Academic Social Networking Sites

This is the first of 2 posts on Academic Social Networking sites.  In the first I’ll write about them generally and in the second in relation to Open Access Publishing. recently got some backlash on social media for a suggestion that a user might pay to get a paper submitted for potential recommendation – payment would only occur if a paper was recommended.  The premise being that recommended papers get more visibility and downloads.  The story is covered in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Most users seem to think this is a bad idea – paying to potentially get a recommendation and therefore more clicks or views is seen as dishonest.  Moreover, payment for recommendations would appear to undermine the whole recommendation system.  Consequently, the hashtag #DeleteAcademiaEdu was created and some users, at least, decided the service was not for them.

But we shouldn’t be so surprised.  Academic Social Networking sites are commercial operations and are clearly seeking to monetize their networks… and they certainly aren’t the only commercial entities in the Scholarly Communications ecosystem.

We get asked about and ResearchGate a lot and so I thought I’d post some of the issues you need to consider when using these sites.

The Pros

  1. They will increase the dissemination of your research outputs.
  2. They allow you to make connections with other researchers you may never otherwise connect with.
  3. If you use them think about using them in conjunction with repositories and publisher sites and, if you can, link to items.

The Cons

  1. They are commercial operations and they will seek some kind of return on the network somewhere down the line. You need to be comfortable that you comprise part of that network.
  2. They are not considered an Open Access repository by funders – as such posting papers to them will not mean compliance with a funder’s  Open Access policy. (See A social networking site is not an open access repository for more details on the repository functions of openness, interoperability and preservation.)
  3. Publishers may have stricter rules on what you can post on academic social networking sites than on repositories.  Elsevier currently require commercial organizations to have an agreement with them before papers can be posted to commercial platforms.  Wiley only allow archiving in author websites, institutional repositories and not for profit subject-based preprint servers or repositories.
  4. Whilst these sites host an array of outputs, rights holders (e.g. publishers) may issue take down notices for materials posted that infringe their rights.  These sites have indemnity clauses where users will bear the cost of legal claims arising from materials users upload to the site.
  5. They are closed networks – “it’s up to to decide what you can and can’t do with the information you’ve given them“, and that includes your personal data.

And lastly… it’s a 2 way thing… these sites need you to strengthen their network as much as you might need them to promote your research.



About Chris

Chris looks after Open Research Online (ORO) on a day to day basis. He has worked in this role since 2011 and can advise on using ORO to maximise dissemination of research outputs and Open Access publishing generally.
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