Academia.edu. Who doesn’t know it? By now this “facebook for academics“ is one of the first places students search for literature. Well known professors put their stuff there, you can find whole PhD-dissertations, loads of articles by almost anyone in any (archaeological) field. It is easy to “follow” someone and to get a message if they put something new online, you see recommendations and and and… and it is free and for everyone!

Great, no?

Sadly, no. There are a number of problems. Those of us who’ve been using academia.edu for a longer period have witnessed some changes. We now receive loads of spam inviting us to upgrade. In the beginning, every user was treated like any other, but now you can upgrade to “Academia Premium” if you want… if you want to pay, of course. Academia Premium offers you the great opportunity to see the rank of the person who downloaded your article, who “used your name” (which is, by the way, quite a joke, if you’re named “Schmidt”), you can create a personal website, use a full text search of the documents archived at academia.edu, and see analyses on your work .

As Rainer Schreg of the blog Archaeologik titled, this makes “the mask” definitively drop. Academia.edu is NOT an educational or scientific website, even though it uses the domain-ending “edu”. It is, in fact, a company, named Academia.Inc, based in San Francisco, that – surprise! – wants to make money (I’ll from now on only call it Acadademia.Inc to emphasize it being profit-focused).

This means that Academia.Inc earns money by hosting your scientific work (or rather by advertisements, selling user data or similar), even though it does not promise a long-time archive and a persistent identifier (as e.g. a DOI, URN, PURL; they make your work truly long-term quotable and will still be reachable when a normal website has expired). It is not an open access repository!

Open Access experts therefore recommend not to use Academia.Inc, but to use a different repository, either field-specific or generic. Archaeology-specific open access repositories are e. g. offered by some journals (look here, if you want to find them) and by universities (especially theses-repositories). A new-coming generic repository that is truly open access, that is truly hosted by academia, that does not aim at money-making but at making research accessible, is zenodo.org. Zenodo also offers the possibility to deposit data sets (up to 50GB!), it connects to GitHub, has a guide to licensing (you decide!), it welcomes the Humanities, creates a DOI for your work and as it is created by CERN and OpenAIRE it really has a long-term and free perspective.

ResarchGate.net, which is really well known as well, though not as popular as Academia.inc, also does not offer persistent identifiers and is subject to a lot of criticism on other levels (simply look it up at Wikipedia). There are a number more, e.g. SocArXiv, which is open access and focused on offering pre-print articles in Social Sciences, or Humanities Commons, open to all Humanities.

I say, we should all migrate our work to zenodo or SocArXiv. Of course it will take some time until they are big enough to be a competition to Academia.Inc or ResearchGate.net. In the mean time we still can use these services to connect to each other and to update our bibliographies – just without the actual paper, which we could put up at zenodo.

One note of warning at the end: Whether you are allowed to upload and openly share an article, which you’ve already published somewhere else, is another matter. Make sure you don’t infringe on the copy right of your publisher (e.g. look here for a quick German overview)!

Spread the word. Share this post!

About the author

My name is Sophie, I am a prehistoric archaeologist and currently research assistant at the Department for Archaeoinformatics of the Archaeological Institute at the Univerisity of Cologne, Germany. I teach statistics for archaeologists and work on new methods in settlement archaeology (GIS, geostatistics and stuff).

1 comment on “Academia.edu and its problems”

  1. Pingback: Academia.edu and its problems

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *