Academia.edu is a social networking site that allows scholars to share their work, stay connected to their colleagues, and find people around the world with similar research interests. The site, used primarily by researchers, professors, and graduate students, allows users to create a profile which can be customized to include information such as research interests, publications, and reading lists. The site also allows users to upload their papers, teaching documents, and CV’s, and to add supplementary materials to their webpage such as blogs and external websites. The site has over 167,000 users, and contains approximately 875,000 papers.
One of the advantages of Academia.edu is that it allows its users to publish their activities on the site on their other social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. For example, selecting the option to “post this paper to my Facebook profile”, as seen below, will automatically publish a story on the user’s Facebook profile when a work is uploaded to academia.edu.
Furthermore, users can use this feature to find out which of their Facebook and LinkedIn contacts are also part of the academia.edu network, thus allowing them to broaden their academic network without much effort. Another way in which academia.edu enables the sharing of information is with the “Add blog post” feature, which allows users to write blog posts that are then part of their profile and visible to all users. The only downside to this feature is that it does not allow for commenting, which limits communication between users; adding features like a comment section for the blogs, and giving users the option to chat or to send messages to multiple recipients could greatly improve collaboration among users.
As a graduate student and new user on academia.edu, I was unsure whether the site would be accommodating or relevant to students who had few papers to upload, or to researchers who were still in the initial stages of their research. To my delight I found that the site welcomes many different types of users who have varying degrees of input into the site. Some users have several publications available on their profiles while others, who have very minimal profiles, simply use the site to follow research in their fields of interest. The diversity of users’ profile updates shows that people are not only using the site to share academic and professional information, but are sharing personal reflections as well; though the main thread linking users remains academic in nature, it is clear that this forum allows for various levels of networking. Active users can follow the research of dozens of people, publish their work in various stages of completion, and give and receive feedback using academia.edu’s messaging system. Less active users may simply choose to read the occasional paper and follow a select few people.