International Review of Research in Open and Distributed LearningVolume 18, Number 1
February - 2017
Why Do Academics Use Academic Social Networking Sites?
1Holon institute of Technology (HIT), 2Western Galilee College
AbstractAcademic social-networking sites (ASNS) such as Academia.edu and
ResearchGate are becoming very popular among academics. These sites
allow uploading academic articles, abstracts, and links to published
articles; track demand for published articles, and engage in
professional interaction. This study investigates the nature of the use
and the perceived utility of the sites for academics. The study employs
the Uses and Gratifications theory to analyze the use of ASNS.
A questionnaire was sent to all faculty members at three academic
institutions. The findings indicate that researchers use ASNS mainly for
consumption of information, slightly less for sharing of information,
and very scantily for interaction with others. As for the gratifications
that motivate users to visit ASNS, four main ones were found:
self-promotion and ego-bolstering, acquisition of professional
knowledge, belonging to a peer community, and interaction with peers.
Keywords: academic social-networking sites, users' motivation, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, uses and gratifications
IntroductionIn the past few years, the Internet has seen the advent of academic
social-networking sites (ASNS) such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate.
These sites allow users to upload academic articles, abstracts, and
links to published articles; track demand for their published articles;
and engage in professional interaction, discussions, and exchanges of
questions and answers with other users. The sites, used by millions (Van
Noorden, 2014), constitute a major addition to scientific media.
This study investigates the nature of the use and the perceived
utility of the sites for academics whose professional careers are based
on the performance and publication of studies. In a world that offers
numerous and diverse online publishing opportunities (sites of formal
journals, personal sites and blogs, and general social networks such as
Facebook and LinkedIn), the question is what comparative advantage
academic networking sites offer and why faculty members use them. Do
these sites fit the definition of "social network"? And which of their
affordances serve their users?
Academics' Use of Academic NetworksSocial networks such as Facebook and Twitter YouTube, and Instagram
are social arenas that attract millions of users worldwide
(statistica.com). Their main purpose is to create and sustain social
connections (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The definitive components of an
online social network are four: a place to establish a personal profile,
a list of connections with other users, the ability to monitor the
activities of those who appear on the list, and the ability to establish
new connections (Boyd & Ellison, 2007; Hogan & Wellman, 2014).
Although largely devoted to social purposes, social networks also
facilitate professional communication. Facebook groups, for example,
serve mainly as an alternative to the discussion groups and mailing
lists that were in vogue in the late twentieth century (King, Leos,
& Norstrand, 2015; Meishar-Tal, Kurtz, & Pieterse, 2012).
In recent years, professional networks that offer information
sharing and communication tools for professional purposes have arisen
alongside the general social networks. The best known of them is
LinkedIn which provides a platform on which people and businesses
communicate for purposes of working relations, employee search, and
career management (Skeels & Grudin, 2009). Among the additional
Academic Social Networking Sites (ASNS) that have evolved in recent
years, two-Academia.edu and ResearchGate - offer themselves as
professional and social networks of researchers, combining
characteristics of social networks with the publication of studies, all
adjusted to the needs and comportment of academic researchers (Ovadia,
2014). They accommodate customary social-network elements such as the
construction of a personal profile and interactivity with peers along
with specific tools for academic requisites, such as uploading and
tagging of articles and tracking of citations (Jordan, 2015).
Description of the networksThe two networks examined here, ResearchGate and Academia.edu, have
similar characteristics. They are specific to researchers affiliated
with academic institutes and specialize in academic activities such as
sharing studies, articles, and information. They also provide tools that
allow users to track their publications, see how often they are viewed
and cited, and facilitate information exchange. Both allow users to post
public queries to the community and organize researchers by their
ResearchGate established in 2008 in Berlin by Ijad
Madisch, Horst Fickenscher, and Sören Hofmayer. Its purpose is to
connect geographically distant researchers and allow them to communicate
continuously on the basis of the open-world concept and the elimination
of distance as an important factor in working relations. A secondary
goal is to create access to studies even before they are completed for
purposes of peer review and exchange of ideas (Ovadia, 2014). According
to statistics on its site (https://www.researchgate.net/about),
ResearchGate had more than eight million users in 2015. It organizes
itself mainly around research topics. ResearchGate maintains its own
index (the "ResearchGate Score") based on the user's contribution to
content, profile details, and participation in interaction on the site,
such as asking questions and offering answers.
Academia.edu established in 2008 in San Francisco by
Richard Price as part of the Open Science movement, defines its goal as
encouraging and stimulating the publication of studies (Shema, 2012). In
January 2016, it reported having 31,000,000 registered account-holders https://www.academia.edu/about).
Academia.edu includes an analytics dashboard by which users may see the
influence and diffusion of their studies in real time (Price, 2012).
Academia.edu has an alert service that sends account holders an e-mail
whenever a researcher whom they are following publishes a new study,
allows readers to tag articles, and alerts anyone who is following a
certain topic. In this way the alert system is raising awareness to an
article by potential citators. A study by an Academia.edu sponsored team
(Niyazov et al., 2015) found that citations of published articles for
which alerts were sent increased by 41%.
Despite the large difference between the networks in the number of
declared users, the Alexa rank, produced by Alexa.com (www.alexa.com), a
company that provides commercial web traffic data analytics, finds
ResearchGate slightly more popular than Academia.edu.
Contribution of Academic NetworksASNS have the potential of revolutionizing the patterns of
information publication and sharing in the academic world. By offering
platforms for interrelations among scholars around the world, they may
influence the structure and dynamic of the research community. Official
academic publishing is based on acceptance of articles by refereed
academic journals - either in print or in online academic databases that
are accessible mainly to those who are active in an academic
establishment - for which a fee is usually charged. The time that passes
between research and the publication of its findings in such a journal
is lengthy and may exceed one year. Academic social networks challenge
this model and circumvent the hurdles that impede exposure to the
public. What is more, they do so easily and at no charge. They encourage
authors to upload full-text articles that appeared in academic
journals, lectures presented at conferences, and even drafts, and make
them accessible to the public (Wilkinson, Harries, Thelwall, &
Price, 2003). They also allow readers to respond to an article or ask
the author about it (Thelwall & Kousha, 2014), thereby encouraging
interaction between readers and researchers.
The literature relates to five main affordances of academic social networks for researchers:
1. Management of an online persona: The
first and most important component of a digital social network is the
personal profile, which includes particulars such as name, photo, and
other identifying information that the user elects to upload. In ASNS,
the platform provides, in addition to these details, a place where the
researcher may present his or her professional experience, ideas, and
capabilities, including the number of citations and downloads of his or
her articles, thereby cultivating an online identity and promoting his
or her professional reputation (Barbour & Marshall, 2012).
2. Diffusion of studies: The platform
provides a place where account holders can upload articles to the
cybersphere. It also sends direct e-mail alerts to interested users
whenever a new article in a field that they define as of interest to
them is published. Two mechanisms exist for this purpose. One is active:
members of the network choose to follow authors of their acquaintance
or those whose research topics are of interest to them. The other is
passive: the network itself proposes (via the site and the user's e-mail
address) new articles for the user to follow, either by authors
associated with the user's area of interest or those who belong to a
circle of direct contacts such as a shared institution or department. In
this manner, knowledge about a new article rapidly reaches the
community that takes an interest in its topic and, accordingly, may be
read (Espinoza Vasquez & Caicedo Bastidas, 2015).
3. Collaboration: As the academic
research field has become networked and collaborative in recent decades,
it has been argued that one-person research has virtually disappeared
(Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2013). The ability of digital technology to
bridge distances encourages cross-disciplinary and cross-border
collaborations. Some scholars argue that academic social networks
replicate, and in certain cases even improve, the experience of social
activity at a conference by helping to create and expand researchers'
professional networks (Curry, Kiddle, & Simmonds, 2009; Kelly,
2013). The two networks discussed in this study provide tools (e-mail
and internal messaging systems) for direct communication and
presentation of details for the establishment of personal relations
4. Information management: Veletsianos
(2013) suggests that ASNS serve as a source for the collection and
organization of personal academic information including ideas, drafts,
and anything else that a researcher on the network gleans from articles,
references, and citations. Due to this characteristic, an academic
social-network site may be seen as a collaborative
information-management system (Bullinger, Hallerstede, Renken, Soeldner,
& Möslein, 2010). Some scholars do not accept this statement;
indeed, while both networks, Academia.edu and ResearchGate, provide
tools for publication and for the tracking and organization of
publications; they are not designed for the management of citations.
5. Measurement of impact: Academic
impact is measured in terms of the number of citations of an article and
the quality of the journals in which the article appears. Online
academic networks offer additional metrics, such as number of persons
who read or download an article (Gruzd, Staves, & Wilk, 2011;
Employing the Uses and Gratifications Theory to Analyze the Use of Web Sites and Social NetworksThe uses and gratifications theory, an outgrowth of leisure-culture
and mass-media studies, posits that media consumers are autonomous and
active agents who base their consumption media decisions on a range of
personal considerations and cognitive, affective, and social needs. The
theory offers a contrast to the critical perspective, which sees media
consumers as passive agents who are prone to media manipulations and
influences (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Rubin, 2002; Ruggiero,
The uses and gratifications theory was developed in the 1970s,
mainly surrounding research on the use of television, radio, and the
press (Bantz, 1982; Bryant & Zillmann, 1984; Dobos, 1992; Eastman,
1979). It identifies five major types of needs to which media respond:
- Cognitive needs, including consumption of information and knowledge.
- Affective needs, including excitation, enjoyment, and pleasure.
- Social needs, including creating a sense of group belonging, influencing and contributing to others, etc.
Individual needs, including the response to personal needs,
self-promotion, personal gain, and enhancement of personal confidence.
- Escapist needs, i.e., using the technology to flee from reality and create an alternative virtual and imagined reality.
gratifications is measurable and can reveal the leading motivation and
its relation to other variables, such as amount and nature of use, and
may uncover disparities between expectations and actual gratifications
in order to understand states of dissatisfaction with the technology.
The theory has absorbed abundant criticism over the years, mainly
because users' gratifications are identified largely on the basis of
self-reportage and because the theory does not easily distinguish
between needs/motives and gratifications. Thus, many scholars use it to
identify gratifications only (Ruggiero, 2000). In recent years, however,
with the development of social networks and the need to understand the
motives for using the Internet generally and social networks
particularly, the theory has regained its centrality in identifying the
uses and gratifications of those who use these systems. Since Internet
use is an active process that entails intention on the user's part, the
theory is an appropriate framework for analyzing the motives of people
who visit Web sites for use and gratification (LaRose & Eastin,
2004; Ruggiero, 2000; Rubin, 2002).
The studies that invoke the uses and gratifications theory at length
investigate consumers' behavior on commercial sites. For example, Ko,
Cho, and Roberts (2013) use the theory to investigate shoppers' motives
for buying online as a basis for mapping the motivations in favor of or
against using these sites. These authors find that consumers whose
motives are strongly informational tend to prefer sites that allow them
to them interact with the information, whereas those motivated by
communication prefer to use the person-person interactions that such
The uses and gratifications theory also helps to understand the
behavior of those who visit user-generated content sites such as
YouTube, Wikipedia, and social networks. Research on users' behavior in
these environments divides the use of the sites into three types:
consumption of information, participation in social interaction, and
creation of information (Shao, 2009). Research reveals a connection
between the nature of the use of a site and the motives for its use.
According to Shao (2009), users who generate and share information are
motivated by the need to express themselves, whereas those who use the
sites' interactive functions are prompted by social needs and motives.
Users who consume information, in contrast, are information-motivated.
According to Stafford, Stafford, and Schkade (2004), the singular
characteristic of the gratifications and users that typify recourse to
the Internet, as opposed to the use of television and other traditional
media, is the centrality and the interactive characteristics of the
social gratification. While the main identified gratifications that
users of traditional media obtain are based mainly on the content and
information that they acquire and the information consumption process,
the Internet environment produces meaningful social gratification due to
the interactive capabilities of the technology and its ability to let
users communicate with each other. Studies on the uses and
gratifications of participants in social networks reinforce this point;
they repeatedly stress the centrality of the gratification created by
communicating with friends, establishing relations with existing
friends, and finding old or new friends (Dunne, Lawlor, & Rowley,
2010; Joinson, 2008; Park, Kee, & Valenzuela, 2009; Raacke &
Bonds-Raacke, 2008; Urista, Dong, & Day, 2009).
Seidman (2013) notes the centrality of the social calculus as a
motive for the use of social networks. The social element, he says,
relates more to the need for a sense of belonging than to the need for
interaction. Other research, among students who use Facebook groups, in
contrast, indicate that one of the gratifications derived from the use
of FB is self-promotion and the acquisition of social status (Park et
al., 2009; Ellison, Vitak, Gray, & Lampe, 2014).
Additional studies that look into the gratifications that people
seek when they use social networks specify the need for ego-bolstering
as a principal one. In a study among girls age 12–14 who use the
Internet, the need to create an ideal image for themselves was found to
be an important motive for gratification (Dunne et al., 2010),
Another gratification that typifies the use of social networks is
"killing time" and escapism. Many users seem to visit social networks
because they are bored and not necessarily because they need to know
something or wish to indulge in some form of social activity (Kaye,
1998; Quan-Haase & Young, 2010).
A research focused on academics' uses and gratification from social
networks (Dermentzi, Papagiannidis, Osorio Toro, & Yannopoulou,
2016) found that academics consider using SNS as way to mantain old
contacts rather than just connecting with other academics that they do
not know. Another interesting finding of this research is that
self-promtion has insignificant effect on attitude towards SNS. The
researchers suggested that self-promotion may be considered as
undesireable among academics.
In the wake of studies that attempt to explain the potential of
academic Web sites and create a profile of their use, the present study
will examine the connection between the way academics use ASNS, their
motives for doing so, and the gratification that they get from this
activity. Given the scanty attention that empirical research has devoted
to ASNS to date, this study may enhance our understanding of the allure
of these sites and academics' motives for using them. We emphasize two
questions in particular: Which motive, the social or the personal, is
stronger in using ASNS, and to what extent do users refer to ASNS in
ways that are familiar and known in reference to social networks?
Research QuestionsThe research was designed to investigate the reasons academics use ASNS.
The following operational questions were stated:
- What are the characteristics of academics' use of ASNS and are they related to the frequency of visits in these sites?
- What main gratifications do academics obtain by using ASNS? Are they related to the frequency of visits in these sites?
- Is there a relation between the extent of ASNS use by academic faculty and the gratification obtained from ASNS?
Is there a difference among academics in the uses and gratifications
that they obtain by using these sites against the backdrop of personal
indicators (i.e., gender, age, academic status, academic discipline, and
Research Method and ToolsThis is a quantitative study, based on a survey among faculty
members at three different academic institutions in Israel - two
colleges and one university. For the purposes of the study, a dedicated
questionnaire was constructed, composed of three main sections:
This section was constructed on the basis of thorough familiarity with
the sites and their affordances. It includes reference to the extent of
use of the sites' various functions (uploading articles, contacting
authors, downloading others' articles, etc.) and details on frequency of
use, longevity of use, number of respondent's followers, and number of
network members whom the respondent follows.
This part was constructed atop the uses and gratifications theory and
what is known about it in the context of social networks. Respondents
were asked to rank their agreement with 24 statements on a 5-point
Likert scale. The statements, composed specially for this study, reflect
various gratifications that a site might fulfill in the five dimensions
(cognitive, affective, personal, social, and escapist) that the
gratifications and uses theory, tailored to the academic-network
Figure 1. Model of the study.
ParticipantsThe questionnaires were sent to all faculty members (298) at three
academic institutions in Israel (Inst1, Inst2, Inst3). Eighty-one
faculty members responded (27%). They are affiliated with three
institutions: Inst1 (26%), Inst2 (28%), and Inst3 (28%), and of which,
57% were men and 43% were women. They were 50 years old on average
(SD=10.3), ranging in age from 29 to 72. Their distribution by
disciplines appears in Table 1.
Distribution of Participants by Disciplines
|Discipline||N||Percent of participants|
|Engineering and exact sciences||22||27.2|
|Social sciences and education||41||50.6|
|Humanities and arts||12||14.8|
with disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities; however, the
remaining disciplines, engineering and exact sciences, and humanities
and the arts and natural sciences, are affiliated with the least.
The rate of participant ownership of an account on social-networking sites and academic-networking sites is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Rate of account ownership on social-networking sites.
with one of the two academic-networks chosen for this study
(ResearchGate / Academia.edu); 25% have accounts with both. The
preferred academic network among Israeli academics is ResearchGate, with
which more than 65% have an account. The percent of those with an
account on ResearchGate approximates that of those who have a presence
on Facebook – 67%. Only 37% have an account with Academia.edu, 56% have
an account with Linkedin, and only 14% have one with Twitter.
1. What are the characteristics of academics' use of ASNS and are they related to the frequency of visits in these sites?
42% of those who have accounts with ASNS have had them for more than two
years. Approximately 30% subscribed approximately two years ago, 13%
joined the networks in the previous year, and 13% did so the previous
Approximately 38% of those who have accounts with ASNS visit the sites
infrequently, 20% do so once per month, 27% visit approximately once per
week, and 15% do so almost every day.
the way academics use ASNS, the participants were shown a list of
possible modes of activity on each of the two academic networks. The
list was composed of six items aggregated into three variables, two
items per variable (information consumption, information sharing and
diffusion, and interaction with other users). The participants were
asked to rank the extent to which they engage in these activities on a
5-point Likert scale (1=not at all; 5=to a very great extent). Table 2
presents the findings.
Uses of ASNS
|Tracking the reading and citation of my articles||2.49||1.39|
|Downloading others' articles||2.47||1.43|
|Uploading my published full-text articles||2.37||1.42|
|Uploading abstracts of articles and/or links to journals in which they were published||1.58||1.13|
|Replying to questions addressed to me by others||2.14||1.26|
|Responding to others' articles||1.48||.94|
nevertheless the more common form of activity is information consumption
(M=2.48, SD=1.11), followed by information sharing (M=2.02, SD=1.00)
and interaction (M=1.82, SD=1.00). To refute the null hypothesis, an
ANOVA test with repeat measurements was performed, yielding a
significant difference among the three groups (F (2, 57) =.71 p<
0.001). The reason for the difference is that the information
consumption use is significantly more common than the information
sharing and diffusion and interaction uses.
It may also be seen that within the interaction type of use,
answering others' questions, (i.e., a responsive activity), is more
accepted than responding to others' articles, an instigated activity.
Relation between Frequency of Use and Nature of UseA relation was found between frequency of ASNS use and participant's
age. Namely, the older an academician is, the more frequently he or she
uses the network (r=.413, p< 0.005). A relation was also found
between frequency of use and each of the three types of uses; it is
strongest vis-à-vis information consumption (Table 3).
Relation between Frequency of Visit to Sites and Characteristics of Use
|Information consumption||Information sharing||Interaction|
2. What main gratifications do academics obtain by using ASNS?To answer this question, the participants were presented with 26
possible motives for ASNS use. The motives were derived from the uses
and gratifications theory and adjusted to the context of social-network
use. The participants were asked to rank the extent of their
identification with each motive on a 5-point Likert scale (1 - not all; 5
- to a very great extent). Cronbach's alpha was calculated and.965
reliability was found.
The data were subjected to factor analysis, the results of which appear in Table 4.
Factor Analysis - Motives for Use of Academic Networks
|Self-promotion and ego bolstering||Belonging to professional community||Acquisition of professional knowledge||Interaction with professionals||Escapism|
|Want to satisfy my curiosity about the popularity of my articles||.893||.276||.051||.158||-023|
|Want to know how much my articles are viewed||.877||.236||.218||.158||.040|
|Feel gratified that my articles are viewed||.857||.248||.162||.298||-0.52|
|Want to know how much my articles are cited||.770||.033||.357||.007||.316|
|Want to enjoy seeing that my articles are of interest to other researchers||.737||.558||.252||.087||.053|
|Want to increase the readership of my studies||.660||.603||.175||.223||-.026|
|Want to enhance my professional reputation||.620||.526||.104||.441||.086|
|Want to share my knowledge with others||.501||.493||.302||.500||.032|
|Want to be like all my colleagues||.250||.797||.307||.107||.208|
|Want to show my presence where my colleagues are showing theirs||.313||.751||.180||.118||.173|
|Want to be part of the research community in my discipline||.087||.648||.567||.209||.139|
|Want professional recognition in my peer community||.383||.629||.188||.529||.070|
|Want to share my research with the public at large||.275||.515||.259||.400||.039|
|Want to be exposed to new research trends||.078||.238||.819||.256||.241|
|Want to keep track of others' research||.307||.185||.804||.267||.221|
|Want to know who is writing on topics in my area of interest||.220||.405||.762||.229||.000|
|Want to keep abreast of new articles||.346||.104||.759||.408||-.027|
|Want to create academic collaborations||.130||.171||.272||.853||.134|
|Want to expand relations with other researchers||.045||.282||.373||.786||.194|
|Want feedback about my articles||.517||-.012||.257||.719||.146|
|Want answers to professional questions from researchers in my field||.189||.260||.353||.490||.394|
|Want relief from daily hassles||.011||.095||.103||.153||.935|
|This is how I spend leisure time||.06.||.144||.128||.130||.926|
This group ranked the highest among the factors identified. Belonging
to it are motives of self-promotion and reinforcement of personal
ego,(i.e., those that center on the individual), and the utilitarian and
affective gratifications that he or she obtains by using the network
Self-Promotion and Ego-Bolstering
|Self-promotion and ego-bolstering||M||SD|
|Share my knowledge with others||2.76||1.48|
|Know how often my articles are viewed||2.73||1.41|
|Increase the readership of my studies||2.68||1.50|
|Enhance my professional reputation||2.68||1.42|
|Enjoy seeing that my articles are of interest to other researchers||2.65||1.48|
|Make it more likely that others will cite my articles||2.57||1.47|
|Know how often my articles are cited||2.47||1.36|
|Feel gratified that my research is viewed||2.42||1.47|
|Satisfy my curiosity about the popularity of my articles||2.42||1.47|
knowledge with others." This is the only statement that is not purely
egotistic; it actually has an altruistic connotation.
this group are statements relating to the value of the professional
information that members of academic faculty can obtain on the academic
networks (Table 6). This group ranked second in importance on average.
Acquisition of Professional Knowledge
|Acquisition of professional knowledge||M||SD|
|Keep track of others' research||2.67||1.38|
|Keep abreast of new articles||2.60||1.52|
|Know who is writing on topics in my area of interest||2.56||1.41|
|Be exposed to new research trends||2.30||1.44|
This group of motives attribute importance to affiliation with the
scientific community generally and the professional community
particularly, and to the need to show a presence where one's colleagues
in the discipline show theirs (Table 7).
Belonging to Professional Community
|Belonging to professional community||M||SD|
|Receive professional recognition in my peer community||2.57||1.38|
|Be part of the research community in my discipline||2.51||1.34|
|Show my presence where my colleagues are showing theirs||2.41||1.32|
|Be like all my colleagues||2.30||1.31|
|Share my research with the public at large||2.17||1.38|
of peers in their discipline as a more meaningful affiliation group than
they do the public at large. The statement that received the highest
ranking in this group was "Receive professional recognition in my peer
community"; the motive of "shar[ing] my research with the public at
large" ranked lowest.
This group of statements aggregates motives associated with enhancing
communication and interaction with other researchers via mutual
activities that entail communication with others (Table 8).
Interaction with Professionals
|Interaction with professionals||M||SD|
|Expand relations with other researchers||2.52||1.35|
|Create academic collaborations||2.22||1.36|
|Get feedback about my articles||1.98||1.31|
|Get answers to professional questions from researchers in my field||1.69||1.06|
Analysis of the ranking of statements in this group shows that the more
the meaning of a statement is merely general and of principle, the
greater is the identification with it, and vice versa: the more active
and enterprising the intent of the statement is, such as "get answers to
professional questions from [other] researchers," the less
identification there is with it.
derived from the uses and gratifications theory, speaks of using ASNS
only for enjoyment and to get relief from daily hassles. The research,
however, shows that it is wholly unimportant in the context of ASNS; on
average, the participants were strongly disinclined to identify with
statements that relate to it (Table 9).
|Get relief from daily hassles||1.23||.67|
|This is how I spend leisure time||1.30||.67|
principal motives (self-promotion, acquisition of professional
knowledge, belonging to an information community, and interaction with
others), an ANOVA test with repeat measurements was performed among the
four complex indicators (the mean of the statements in each factor). The
findings show significant differences among the various kinds of
gratification and, specifically, that "interaction with professionals"
is a significantly less important gratification than "self-promotion and
ego-bolstering" and "belonging to a peer community."
3. Is there a relation between the extent of ASNS use by academic faculty and the gratification obtained from ASNS?The participants were asked to report on their frequency of visits
of the ASNS sites. Table 10 presents the distribution of answers.
Frequency of Visits
|Frequency of visits||Frequency||Percent|
|Almost every day||9||15.0|
|Ones a week||16||26.7|
|Ones a month||12||20.0|
ASNS sites and the intensity of the perceived gratification. A
correlation has been found between the frequency of visits and three of
the gratifications: belonging to professional community (r=.379
p<0.01), acquisition of knowledge (r=.327 p<0.05), and
self-promotion (r=.290 p<0.05), meaning, the more the participant
visits the ASNS sites the more he/she obtains gratifications of the
three types from the visits.
4. Is there a difference in the uses and gratifications that No significant differences were found among uses of different
academicians obtain by visiting ASNS on the basis of personal
characteristics (gender, age, academic status, discipline, and
academic status and different discipline in gratifications. In addition,
no significant difference was found in gratifications between male and
female. However, a difference was found in respect of institutional
affiliation: It appears that the use of ResearchGate is significantly
higher among faculty members at Inst1 than among those at Inst2 and
Inst3 (F(2,70)=4.70 p<0.05). In contrast, no significant difference
was found among the institutions in the use of Academia.edu.
Furthermore, a significant difference was found in regard to the
intensity of perceived gratification among the academics from the three
institutions as shown in Table 11.
Differnces among Institutes
|Self-promotion and ego-bolstering||2.09||1.09||3.24||.98||2.60||1.41||5.01 *|
ConclusionsThis study investigates the uses and gratifications that academic
faculty members derive from two academic social-networking sites,
Academia.edu and ResearchGate. We invoked the uses and gratifications
theory (Katz et al., 1974) as a point of departure and adjusted this
genetic theory, developed in the context of mass-media consumption, to
the specific context of academic networks and their singularities.
The study was conducted among a relatively small population from
three different academic institutions on the basis of a voluntary
response to an online questionnaire. We found a difference among these
institutions in the extent of use of the various networks and faculty
members' perception of the gratifications that the networks give them.
The findings indicate that 65% of Israeli researchers use ASNS. The
overall use is not intensive, more than 50% use these sites ones a month
or less. They use the sites mainly for consumption of information,
slightly less for sharing of information, and very scantily for
interaction with others. This finding itself indicates that academic
networks do not function as other social networks do. In social networks
such as Facebook, interaction with others is the main use (Boyd &
Ellison, 2007); in contrast, academic networks are used chiefly for
information consumption and are perceived more as a database of sorts
than as a place to establish social or professional relations and
interact with others.
As for the gratifications that motivate users to visit ASNS, four
main ones were found: self-promotion and ego-bolstering, acquisition of
professional knowledge, belonging to a peer community, and interaction
with peers (Park et al., 2009). Escapism, a factor that typifies the
gratifications that social networks deliver (Kaye, 1998; Quan-Haase
& Young, 2010), proved to be weak if not irrelevant in regard to
The four main gratifications that typify the use of academic
networks largely reflect the uses and gratifications theory but require
some adjustment. The original theory separates emotional factors from
personal ones (Katz et al., 1974); in ASNS, self-promotion (personal)
and ego bolstering (affective) are inseparable. The "social" factor, in
contrast, is split in two where academic networks are concerned:
belonging to a peer community and interaction with peers are identified
as separate factors. They are different in that peer-group affiliation
does not necessarily require interaction with others and is manifested
in unilateral action by the user. Interaction with others, in contrast,
entails user initiative and responsiveness.
Contrary to findings of Dermentzi et al. (2016) that argues that
self-promotion do not derive the use of SNS by academics, this study
points at the centrality of the self-promotion and ego-bolstering motive
and stresses the utilitarianism that drives the use of ASNS. The
creation of social capital and personal advancement by means of activity
on social networks is well known in research on social networks
(Ellison et al., 2014; Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009). From this
standpoint, the behavior of users of ASNS shows that they recognize the
network as a mechanism for the creation of social capital and for an
attempt to transform it into professional capital. In a world where
academic faculty members are judged by the number of works that they
publish and the number of citations that the works receive (Moore,
Murphy, & Murray, 2010), an instrument that allows them to influence
the extent of their exposure and increase the likelihood of citation
delivers much power and utility.
The relatively high score of the "consumption of professional
academic information" gratification stresses the importance that
academics see in having direct and open access to academic information
as argued by Veletsianos and Kimmons (2011).
The separation between the two social gratifications "the sense of
belonging" and "interaction with professional peers," and the fact that
the sense of "belonging to a community of practice" was ranked higher
strengthen Seidman's (2013) notice that social gratification of social
networks relates more to the need for a sense of belonging than to the
need for interaction.
The fact that interaction in this environment and academics'
motivation to engage in it are significantly weaker than the other uses
and gratifications could be explained on the ground that the social
potential of ASNS has not yet been fully realized by the academics
because they are so new.
Limitations of the StudyThe study was performed on a relatively small population at three
different academic institutions in only one country. It limits our
ability to generalize from this study to all users of ASNS. Further
studies on this phenomenon on a larger scale should follow to bloster
The results reveal differences among the institutions in the extent
of use of the various networks and even in the gratifications that users
from different institutions perceive. Further research may delve more
deeply into how and why faculty members use these sites. It may also
seek the reasons for these differences in view of additional
organizational indicators that were not investigated in this study.
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Why Do Academics Use Academic Social Networking Sites? by Hagit Meishar-Tal and Efrat Pieterse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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