Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu

 Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/01/23/dear-scholars-delete-your-account-at-academia-edu


Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu

historian, digital humanist and baseball fan
privatized platforms like Academia.edu look to monetize scholarly
writing even further, researchers, scientists and academics across the
globe must now consider alternatives to proprietary companies that aim
to profit from our writing and offer little transparency as to how our
work will be used in the future.

In other words: It is time to delete your Academia.edu account.

Screenshot of the delete function on Academia.edu.
Screenshot of the delete function on Academia.edu.
At first glance, Academia.edu looks like a win-win situation. The
platform allows users to create a profile, upload their work, tag
certain interests and then to tap into large networks of people with
like research interests among the almost 47 million users from around
the globe. But looks–and names–aren’t always what they seem.

It Is Not A “Real” .edu

First and foremost? That web address is more than a little deceptive. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association (MLA) remarked on her blog, “the first thing to note is that, despite its misleading top level domain (which was registered by a subsidiary prior to the 2001 restrictions), Academia.edu is not an educationally-affiliated organization, but a dot-com,
which has raised millions in multiple rounds of venture capital
funding.” Historian Seth Denbo probably said it best when, almost a year
and a half ago, he warned scholars that they were providing free data
to a for-profit company rather than participating in an open-source,
non-profit often associated with .edu domains. 

Paying For Status

Last year at this time, the site received a hefty amount of criticism
due to its emailed queries to scholars asking if they might want to pay
a “small fee” in exchange for getting papers “recommended” on the site.
In other words, they were offering to signal boost publications in
exchange for money. This was met with quite a bit of backlash from users
and some especially bad PR, which essentially seemed to kill the
initiative. However, the site remained committed to figuring out how to
get more money from users by introducing the “premium feature“ in late December.

Recommended by Forbes
This feature allows users to get special data analytics about who is
reading their papers, including the “role” (i.e. the rank) of the person
looking at their work. Emails even go out to users letting know the
percentile (a top 4% scholar!) of the person downloading their work. Are
we supposed to somehow value that a full professor looked at our work
over, say, an adjunct? The new feature is academic class politics to a
new level–and it only promotes the further stratification of the

Screenshot of the new premium feature from Academia.edu which allows you to see the status of the person looking at your work.
Screenshot of the new premium feature from Academia.edu which allows you to see the status of the person looking at your work.
Open Access, Non-Profit Alternatives

What, then, are the alternatives for people who want to freely
distribute their work? It turns out there are a number of choices for
people both connected to a university and outside of them.

Institutional Repositories: Many universities and colleges
in fact have their own institutional repositories for research. At the
University of Iowa, we have Iowa Research Online,
which grants space to undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and
many other researchers to house their work. There is in fact a
consortium of repositories from the Big Ten schools called the Big Ten Academic Alliance
that then begin to connect networks of scholars in a searchable
database–although it is admittedly a much smaller network than exists at

Zenodo: Another repository for research data is called Zenodo. It
is funded by the OpenAIRE Consortium (an open access network) and CERN,
the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The site is a
non-profit and integrates easily with your GitHub account. It allows users 50 GB of storage for each dataset, though you can contact them and lobby for more.

(Please note that after the original publication of this article, digital humanist Ethan Gruber launched his migration tool to allow people to migrate documents from Academia.edu to Zenodo: tool [here] and blog post on the technique [here].)

Humanities Commons: Humanities Commons is
a non-profit network open to all scholars to post their work and access
the scholarship of others. As they say on their site, it “is a
project of the office of scholarly communication at the Modern Language
Association [MLA]. Its development was generously funded by a
grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.” They work with the institutional repositories to help preserve scholarship online and keep it both protected and free.

Many of the open access platforms that do not seek to monetize
scholarship are in fact funded by government foundations like the
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and National Endowment for
the Arts (NEA), in addition to those privately funded by the non-profit
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Humanities foundations are thus even more
imperative to scholars who wish to share their work freely without fear
of having their scholarship used for profit. It is also one reason that
last week, the news that the NEH and NEA
may be cut due to budget restrictions caused so much worry. Humanities
scholars rely on these entities not only to fund our work, but often
also to preserve open access to it in the future. In the interest of
full disclosure, I must say that I too have benefited greatly from
funding from both the NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in my own

As Eric Kansa, founder of the non-profit Open Context and
an advocate for open access platforms told me about data privacy,
“One’s research interests and interaction with scholarship (and networks
of other scholars) get monetized by It’s troubling, because those data can be given to the state. Giving
up privacy for access is not a form of ‘open access’ I can endorse.”
Moving our papers away from Academia.edu is then about taking possession
of our work and deciding what we do with it, rather than allowing a
private company to use our scholarship for profit. 
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Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu

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