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NIH Listserv Mailing List Service

Getting Started

To order or inquire about this service, please contact the NIH IT Service Desk.

Service Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

More Info

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The NIH Listserv Mailing List Service provides an extensive email mailing-list system that can be used by NIH and HHS.

Anyone can ask to have an email list created, as long as one of the owners has an HHS or HHS operating division email address and if the purpose of the list represents official HHS business. CIT currently supports over 5,500 lists. There is no additional charge for this service for NIH list owners. A small annual charge is assessed for lists owned by non-NIH OpDivs.

Customer Benefits

The NIH Listserv Mailing List Service can be used by everyone within HHS for mission-related announcements and discussion lists.

Customer Market

All HHS OpDivs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I use an NIH Listserv list or an NIH Exchange distribution list?

A: That depends on your project and what requirements you have for your list. A Listserv list is best if:

  • You want potential users of the list to be able to subscribe themselves to the list. For example: a citizen in Iowa wants to learn more about what NIH is doing with pancreatic cancer treatment. They find out that there is a discussion forum (list) and all they need to do is send a request to the list by clicking on a webpage or link in an email someone sent them. They are able to initiate the action and join the list.
  • Your list needs to be moderated by list participants or owners to ensure that only appropriate information is shared with list subscribers.
  • You have more than just a few external (non-NIH) users, or there are users who have no access to Exchange.

If these conditions apply, then a Listserv list is the best fit for your project. However, be aware that you have to maintain your Listserv list to ensure subscriber information stays current. Listserv list subscription information does not change dynamically (magically) when subscriber information changes. For example, the NIH Deputy Director moves from one institute to another and his SMTP address changes. Because the subscription is based upon that SMTP address the Deputy Director’s ability to send to the Listserv breaks.

On the other hand, an Exchange distribution list (DL) is the best choice if:

  • All users of the list are in the NIH or HHS Directory (GAL).
  • Your list requires integration with the Calendar feature (such as inviting the entire list to a meeting).
  • Your list requires integration with SharePoint.
  • Your list requires integration with Microsoft Lync (OCS).

If your list falls under these requirements, then an NIH Exchange DL would be the best option. Keep in mind though that DLs do not easily support non-Exchange or external users, and email sent via DL is not centrally archived nor is it easily searchable.

Q: Some of the people I want to contact using my list are not in NIH or HHS, is this OK?
A: As long as one of the owners is at HHS or an HHS OpDiv like NIH, and you are using your list to support HHS business, this is fine.
Q: What do I need to do to get a list set up?
A: When you contact the NIH IT Service Desk, they will direct you to fill out an application form. The form should take 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
Q: Do I get to pick my list name?
A: Yes. Think carefully about your list name and description - this is how your users might find your list, and the name must be unique. Try to be quite specific about key words that describe your intent, purpose, or audience. "Diabetes-L" is not informative, nor likely to be unique. "DiabtRetinJuv-L" is better.
The list name must be 6-32 alphanumeric characters, with no spaces; you can use dashes or underscores instead of spaces. Most people append a "-L" to the end of the name, unless it is very long. This is a customary way of indicating that the sender of email is a list. CIT will contact you about adjusting your list name if it is not found to be unique among the other 5,500 or so lists.
Q: That is not enough space for my list name to be descriptive! Is there anything else I can do?
A: Yes, there are also a short and a longer description that you create for your list. The short description is only one line and is limited to 45 characters, including spaces. When someone uses the LIST command (within the greater LISTSERV) to find out what lists are available, your list name and this description will be displayed. For example, "DiabtRetinJuv-L" "Forum for Diabetic Retinopathy in Juveniles"
The longer description is used to more fully describe your list's intent, audience, history, etc. When a person seeks more information about your list, they select the list and run a REVIEW command. They will see this description, and some other basic information about the list. For example, "This list provides a forum for sharing information about the latest research into Diabetic Retinopathy in Juveniles. It is intended for researchers, practitioners…"
Q: When will the list get set up?
A: Your list will usually be set up and available within one working day.


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This page last reviewed: March 09, 2011