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Jan 12, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The other day I was having some fun with mailto. It’s used to produce hyperlinks on websites that allow users to send an email to a specific address without first having to copy it and enter it into an email client. You can use variations of mailto: in Boolean strings to target specific emails. Mailto: is syntax many email systems use (including Outlook) to identify email correspondence. However, many listservs also use the syntax, so it’s a good way to filter results when targeting them.

For example, you can enter the following syntax in Google:

“mailto: * ” “medicinal chemistry”

You pull the following list. You’ll have to look through the results and do some trial and error with Boolean.  However, let’s see what we get when we look at the Re: [AMBER] link:

mail1 mail2

You’ll see some very scientific discussion going on. This is a listserv (you can tell by the headings at the top). We have Daniel’s name, email, and some great information about what he’s working with, but there’s more.

Click on the links in the heading to sort by date, thread, subject, etc. :



And you pull a listing of emails containing more information, more names, and more contact info.   Sometimes I can even find a general email to the entire listserv, but that typically takes more experimentation or digging deeper into these emails.


Diving Deeper

After more trial and error, I found a few more names and emails and a VERY promising link (shown in green):


And we have even more interesting links, including an archives page and the main listserv email address.  Be careful on sending messages to an entire listserv, though, sometimes there are certain rules members abide by, and you don’t want to offend your audience.


I’m more interested in the archives page and here is why.  When you pull up the archives, we get a comprehensive searchable list of emails, as recent at January of 2017.




Boomerang Back to Boolean

We can see the top contributors and key contacts with this list all recent to a few days into 2017. We know we can click on the emails and typically find some direct email.

Knowing all this, you can adjust Boolean and target specific skills via site search: “medicinal chemistry” 2016 drug


We now have multiple ways to search and multiple access points of information for this listserv.  Again, much of this process takes experimentation and trial and error, but have patience and see what you can find, especially with universities and academic institutions.

It’s amazing what’s out there in the open, and sometimes you can get lost in reading all the conversations that go on in a public forum such, but it’s also an excellent way to find an expert who does not have resume or CV “out there.”

I hope this helps, and happy hunting!

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This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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