Today is all about academic social media such as Academia.edu and Researchgate. I was familiar with both of these references before I started working in libraries, as I used to be an academic and many of my colleagues made use of these sites. Academia.edu seemed to be more popular among my cohort, possibly because I was a humanities researcher and my impression is that Academia.edu tends to be used by humanities researchers and Researchgate by scientists.
My colleagues on Academia.edu said they used it because departmental websites were inadequate (and generally didn’t offer space for PhD students or MA students to provide lists of publications, conference presentations or other such material) – in other words, they were using it as a space to create a more visible online presence for themselves. They also tended to use it as a place where they could share research prior to publication (things like conference presentations, unpublished MA dissertations, and so on). Often this skirted the line between permissible and violation of copyright, although it was a common practice and nobody seemed too concerned. In my former field, a lot of the major journals were not available electronically, and I suspect people were uploading PDFs of their articles in order to make them more widely available. I get the impression that similar things happen on Researchgate.
While I’m familiar with both platforms, I’m not in any hurry to get accounts there. As mentioned in today’s introductory post,
[T]here has been confusion with uploading of papers and other research activities on Academia.edu. What should be remembered is that this is a for-profit outfit and so you should be really careful about what you share on the website[…]
My feeling is that it’s preferable to have a visible online presence on institutional websites (with contact details provided), and if relevant, also set up an account at ORCiD to list your research outputs, employment history and so on. Using ORCiD as a place to host details of your publications means you avoid problems with copyright entirely, since all that’s listed are bibliographical details of the publications, with links to full-text that will only display the full-text if the article is open access or whoever clicks on it has an institutional login that will allow them to open it. Researchers who worked independently, or freelancers will of course lack presence on institutional websites – I’ve seen some create their own websites to make sure they have a professional looking space online, although of course this may not be possible for all independent researchers.
Of course it depends what you’re looking for in terms of online presence and activity. For me, something static, where my work and research are linked to my institution and real name, is all I want. For others, something with more interactivity and possibilities for networking may be preferable, and in that case, Researchgate or Academia.edu (or indeed Linkedin, which was Monday’s subject in this series and which canny readers will notice I skipped) may be just the right resources. As always, it’s about reflecting on your own online presence, and what you want it to say about you.