February 08, 2011

A discussion of academia.edu

Writing about web page http://warwick.academia.edu/

Every now and again, we come across some online tool or other that allow researchers to build up a profile page about themselves and their work, and to network with other researchers. I'm building up information on such sites and tools on this blog, under the tag "Dissemination".

Today's profile site for review is Academia.edu. I registered a profile on there some time ago, and every now and then they send me an e-mail to remind me that they exist and that someone has visited my profile on their site. It's very enticing to be able to visit their site and find out that someone searched for a particular keyword on google, whereupon my academia profile page was returned as result no. x and that person clicked to see my profile. It doesn't mean anything much when those keywords were in fact my name, except that when the academia profile page was result no. 9 (or higher) and they then chose to click on this link, the visitor could have preferred academia.edu as a source for some reason.

With that in mind, I had another look at the Academia.edu site and discovered that there are now 762 members of the University of Warwick with profiles on Academia.edu. When my colleagues investigated profile sites in the summer, they found 276 profiles for the University of Warwick, which also suggests a growing population of profiles on the site. It is noticeable for Warwick that the department with the most profiles is Politics and International Studies, with 45 profiles, 13 of which are for faculty staff, whose graduate students are no doubt following their lead.

One of the things that might help such profile sites as Academia.edu grow is the presence of other researchers with whom you can network and whose work you can follow, as they maintain their profiles. Communities based around particular disciplines or research groups might well form around different sites like this one. I have chosen to "follow" a couple of my colleagues on Academia.edu and it works a bit like Facebook or LinkedIn or lots of other "Web 2.0" or social networking sites in the sense that my home page tells me about the activity of the people I have chosen to follow.

Apart from networking opportunities which are reliant upon community use, researchers could use this site as a place to promote their publications and their research expertise/interests. I uploaded my papers when I set up the profile and it was interesting to see recently that someone had viewed my profile after searching for keywords that are key to the topic of one of my papers. My own papers are of niche interest to librarians, so I won't have a lot of activity to keep track of(!), but for researchers who are keen to monitor and to be able to demonstrate impact of their research, they could do worse than to see how often people are finding out about their work and which keywords are bringing people to their profile.

I do recommend that researchers put listings of their publications on lots of sites, but rather than uploading the full text of papers to external sites like this one, I think it best to put reference details up here and link back to the WRAP repository for the full text. I recommend this because it will boost the search engine ranking of a page if there are lots of links to it from an external domain, so you can use profile sites like this one to help the ranking of your paper at the web location you prefer most. Also, it makes sense if you want to collate statistics about those who read the full text of your work if you are always referring people to one source.

WRAP would be a better home for papers than external sites, in my opinion: University archives, even digital ones are a fairly secure, permanent home. WRAP also does copyright checks on authors' behalf and it is indexed by Google Scholar. WRAP is only for published works though, at the moment, so perhaps this site would be good for sharing unpublished papers.

There are plenty of other profile sites out there to explore. Here are just a few others that researchers might like to explore:

Some of these have been blogged about here already, and/or will be!

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