Dr Sarah Bond, a US scholar of Classics and DH, has recently written to tell fellow scholars using the popular academic social network Academia.edu, “It is time to delete your Academia.edu account.” Her primary concerns are the website’s for-profit character and its lack of true open-access.
Rightly, Bond points out a few revenue-generating schemes on the network that scholars should know about (e.g., the ability to boost your own publications to other users for a fee). She suggests alternative networks which are true open-access repositories, including Zenodo and Humanities Commons.
But before you delete your academia.edu account (or decide never to create one), consider these suggestions, reflecting how I use the site:
- Do not use a commercial website (like academia.edu) for a repository of your publications. Rather, use your institution’s repository (where available), your own website (esp. self-hosted and archived) or one of the above alternatives.
- Use academia.edu to create an online presence in order to benefit from the huge network of other scholars who can discover your work. List your publications but do not upload your papers. Rather, link to your papers in the above repositories. Thus academia.edu becomes a kind of networked CV, letting others know what you’re up to.
My biggest problem with Academia.edu is the (recent?) ability to see who has been looking at your papers. My understanding was this is a premium feature, but in an effort to market the feature, the service disclosed to me another scholar who looked for one of my listed publications. I happen to know who this scholar is, as well as the fact that she is writing on a similar topic to that paper. I feel uneasy about that kind of surveillance, as well as the fact that I was privy to that knowledge.
As far as the commercial nature of the site, I see little difference with it and other social media sites that scholars frequently employ for their discourse, namely Facebook and Twitter. (I wonder whether Bond is conflicted about using those networks for scholarly discourse.) Also, costly marketing features heavily in the economy of traditional academic publishing, so objecting to the pay-to-boost approach would seem consistent with objecting to traditional publishing economics (which has in fact happened a lot in DH circles).
One important stipulation to my rather pragmatic approach to social media is that it should always be subject to change. For example, if surveillance aspects of academia.edu get worse, I may feel that the cons outweigh the pros and drop it.