Will 'Publish or Perish' Become 'Clicks or Canned'? The Rise of Academic Social NetworksScholars want peers to find—and cite—their research, and these days
that increasingly happens on social media. The old adage ‘publish or
perish’ could soon go digital as ‘clicks or canned.’
platforms have emerged over the past decade, offering researchers the
chance to share their work and connect with other scholars. But some of
those services have a bad rap from academics who say commercial sites
lack the integrity of institutional repositories run by traditional
universities. (Among the most widely-villified are ResearchGate and Academia.edu, which is evident by griping on social media and elsewhere.)
idea that some of these sites are for-profit raises questions about
whether our work is really going to be available to the public, or if
we’re doing it for free for a corporation,” says Fatima Espinoza
Vasquez, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of
Information Science. “It also raises copyright issues. Even though we
own our work, researchers have to be very careful because academic
journals often have specific rules that about where you publish
Vasquez, who co-authored a 2015 paper
comparing services and tools offered by various academic social
networks, says researchers must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of
each. “They can be great tools to advance your research, especially
social research,” she says. “But just like with Facebook or any other
social network, we need to be aware of potential issues we might have
with copyright or privacy.”
Here’s a quick look at the academic social networks currently out there, and what they offer to scholars.
Academia.eduWith 53 million users and 19 million posted papers, Academia.edu
is the largest of the academic social networks. The site presents
itself as the easiest way to share papers with other academics, and
argues that its internal research shows that uploading your research
will yield a significant (69 percent) boost to citations over a
Users can create a profile, upload work, and
track views and citations. While Academia.edu is free to join, the site
introduced a premium feature in December 2016 that allows users to track
details about who’s looking at their research papers (similar to
LinkedIn Premium’s ability to show who’s viewed your profile). The
addition of paid features sparked a bit of controversy, causing some scholars to pull away from the commercial site in favor of institution-hosted repositories.
ResearchGateBerlin-based ResearchGate raised more than $100 million in funding
over the past few years and has been working to expand its features.
More popular with scientific researchers than humanities scholars, the
platform focuses on sharing research outcomes—whether they’re
publishable or not. Traditionally, only successful experiments are
written up and accepted by peer-reviewed academic journals, but Ijad
Madisch, co-founder and CEO of ResearchGate, believes it’s just as important to share failed experiments.
to its website, ResearchGate’s mission is “to connect the world of
science and make research open to all.” The platform is free to join and
allows researchers to post their publications, connect with other
academics, and search for the publications of other users. ResearchGate
has grown exponentially in the past few years and currently has about 13 million users worldwide.
MendeleyCreated as a reference-management tool to help users organize their research, Mendeley
also includes a number of social-networking features. Users can connect
in private or public groups, comment on papers and keep track of the
connections of other users that they follow via a Facebook-like
newsfeed. The service also features a number of tools for research
management, including the ability to generate bibliographies, import
papers from other software and allow users to annotate documents.
Mendeley started as an open-access research network, and some researchers balked when publishing giant Elsevier purchased the site in 2013. While open science advocates remain skeptical of the partnership, Mendeley is still a popular choice for researchers looking to collaborate with other scholars.
ScholabrateThe latest addition to the growing list of social-networks aimed for higher education is Scholabrate.
The service claims to provide a more Facebook-esque, visual experience
for academics seeking to network with others in their field.
Pichhadze, CEO and founder of Knowledge Observer, the company behind
Scholabrate, says most of his competitors are focused on publications
and research. “We asked instead, how do you highlight the individual as
opposed to the product?” He added that the site includes fields for
achievements in teaching, voluntary community work, and awards.
of acting as a repository for uploaded papers, Scholabrate allows you
to post links to externally published work. Users can connect with each
other and collaborate directly through the platform using one-on-one
videoconferencing or group discussion. “We want to streamline the
process of connecting and collaborating,” Pichhadze says.
ZoteroSimilar to Mendeley, Zotero
functions primarily as a research tool, allowing users to collect,
save, cite and share materials from a wide range of sources. The site
also maintains a significant community of academics who can connect
through groups and forums, or through their search engine. Each Zotero
user can build a personal profile complete with CVs and other detailed
It’s hard to say just how important these social
networks for scholars will become. “There are so many new sites coming
out, and I think everyone wants to play a role,” says Vasquez. “One
concern I don’t think people are talking about is how these sites are
tracking the most popular topics and showing that data to users. I
wonder, will research be dictated by big trends instead of actual
societal needs or individual interests? It’ll be interesting to see what
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