Initial review request emails not received, intermittent

Hi–we are having a problem with OJS (using version in which some potential reviewers are not receiving the initial email request to review from OJS. This is not happening in most cases (as far as we can tell) because most reviewers do receive the initial request. It’s not affecting all email to a given reviewer: we learned of the problem because we emailed a reminder and the reviewer noted that they hadn’t received the initial request. So it’s not a problem with the reviewer email address, or a problem with OJS’s general email-to-reviewers function. We confirmed that OJS believes it sent the email (in the Editorial History). The reviewer confirmed that the email was not in their spam folder. I’ve looked on the OJS forums and found one case that looks similar: Reviewer email not working. In that case, the problem seemed to result from a misconfiguration of the reply-to field, and it affected all emails of a certain type (i.e. the initial review request). In our case, only a few such emails are affected.

We are attempting to troubleshoot by asking the affected reviewer if we can assign them to a test article and send another initial review request, to see whether the problem repeatedly affects the same reviewer account. We can also look at the email server logs for the outgoing emails and see whether there’s more information there. Is there anything else you can suggest we look at?

After experimentation with a test file we’ve confirmed that the same reviewer sometimes does receive the initial review request, so it’s not a problem with the reviewer account. We’ve also confirmed that the problem does not affect all reviewers for the same article, so it’s not a problem with the email setup or with the article record itself.

Hi @JuliaFlanders,

OJS sends emails very consistently to the service it’s configured with (SMTP or local MTA, depending on your From there, unfortunately, there are some subjective parts of the delivery process, mostly relating to email headers and addressing, and full-text (spam detection). This might result in messages getting spam-trapped at the receiver’s end, or not being delivered at all. OJS itself has no way of knowing whether this has happened after it has finished delivering to its configured delivery service.

To diagnose the problem definitively in a case where the recipient doesn’t have the message in their spam filter you’ll need to get access to the log files for the service OJS uses to deliver mail. You may or may not have access to this depending on your service provider’s specifics.

The likeliest cause is a DMARC violation; there are a few threads in this forum about DMARC compliance that might help.

Alec Smecher
Public Knowledge Project Team