It has been well documented how much time businesses waste dealing with spam and there is no denying the threat that malicious spam emails (malspam) pose, but it is not just a problem for big business. Spam in academia is also a major problem.

A recent study published in the journal, Scientometrics, explores the cost of spam in academia. The study was primarily focused on spam emails sent by new, non-peer-reviewed journals that are attempting to gain a share of the market. These journals are adopting the same spam tactics often used by scammers to sell cheap watches and cut-price medications and for phishing and spreading malware.

Three researchers – Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, Aceil Al-Khatib, and Panagiotis Tsigaria – attempted to quantify the amount of time that is being wasted dealing with those messages and the losses that result.

To assess the extent of the problem, the researchers used figures from several studies on spamming to obtain an average number of targeted spam emails that academics receive each day. They opted for a conservative figure of 4-5 messages, per academic, per day. Most of those messages take just a few seconds to open and read but that time mounts up. They assumed an average time of 5 seconds per message – less than half a minute per day. That equates to $100 per researcher, per year at an average hourly rate of $50. Using the United Nations estimate of the number of researchers in academia globally, the total global cost of spam in academia was estimated to be $1.1 billion a year.

That figure is based on the lost time alone and does not factor in non-targeted spam emails – bulk unsolicited emails not specifically targeting researchers. Add in the time dealing with those messages and the global cost reaches $2.6 billion a year. To put the cost into perspective, $2.6 million is much more than the time researchers devote to peer review, which has been estimated at a cost of $1.9 billion a year. The figures do not include the considerable losses due to phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks. Factor in those costs and the losses would be several orders of magnitude higher.

Co-author of the study, Panagiotis Tsigaris, a professor of economics at Thompson Rivers University in Canada, explained that there is no silver bullet when it comes to dealing with spam and suggested several ways that the cost of spam in academia could be reduced.

Tsigaris suggests that penalties should be increased for publishing in predatory journals, and that academics should be educated about spam email and that improvements should be made to email filtering technology.

Here at TitanHQ, we are well aware of the problem of spam, both in terms of the productivity losses that spam causes, and harm caused by malicious spam emails.

To help prevent losses and downtime due to spam and email-based threats, TitanHQ has developed a powerful, easy-to-use, and cost-effective cloud-based spam filtering solution called SpamTitan. SpamTitan has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam email, 100% of known malware and ransomware threats, and thanks to a host of detection measures and sandboxing, SpamTitan is also effective at blocking zero-day (new) malware and ransomware threats.

To find out more about SpamTitan and how you can block more spam and ensure malicious emails do not reach your researchers’ inboxes, give the TitanHQ team a call today.