions about the beers and the whole brewing process. Of course, it also helps that we brew on site so I can show everyone the facilities and equipment.

  45. One of my favourite coffee roasters (not exactly the same thing but similar fields) was out doing sample drop-offs one day and he ended up in my cafe after he'd run out of his own samples but we got to talking a little and when he realized I was a coffee nerd he ran back to his car and grabbed me some samples from a different roaster just because he liked them and wanted to share.

  46. As someone who works at a federal agency as a subject matter expert, I can tell you that I not only enjoy responding to public questions, but it is actually part of my performance standards to do it. So please, ask away, it is literally our job to serve the public and taxpayers.

  47. As a researcher and professor, most of us are happy to answer questions where there is an answer that can be given relatively briefly...

  48. And sometimes governments have offices just for this stuff! The U.S. for example still has a Depression-era program of funding farming and gardening advice for the public through state colleges (

  49. Most of the times i do this I get a very generic answer from someone who clearly has not read my message and answers on something entirely different than the question i posted. Usually 3 months after i sent the email

  50. This is very true. Once when I was getting frustrated at job prospects I started calling people directly who held a similar job I wanted and talked to some of these people for hours out of the blue

  51. My investment professor would do this after reading books or articles written by people. He said he would use a fake name and just ask them questions of why the believed this and other various questions he had. He said most people were happy to answer questions especially about things they had written.

  52. I have had mixed success with this but it’s never a bad idea to try and get answers. Some experts are much happier than others to help, I think it just depends on the individual asked

  53. Yep, I once mailed the Supreme Court about a uni project and the head of the library sent me some information I couldn’t access from my country about the architecture. It’s always worth reaching, our worst they can say is no!

  54. Agreed. As a switchman who loves his job, I'm happy to talk to you all day about trains and switching cars out.

  55. You can’t go faster than light; not a very interesting answer. If you are interested in the what you would see approaching the speed of light, there are many YouTube videos on the subject.

  56. Experts understand the limit of their knowledge and as the questions get harder, they'll know they don't know. Of course they may lie about it. Usually this ends up with the experts not having the exact info you want but having the tools to get it compared to a non expert spewing some bullshit and calling it a day.

  57. About 10 years ago I was reading about GMOs and wanted to get real information from an expert so emailed Dr Kevin Folta from the University of Florida. He was amazingly helpful. He'll also answer you on twitter.

  58. That reminded me of someone asking a government agency about potatoes. And the expert was so happy he sent loads of information. A long ago story I read. So nice to see it can still apply.

  59. Did my dissertation research by contacting the person in Harvard Business school who did the exact same research. The fact I could get his findings was absolutely incredible. I graduated with a 1st class honours and my dissertation was so strong because instead of adding a reference of the person’s work, I got it from him directly.

  60. "Now if you're calling Jurgen Klopp for advice on managing a football team you're obviously not going to get anywhere."

  61. I've sent an email when I had a question of the ECDC's COVID numbers since they differed to the ones I had from national news, and they came back with a full explanation of their statistics within about a week I think.

  62. In the political scene "email your representative" works. Sure, they might kind of dodge some of your questions, but overall you're likely to get an answer to your questions, especially if you're polite and clearly have done your research so you're asking legit specific questions. If you politely remind them of your previous email you can probably get an answer from near the very top of government, I have from the European Commission.

  63. I concur, I emailed a .gov email address about shipping seeds abroad and got a call from the head of plants and agriculture department. Excellent service, no rubbish customer service rep reading off a script.

  64. Studying translation at uni, we were given the same advice: people like to talk about the things they love or are experts in.

  65. If you email NASA seeking assistance to prove the Erath is flat, you will probably still receive quick accurate information. It will just be something you don't agree with

  66. Yep. Was working with a project at university which was related to electric grids. I sent an email to one of the companies developing the grids asking a bunch of technical questions. A day later I got a very detailed answer from one of the lead engineers, as well as phone number if I needed more information.

  67. I was writing a school paper recently on a very niche topic and ended up contacting someone who, to my knowledge, is probably the world expert. They responded with some helpful information. It was very weird to me that I can just, like, send them an email, but you can!

  68. As an expert in a plethora of completely worthless things, it feels so good to share my knowledge when someone takes interest! I imagine it feels way fucking better when you’re an expert in something important.

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