Academia Premium: don’t waste your money


If you have an account on academia.edu, chances are you’ve seen a few emails similar to this one:

Academia email

Clicking that button doesn’t take you to your mentions, though, it takes you to this screen:

Academia Premium

Ah, so I have to pay to see my mentions. Funny how there’s nothing about that in the email. Also, my mentions increased by 124 in 11 days, which seems unlikely.

I thought I’d see what you’re actually getting for $9.99/month or $99/year, so I signed up for a month, noting the “no questions asked” refund policy:

Payment page

Premium membership comes with a whole list of benefits:

  • Personal Websites: Reach a larger audience and showcase your research, for free
  • Advanced Search: Search the full text of 20 million papers on Academia
  • Expanded Analytics: Measure the full impact of your research
  • Mentions: Discover papers that mention you and your papers
  • Readers: See who is reading your papers
  • Profile Visitors: Learn more about those who visit your profile

Most of that seems pretty useless to me. Like most scientists, I have a personal website, and I don’t need to know who is reading my papers. The feature they’re pushing most aggressively, through direct emails to members, is the “mentions.” So I checked it out. Basically, it’s a list of papers that cite your work, with “This is me” and “This is not me” buttons for each one:

Academia mentions

Cool, I guess, but there’s nothing here I couldn’t have found out for free. If you have a Google Scholar account, your citations are already tracked, and you can even sign up for email alerts that will let you know when you get cited.

A few of the “mentions” were cases where my name showed up in the acknowledgments:

Acknowledgment

Okay, but I knew about those, too (I mean, if you’re showing up in the acknowledgments section of a paper, you should know about it).

One other problem is that Academia doesn’t always recognize that the same paper uploaded by two different authors is the same paper:

Ratcliff et al. Ratcliff et al.

So the reported number of mentions is somewhat inflated compared to the actual number of unique mentions. I didn’t do any kind of comprehensive assessment to find out how many are duplicates.

Academia Premium seems like a waste of money to me. I’m not going to call it a ripoff, because you get pretty much what you pay for. But what you get is mostly available elsewhere for free. Maybe it would be worth the money if you want to use their “personal website” as your lab page. Otherwise, I can’t imagine it being worth $99/year.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Academia isn’t around in five years. Two years ago I said,

…if ResearchGate is Facebook for nerds, Academia is our MySpace,

and I haven’t seen any reason to change that opinion. In 2014, only 29% of scientists had even heard of Academia. I haven’t seen more recent numbers, but I doubt they’ve gone up.

If Academia is looking for a way to remain relevant, charging for sort of crappy premium features probably isn’t it. For a bit of perspective, you can get a terabyte of Dropbox storage for less. In my opinion, that’s about a hundred times more useful [full disclosure: I pay for Dropbox]. For the time being, I’m going to keep my free Academia account, but I’ll be taking advantage of that “no questions asked” refund.

Comments

  1. Bruce says

    I would assume that it will be not only difficult to get a refund, but also difficult to cancel the automatic monthly renewal they likely signed you up for. Check your card statement for next month as well as this month.

    • Matthew Herron says

      Thankfully, both were pretty easy. Cancelling the automatic renewal just required clicking a link in my Account Settings page. Requesting the refund did require an email, but complete instructions and a contact form were in the FAQ’s (and easily found by searching “refund”):

      We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for all Academia Premium subscriptions. If you aren’t satisfied for any reason, please contact us, and select “refunds and cancellations.” If you know it, include the email address associated with your Academia account. For fastest processing, provide the following information:
      If you paid with credit card: the last 4 digits and expiration date of the card which you paid with.
      If you paid with Paypal: your Academia email address, or your Paypal email address.
      If you aren’t sure of either of these, please provide the email address where you received our “Welcome to Academia Premium” email.

      I had a confirmation of the refund within the hour. It could definitely have been easier (for example, they could just make the refund automatic if you cancel in the first 30 days), but it didn’t seem as if they were making it intentionally hard.

  2. Vladimir Smith says

    Academia is far superior to any “academic user” website on the internet. Academia also has far more “staying power” than the near useless “Facebook”.

    • Matthew Herron says

      I’m not going to argue about which site is “superior,” but the evidence doesn’t support that Academia has more staying power: something like a fifth as many scientists use Academia as use ResearchGate (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/512126a). That study is four years old now, but I don’t think it has turned around.

  3. Vladimir Smith says

    Why would you cite a “study” which is 4 years old? It sounds like you’re ridiculously biased toward “ResearchGate”. Do you have any “Conflicts of Interest” or “Disclosures” you need to make which would transparently explain your bias toward “ResearchGate”?

    • Matthew Herron says

      Why would you cite a “study” which is 4 years old?

      Because it’s the most recent relevant study I’m aware of. If you know of something more recent, feel free to post it to the comments.

      It sounds like you’re ridiculously biased toward “ResearchGate”.

      If you have evidence of bias, feel free to post it in the comments. Having an opinion that differs from yours is not evidence of bias.

      Do you have any “Conflicts of Interest” or “Disclosures” you need to make which would transparently explain your bias toward “ResearchGate”?

      No. I have an Academia account and a ResearchGate account; those are my only connections with either company.

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