Academia.edu is the social media platform for scientists, competitor of Research Gate. The website allows you to upload your papers and download papers shared by others. In order to do that you need to have an account which is free. But! Once you have an account, Academia.edu will send you (heaps of) emails inviting you to go Premium, in order to have access to extra features.
I tried it out for a month and I made a video overview of the premium features.
If you prefer the written word, below is a rough account of what I say in the video.
The main features of Academia.edu Premium are: 1) access to mentions of your name, 2) the possibility of checking who saw your profile, 3) your own website, 4) extra analytics, 5) the option to set up alerts for new papers on a given tag.
The alerts can be monthly, weekly etc. – it is pretty easy and I don’t cover this in the video but I think this feature can be potentially useful.
Many people are drawn to the Premium subscription by the (many!) emails which highlight ‘mentions’ of their name in research papers. In order to view these alleged references in full, you would have to go Premium. Now, for most people these emails will be instantly suspicious, as they usually feature papers in completely alien fields or they include mentions of researchers with just the same initials as you. But occasionally the news on mentions of your name is plausible and you may be tempted to check it out.
Recently, I’ve had to review my citations. This was my main reason for trying out Academia.edu premium. I didn’t have high hopes though. And rightly so, because this feature is not very useful. It gives you a list of completely unrelated papers which cite people with the same last name as you. They are divided into “all mentions” and “high confidence” and the ones you yourself marked as “this is me”. You can scroll through these and pick out a few mentions of your own name but this will not be useful in any academic procedures (grant applications, job applications, yearly review etc.) as the listings also include reports and citations in and to non-peer review publications. For instance, I found a reference to a talk I gave and to my MA. There is a reason these are called “mentions” and not “citations” or “references”, you know!
Mentions vs. References
I find that Google Scholar is much better in picking up actual citations. If your aim is to review your citations, you are better off getting a (free) Google Scholar account, rather then Academia Premium.
Academia’s “Mentions” will give you similar returns to Google Scholar but Google Scholar records edit out the noise (which is the main content of emails from Academia about mentions of your name).
This feature allows you to see who viewed your profile and what they read, downloaded, when they did this etc. You can also see their latest downloads. Readers can be broken down into “all”, “highly engaged” and “in your network” and “in your field”.
I imagine that the rationale for this feature is facilitating networking, but I actually found it very creepy! Of course, we all know that we leave a trace when we click on things online, but I wasn’t expecting that other users can display our data in this way. I can’t imagine using it as an opening line. “Hi, I see you’ve viewed my profile X times, do you want to chat?” I don’t think so. There is a feature which invites you to leave a note when you download a paper, which is available in the basic/free Academia.edu account. This is actually much more useful for this purpose and I feel a lot more polite.
The use of knowing your readers?
Admittedly, seeing the range of your papers’ readers may give you an ego boost. But it will be just a tiny one as of course most people just scroll through the first pages (and that’s including professors – that’s one thing I learned from my analytics!).
Still, it’s a weird feature. I don’t intend to use it and because of it I would actually be a bit suspicious of anyone who has academia.edu Premium! Are they the sort of people who like to lurk online? Do they take a secret satisfaction in seeing who saw their profile? Incidently, it is not marked who is a Premium user, so you never know… unless they have a profile website, which is another Academia feature.
Still, I would be extremely careful when stalking your (intellectual) crush on Academia. If you can’t help yourself, maybe get a fake academia account for this. A fake-a-demia. I’m not gonna go there.
Your own page
With academia.edu premium it is an easy feat to put your own web page online. But the page is not super nice. The horrid formulaic headers! The row of dusty old books to represent “humanities” has got to be my favourite. You can’t modify the site (for instance adding a custom tab). Finally, If you have such a profile, then people will know that the owner is likely to be an academia.edu premium user (i.e. potential lurker).
A website, formulaic, I wouldn’t like to have these as a placeholder, also because you are one of the people who like to see who visited their profile, which is creepy, and also not marked
Finally, being a Premium user gives you access to more statistics on your papers than the ones you have as a basic user. Check out the video for more details.
I bought the Premium subscription for 149 PLN (22 Euro) when there was a 50% discount (I feel there often is). By mistake, I chose the “annual” subscription rather than monthly. I didn’t feel happy paying upfront for a service I wasn’t sure I would like. In fact, I didn’t find the Premium features very useful for myself and have issues especially with the “Readers” option. Still, I find it can be useful for specific purposes, like setting up alerts for papers on certain research topics or reviewing your citations. However, I find Google Scholar does a better job in both fields.
30 day money-back guarantee
There is a 30 day money-back offer on Academia Premium. I intend to use it (though the instructions for claiming it are discouraging!).
Edit! It was actually not at all difficult to file a refund request. Not a one-click process, but all you need is your credit card details and the date of the payment. Two days after sending my request I was contacted by an Academia.edu employee who informed me that my refund had been processed and enquired about my experience. So cheers, Academia!