academia.edu is a "social network" for academics. Their latest design mirrors Facebook with its blue header and notification schema. When I saw Ben Lund speak about this at SCONUL, he implied that the outfit wants, in some ways, to disintermediate academic publishers. I would say that they have a long way to go before that happens (peer review, digital preservation, discoverability etc.). That said, I quite like some of the things that they do. It's good to have an aesthetically pleasing space where I can amplify my research profile.
That said, it's far from perfect but not bad. The other day, I got an email from Adnan Akil at academia.edu, apparently "because I follow the digital humanities research interest". I tend to ignore this kind of generic request for participation (if you really want my opinion on this stuff, I'd hope it was because I've thought quite a bit about Scholarly Communications, not because I follow the digital humanities research interest). That said, academia.edu seems, from this email, to be working on "a new feature that lets users create discussions online", which sounds quite interesting, but not exactly revolutionary.
Anyway, here's some stuff that I think academia.edu should get on with fixing, rather than implementing, basically, a forum:
- Integrate with institutional and subject repositories. Seriously, at the moment, I have to input my publications into their system manually. I already have to enter this at my university's eprints repository. This provides output in JSON format, which can be easily consumed by other services. I'm sure DSPACE and other repo software has similar functionality. What about ORCID integration? Seriously: just stop re-inventing the wheel and making people duplicate data. Work with others and make academics' lives easier.
- Take cues from existing practices. When someone requests a copy of an article that I haven't uploaded to academia.edu, the email reads: "X has requested a copy of your document "Y". If you would like to upload a copy for X and all other Academia.edu users to see, click the button below". There is likely a very good reason that I haven't uploaded the paper publicly; it may be under embargo, for example. Instead, academia.edu doesn't offer any kind of private "send the user the paper for the good of research but not for public dissemination" option, it just says either share it publicly or not at all. By contrast, eprints does do this. This isn't very thoughtful and just frustrates users.
- Link to legal resources and foster understanding. At the moment, academia.edu doesn't seem to care whether scholars upload material that they are not allowed to. Sure, they'll take it down when a publisher complains, but why not link to SHERPA/RoMEO and actually educate users about their rights to post preprints, postprints and versions of record for their publications? Again, it's just not joined up enough with other green OA initiatives.
- Make your data portable. Linked to the fact that import isn't easy, academia.edu gives no way of easily getting data out of their system, as far as I can see. Again: not helpful. As an organisation that wants to thrive on openness, not even giving an RSS feed seems somewhat extreme. Why should I continue to give my data to an organisation that gives me no way to pull it back out in any meaningful way?
EOR (End of Rant)