Academia.edu Review – a Reliable Source for Scholars?

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Once upon a time, there was an amazing resource on the Internet for scholars, professors, PhD candidates and researchers to share their academic works for all to see and use, called Academia.edu. Why the fairy tale introduction? Well, as you’ll see in this Academia.edu review, what once was a beautiful land of learning, knowledge and education, has been corrupted by the dark magics of profit and monetization.

Now, citing this site as a reference point for your academic writing carries about the same authority as citing one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

What Is Academia.edu?

academia.edu frontpage

It claims to be a place for academics to share papers with others for free to receive citations and increase their exposure to the academic community worldwide. As an Edu website, it’s a bit misleading. Many people believe that all Edu sites must be non—profit and serve official academic institutions and organizations.

While there are a lot of restrictions to registering Edu top level domains now, before 2001, anyone could register an Edu domain, and that’s exactly what happened with Academia.edu. As mentioned in this article on Forbes, the website was registered by a subsidiary, and is not associated with any educationally-affiliated organization. For this site, the lack of institutional affiliation is sadly only the tip of the iceberg.

academia.edu top level domain explanation

Academia.edu Review – The Issues Under the Surface

Typically, when you’re trying to find academic publications online, you’re on one of two sides of the fence.

The first group of people are those looking for written works. These are students, industries who may want studies and literature to use with product campaigns, and other academic peers who want someone else’s professional opinion about a given topic. The important thing to notes about the people looking for published books and papers is that they are looking for a “professional” publication.

While Academia.edu delivers itself as a place for academics to share publications, there is no vetting process in place so that readers of these published works can ensure that they are in fact consuming content that was created by people who have the education to provide it. Let me explain exactly what this means for just a moment.

How an Open Platform Can Harm Academics

Let’s say that you were an aspiring medical student who wanted to find a publication that outlined the effects of sugar on elderly patients with diabetes. Most academic sites would screenwriters who are wanting to publish any kind of paper or book on this topic. This is not the case with Academia.edu. It allows anyone to publish on the platform without any kind of verification whatsoever.

So, the paper that you are reading on diabetes and elderly patients may have been written by a qualified physician, or it may have been written by Jerry who lives in the trailer park down the street and dropped out of school at age 17. Sadly, if you create your own term paper on elderly patient care involving diabetes, cite Jerry’s paper, and your medical professor happens to look at your reference, it doesn’t reflect poorly on Jerry but will instead tank your grade and lower the opinion that your professor may have of your worthiness to continue in the program.

As you can imagine, this quickly becomes a major issue for students who are using Academia.edu as a reference point to gather information that they believe to be created by professionals with the education to back up their publications. Surely, this would never become an issue inside of a community of academics, right?

The community would find this paper quickly and make certain that it’s never cited by anyone. Well, that would be great if it was the case at this site. This is where the other side of the coin comes into play.

How Non-Professionals Can Game the System

You see, Jerry may have received an email that offered to make his paper a “recommended paper” by the editing team inside of Academia.edu.

Since the website is a for-profit site, Jerry can simply pay a little bit of money to get his paper boosted in the results so that it is seen by more people and shared more frequently. For Jerry, he may be wanting to create his own line of special elderly diabetic food, yet he has no idea how diabetes affects the human body.

When he sells his food, he can show how often his academic works have been shared on the Academia.edu platform. This gives him an essence of being more authoritative than he really is inside of the industry, and ultimately turns him into an expert that he has no right to be. Yes, eventually all of this will catch up to him, however there could be many people hurt in the crossfire before he is stopped.

Sadly, for actual professionals who are wanting to get their publications noted, events like the one listed above could potentially harm your reputation as a leader in academics, just by being associated with the site. This site preys on those who are uninformed and tries to make you think it is a legit site for you to post your academic works. It is designed to try to make publishers pay money to be seen by more users.

Unfortunately, it comes with a very bad reputation for those who are publishing on the platform, and could potentially harm your professional reputation rather than helping you boost the exposure of the published works you are trying to create to better help other academics. You would probably have better luck gaining an academic reputation by publishing on Yahoo Answers than you would this site.

Pros and Cons of Academia.edu

Pros:

  • Large User Base – Academia.edu built a very large user base of more than 30 million users prior to trying to monetize the site. Currently, it boasts almost 60 million users. It’s important to note that a lot of serious academics have since left the platform.
  • Gives You an Open Publication Platform – Anyone can publish on the site, but that’s also a big reason that it’s no longer respected in the academic community. You’d be much better off creating your own site to showcase your publications.

Cons:

  • Unethical Marketing – The site comes across as being a go to reference point for academics. It offers a pay to play model where anyone can have their content boosted so it’s seen by more people.
  • Deceptive Top-Level Domain – While the site doesn’t try to hide that it is a for-profit website, it also fails to clearly state that it is. Since most.edu domains are associated with official institutions, most people will assume that this is the case with Academia.edu.
  • Anyone Can Publish – Just like the example I listed above, anyone from a qualified physician, to Jerry down the street can publish the same official looking content on the platform. It’s hard to tell if you are reading content created by a true educated professional.
  • Could Harm Your Academic Reputation – If you’re wanting to gain exposure as an academic, this site could harm your reputation rather than help it.

Is There a Better Alternative to Academia.edu for Academics?

For true academics, there is thankfully a much better alternative to publishing your works on a site such as Academia.edu. One great way to do this is to create your own website. This allows you to publish your own academic writings while maintaining control of how they are delivered. You can develop your own site that features paper publications as well as references to books that you have been a part of or written yourself.

Best of all, the exposure you can gain by creating your own site can be far more significant than if your papers are just part of a larger grouping inside a site like Academia.edu. If you’re ready to get started with creating your own academic website today, please take a moment to check out my top recommended resource that will teach you how to create your own site and promote it so that you are able to gain a significant following as quickly as possible.

Academia.edu

1.5

Product

1.0/10

Support

2.0/10

Overall Quality

1.5/10

Pros

  • Large User Base
  • Gives You an Open Publication Platform

Cons

  • Unethical Marketing
  • Deceptive Top-Level Domain
  • Could Harm Your Academic Reputation

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18 thoughts on “Academia.edu Review – a Reliable Source for Scholars?”

  1. Having a worked for more than 20 years in the scientific field, I’m a bit wary of sites such as Academia.edu that promise you more exposure for your scientific work.

    Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I fancy the traditional way of doing things, which involved publishing your work through reputable, well-established scientific journals. There is a myriad of scientific journals out there. They have an impact scoring system in place. So, if a scientific journal has a high impact score, it means that it is a very reputable paper such as Nature, Science, which is quite impossible to publish papers in if you are just starting out in the scientific field. However, there are also plenty of journals with a lower impact score and as good as the one with high impact scores that you can publish your scientific finds.

    Well, that was the good old days of doing things… After reading your review, I now think that I should have stayed around in the scientific field a bit longer! 😉

    Because I could have created my own website and published my work as you suggested here in your Academia.edu review! Back then, when I was just starting, I was struggling to get my work published and gain recognition among my peers. The internet was in its infancy and making a website to publish my work wasn’t an option.

    But I digress, I have a question about Academia.edu. Since this website is misleading in term of its REAL purpose, which is primarily to make a profit over sharing the knowledge, is there a way to shut down Academia.edu for good? Or at the very least, force the owners of the website to show a disclaimer which states that the scientific papers publishing on their website haven’t gone through the process review by the scientific community, and therefore the scientific claims made within the posts may not be genuine.

  2. My brother is working as a scientist and I think that he would see the same flaws in this that you have just mentioned. I do not like the fact that you might not even be giving out legitimate information. There must be other ways, yes having your own website can be really good and would definitely be of benefit to any one who wants to get their research seen.

  3. Yes, exactly! Deceptive top-level domain.

    I’ve seen things like this, too. A website using a “dot edu” domain just to house backlinks for another website to elevate ranking. Although this “Academia dot edu” site works differently, but the principle is the same. What a shame for a site that’s supposed to uphold professionalism at the highest level.

    Jay, I have some friends who are educators and are in schools taking up Masters’ Degree. Can you suggest some alternative sites where I can refer them to? You know, those sites that perform like “Academia dot edu” when it was still not profit oriented yet, those days when you still enjoy being part of them. Can you suggest some alternative sites?

  4. Hello Jay, very interesting article about Academia. You know that I actually heard about that website some years ago but I didn`t know that now it became a platform which can make anyone being academic. I can say that I also find more cons at this web platform, there are so many articles published, but who has a time to searching an checking which one is really reliable. I like your review, thanks for sharing with us!

  5. Sometimes I think we fall into the trap of things like this online since they are convenient to us and we don really do our homework on the site ourselves. What makes it worse is you see the large userbase they have and that makes you feel safe or that the site is legit.

    I read where you say that even professional can damage their reputation even putting their own papers on this site. My question say you did so unknowing of the risks of posting on this site, are you able to just remove your papers from the site easily?

  6. Hi. I heard about Academia but I really considered it as a very trustworthy source (as I usually do with domains that have the “edu” tag). I was so surprised to see that they don’t really check who writes every piece of paper on their website. I checked out their website a lot of times and it looks super professional, so I was really stunned to find out that not all of their “writers” are that professional.

    I do agree that creating your own website and becoming an authority in your niche will bring you a lot more knowledge than just doing a research on Academia. I will definitely keep this in mind about this website and try to avoid it whenever I need some scientific data. Thanks

  7. Hi Jay, Thanks for your article.  I must admit I had completely forgotten about Academia.adu until I came across your post whilst doing some other reasearch.  Then it all came flooding back after a rather unfortunate incident whilst I was completing my MBA.  I was writing an assigment task and referenced a document that I found within that site.  To my surprise, my marks came back with a big read circle around the refernece that included “…downloaded from academia…”  stating that this site was not to be used.

    I knew that sites like wikipedia were a no no but didn’t know about this one.  Thankfully the marker was kind and did not deduct me for it.  My recommendation for anyone doing academic study would be to stick to university sites or google scholar.  Alternatively, as per Jay’s advice, create your own site by following his links.

    Paul

  8. When you are a student you are always looking for resources in order to help you succeed in collage.Sometimes its hard to find legitimate resources and seeing a website like this can really be of help to students. However i am happy you did an honest review because it is true that some of these sites do not filter information which can be very frustrating if you are looking for reliable sources to help in a  term paper or project. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Jay,

    As someone that is constantly looking to verify information about the brain, body and other interests it is good to know that academia does not have a vetting process. I will work with/use more reliable sources. I figured that academia would be more reliable than wiki but I guess not. Thank you.

  10. As someone with a background in science and research, this site clearly fails on many levels. If there is no rigour nor vetting or verification of ‘academics’ and their work, then surely it is nothing more than a glorified social media site? I’m sure there’s some really interesting ideas and papers published to the site, but it can’t be considered ‘research’. And the boosting of articles to make them ‘recommended’ adds another false layer of credibility. This site is very problematic. Someone should do a research paper on it, following the scientific method, to see what proportion of papers are genuine academic papers or not…. and then post the results to a genuine academic site!

  11. It sounds like the cons out way the pros in this review. I can see where allowing anybody to post in a forum such as Academia would be detrimental to the quality of academic information being written there. I know if I was a student looking for information for a dissertation paper I would want that information to be accurate in every respect. I think I will stay away from academia for any important knowledge that needs to be validated.

  12. I use to think that Acedemia. edu  as a site with good reputation until today where i happened to find this review on them firstly why is the site “Academia ” opened to professionals and amateur at who knows nothing at all about medical diagnosis? Does this also mean this site is for profit maximization? 

  13. I was looking for examples of papers and their site came up. Apparently I clicked on something and they charged me for the premium plan. I didn’t even know that I was charged until I saw it on my bank statement. It was $99 and I didn’t find anything helpful on the site so I moved on quickly not realizing they charged me. When I saw the charge, I emailed them to cancel and they said that it was too late. They took my money and I have no use for their service. I might as well have thrown my money in the toilet.

  14. As a regular user of this site since a few years, my first reaction is rather very positive, I could be able to download a lot of academic papers etc. from scholars, all previously edited, published or submitted (for PHD) in universities, well – known publications, and indeed the writers had a valuable academic career. I shared in conferences and email with some of these writers, so I am safe. Not different from downloading from J Store or others (you pay a lot !!!) or a some free opened sources in institutions. My research is specific, so its easy to find who writes and is a reference or at least a new study. Not Jerry’s fancies.I can add that wikipedia has an horrible reputation, and everybody uses it (as Google engine), but their articles are works on progress, with often references to scientific reliable papers, and besides in many fields, as movies, artists, TV shows, there are many useful info from fans that you dont find anywhere. As YT, the best and the worth (but in a library as well – you forget how many low quality or fake info books and Phd are staying on the shelves).
    The issue is that maybe academia edu is turning to be scammers. I subscribed last Sunday to Premium, with the discount, it worled two days, today, my subscription for one year is gone and they ask again for the full amount (that means 50% extra the annual full subscription). It can be an internal software issue, or it can be the same thing as for porn, meeting and so web sites getting your money through credit cards. ???

  15. I liked that you addressed issues about academia.edu, because I keep getting these emails saying I was mentioned. And I was about to pay for a month just to see. Now, I’m no academic in the sense of not having completed my degree and certainly not completing graduate coursework. I became ill and had to take time off again! Having said that, I have had professors tell me that my undergraduate coursework is on the level of the work of a graduate student. That may or may not be the case, but I don’t think I’ll be seeking higher-level degree even if they want me to do so. And a few have tried to encourage me to go beyond the BA. I’ll be lucky if I finish my BA in sociology due to illness.

    I just want to point out one thing. I wouldn’t cite someone unless I felt they were a source unless it came from what the academia considers a valid source. We had to use original sources and preferably peer-reviewed sources. My point is this though: Don’t be so sure that some “Jerry” in a trailer park might not have some very good work. My family is so filled with arrogance and they have accomplished a lot. They have academically surpassed me for sure! But if I told you some things they said with their so-called education, you’d likely think you were talking to someone who wasn’t educated. To avoid embarrassing my family, I won’t share links to where comments were made on the news. I’ll spare my father, who had multiple degrees and made comments that a scientist should not make, let alone someone living in a trailer park or apartment. It was that bad! Some great ideas come from people working out of their garages and homes. Just give it some thought.

    Thanks again!

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