[INDOLOGY] Discussing Academia.edu

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Thu Jan 26 20:53:32 UTC 2017

Dear Tim,

I'm glad to hear your positive background about Sarah Bond.  Good to know,
and I'm with her on the importance of the OA movement, etc. (as everyone in
hearing range of me knows, ad nauseam :-)

Regarding "the commercial nature of the company," I can scarcely think of a
more benign outfit.  Academia.edu is free at point of use (unless you want
extras, which aren't important to most people).   Not just shareware free
(some features disabled, some time limits), but completely free.  Full
features, no time limits.   But it has to have some business model (like
any outfit, universities included), so it raised venture capital.  The
venture people do this because they are rich enough to play a long game and
they believe that somewhere down the line, Academia.edu will start
generating revenue.  This is the same idea as all of them, Google,
Facebook, etc.  They start with long periods as loss-makers, but providing
a service that many appreciate.  Eventually, they work out ways to generate
a revenue stream.  Academia.edu is looking for ways to make money,
obviously, but not aggressively.  They keep exploring ideas, but discuss
things extensively with users, and they listen to complaints.   My guess is
that, eventually, we'll have either to pay a modest subscription ($5-10 per
month, perhaps, like the video or music streaming services?) or accept
advertising on the site.  That's how most such services go.  But there's
nothing in any of this that sets Academia.edu apart from anyone else, and
certainly nothing that could support an argument that we shouldn't use the

As you say, Zenodo is no use for humanists at present, and specifically
brands itself as a service for the science community.   HC has the
right-looking pedigree, but as you also point out, nobody's using it.  And
size matters.  Big is different.  There's some threshold of membership
above which a social-networking-academic service begins to be genuinely
valuable.  It's not a trivial point.

The issue of scrupulousness is very important too.  Too much of it is
stifling; too little is illegal.  We're all hamstrung by outdated systems
of copyright and intellectual property law, and by our own gullible
willingness to hand our writings to men in suits who gladly make millions
of dollars off the material.   The fact that Academia.edu leaves it to us
end users to make our minds up about what we do with our own writing
strongly appeals to me.  But I do worry that a consortium of academic
publishers will one day land on Academia.edu from a great height.
 (Remember the Library.nu <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library.nu> story
ten years ago?)  I think there's a kind of chicken game going on, with
Academia.edu hoping to become too big to fail, as it were.  At some point,
a publisher like Elsevier or Springer may try to make them an offer they
can't refuse.  Complete with NY accents, sunglasses, and wide lapels.

I would like to see Academia.edu transition to a non-profit model.  But
who's going to pay for that?


Professor Dominik Wujastyk <http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>

Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity

Department of History and Classics <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
University of Alberta, Canada

South Asia at the U of A:


On 26 January 2017 at 10:49, Lubin, Tim via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> I too read Sarah Bond’s blog posting with interest without proceeding to
> delete my Academia.edu account.  Sarah is a friend of mine, and was for two
> years my colleague at Washington and Lee (she was a Mellon Postdoc Fellow
> at the time).  Besides being a superb, rising scholar of late antique law,
> Roman epigraphy, with a focus on marginalized groups and legal stigmas such
> as *infamia, *she is a big proponent of open access scholarship and
> digital tools for the humanities.  Her criticisms of Academia.edu are
> salutary warnings for how the commercial nature of the company are
> ultimately  in tension with its role as a forum for increased open
> communication among scholars and the dissemination of knowledge.  I think
> she is correct that in the longer term, non-commercial venues will provide
> a more secure basis for this.
> Nevertheless, the world is in flux, and at the moment Academia.edu is
> serving a purpose that no other platform yet serves.  Like others who have
> written in, I have found that it not only allows others, including many in
> South Asia, to gain access to my own work but alerts me to much excellent
> work by colleagues in my own fields and in adjacent fields that I might
> otherwise have missed, or discovered only much later.  The opportunities of
> have online discussion of scholarly topics and others’ work in progress are
> also valuable.  So I was astonished that another W&L scholar I know, who
> reads Sarah’s blogs and was a regular user of Academia.edu, appears
> immediately to have deleted her account!
> I am taking a more cautious, pragmatic approach.  The alternate venues
> that Bond (citing others) recommends — Zenodo and Humanities Commons (HC) —
> look promising.  I duly made accounts at both in order to find out what
> they offered.  Zenodo at present is almost entirely aimed at scientists,
> and it looks a very lonely place for an Indologist or Roman historian.
>  (Note that Ethan Gruber’s migration tool, mentioned in Sarah’s post, did
> not work smoothly for me and was mostly a waste of an hour.)  HC is more
> for "people like us” but as of yesterday, total current membership is
> around 370.  Almost none of you out there are participating.  So, for the
> present, it is no substitute for Academia.edu.  (I note that Sarah has not
> signed up for either Zenodo or HC, so far as I can see.)
> One other consideration:  Both Zenodo and HC are more scrupulous about
> observing the fine points of publisher restrictions on self-archiving of
> copyrighted publications.  This will hamper the “free spread” of
> information.  So far, Academia.edu has been content to let individual users
> make the call about what they post.  This gets into murky legal territory,
> but it is a great boon to users.  As Audrey T. points out, the hegemonic
> publishing conglomerates currently occupy the legal high ground but the
> moral low ground, and it is the “push-back” from masses of individuals
> through collective “non-cooperation” (non-compliance) that will lead
> inexorably to more permissive regulations.  Zenodo and HC do not seem to be
> helping facilitate that.  In this respect, the Social Science Research
> Network (SSRN), which I use to reach legal studies audiences, is better.
> So I am taking a “both … and” approach for now: continuing to use
> Academia.edu so long as its utility outweighs its commercial distortions
> and interference, while also supporting the emergence of nonprofit, open
> access platforms that will (we hope) one day extricate us from for-profit
> corporations, both presses and networking sites.
> In solidarity,
> Tim
> Timothy Lubin
> Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law
> Chair of the Department of Religion
> Washington and Lee University
> Lexington, Virginia 24450
> http://home.wlu.edu/~lubint
> http://wlu.academia.edu/TimothyLubin
> http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=930949
> From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of
> "Walser, Joseph via INDOLOGY" <indology at list.indology.info>
> Reply-To: "Walser, Joseph" <Joseph.Walser at tufts.edu>
> Date: Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 11:56 AM
> To: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Discussing Academia.edu
> I concur with Dominik and Audrey. Especially in our field, if I relied on
> university open access sites or some of the other sites that Bond mentions,
> I would not be alerted to scholarship done at Indian universities or
> universities in China or that done by scholars unaffiliated with any
> university. Scholarship can become something of an echo chamber. My own
> scholarship has benefited enormously from my daily email alerts to work
> from scholars whom I have never heard of working in places that I have
> never heard of.
> -j
> Joseph Walser
> Associate Professor
> Department of Religion
> Tufts University
> ------------------------------
> *From:* INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] on behalf of
> Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY [indology at list.indology.info]
> *Sent:* Thursday, January 26, 2017 11:47 AM
> *To:* Dominik Wujastyk
> *Cc:* Indology
> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] Discussing Academia.edu
> I concur with Dominik on the valuable features of academia.edu. I would
> add that I find the sins of academia.edu quite minor compared to those of
> the large for-profit companies that own scholarly journals. We all publish
> in journals owned by Springer, John Wiley & Sons, and other commercial
> scholarly publishers that make significant profit margins off of our
> research, usually after taking the copyright and putting our work behind
> paywalls.
> If one wants to protest the commercialization of academic work and such,
> it seems that journals are the place to start.
> Audrey
> Audrey Truschke
> Assistant Professor
> Department of History
> Rutgers University-Newark
> On Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 11:20 AM, Dominik Wujastyk via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> Many of us use Academia.edu as a shop-window for our publications and our
>> academic identity.
>> There was a piece by Sarah Bond published in Forbes on Monday
>> <http://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/01/23/dear-scholars-delete-your-account-at-academia-edu/#39e520de2ee0>
>> this week that raises a number of criticisms of Academia.edu, and
>> recommends deleting your Academia.edu account.
>> I've read Bond's piece carefully, and I find its arguments extremely
>> weak.  I don't wish to do a point-by-point rejoinder here.  But I do want
>> to signal to colleagues that Bond's alarmist critique of Academia.edu is
>> something that I personally will ignore.
>> I remain very happy with Academia.edu, while recognizing that there are
>> some issues that require vigilance and discussion.  I have written to
>> Richard Price the founder of Academia.edu and a former Fellow of All Souls,
>> Oxford, more than once in the past, and he has always answered personally
>> and discussed my concerns seriously.  Similarly with other staff members.
>> The areas where Academia.edu might need to watch its step are areas that
>> apply to all other similar services.  The benefits that Academia.edu offers
>> its users are substantial, for a combination of hosting research, for
>> subject-specific awareness alerts, for networking, and for analytics.  I
>> see no competitor out there that quite offers the same ecosystem with the
>> same combination of benefits.
>> Best,
>> Dominik Wujastyk
>>>> --
>> Professor Dominik Wujastyk <http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
>> ​,​
>> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
>> ​,​
>> Department of History and Classics
>> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
>> ​,​
>> University of Alberta, Canada
>> ​.​
>> South Asia at the U of A:
>> ​sas.ualberta.ca​
>> ​​
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