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.

  4. Munachimso Odozie says

    @Matthew Herron I mistakenly opted in for the premium package for a year, please i would want to know if that could be refunded, however i have sent a refund letter via e-mail.

    • Maryam says

      @Munachimso Odozie Same! I also mistakenly subscribed for a year subscription, I have emailed them but its still stressing me if they will ever redund me.

      • Matthew Herron says

        Maryam, they didn’t give me any trouble about it. I’d be interested to hear if the email worked for you.

        • Maryam says

          Yeah I’ll surely let you know. It had been really stressing me because that’s quite a lot of money for me as a student. So, I came looking here to find if other people ever got refund. But yeah now I am a little relaxed.

          • Mariana says

            I just got here for the exactly same reason. Thank you Maryam for sharing your experience and Matthew for the post as well. Wish I had read it earlier!

          • Mariana says

            Maryam, I got here yesterday for the exact same reason! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thank you Matthew for the post, which I completely agreed with and wished I had read it earlier.

            Anyway, just in case more people get here looking for answers about the refund: I requested my money back yesterday and just received the answer from Academia, along with the refund receipt in another message. They were actually very helpful in my opinion. According to the e-mail, the refund may take about 5 to 10 days to appear on your statement.

          • Matthew Herron says

            That seems to have taken longer than it should, but I’m glad it worked for you.

  5. Maryam says

    But I feel they have this problem on their premium subscription page. I have seen so many of tweets from people complaining about choosing yearly plan mistakenly. It really makes me suspicious If it’s an intentional User interface tactic.

  6. oioioi99 says

    I guess Academia still has a year to go before it’s supposed to be gone… 🙂

    I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but ResearchGate is entirely focused on scholars in the sciences, with their silly metrics and opaque and worthless impact indices. It might be the FB for nerds among you guys, but it’s the BetaMax for us in the humanities: technically superior to VHS, but since nobody is on it it’s pretty much worthless…

    Academia is basic but it does what humanities need, which is to provide a platform for their old publications (often not available online at all, and without doi numbers and other fancy stuff) and a means to be smug and annoying when they publish new books and articles. This Academia does well. The nagging emails can easily be filtered away, and it takes 2 minutes to put together a (non-public) Google Scholar profile for anyone who wants citations… Having said all that, it appears that many of my colleagues DO pay for the premium, judging from the number of notifications I get about people confirming their mentioning in my uploads of old Festschrift contributions and obscure conference proceedings. Maybe their institutions pay for it? I’m in cheap-ass redbrick in the UK, so that’s not gonna happen here…

    • Matthew Herron says

      I’m always fascinated by cultural differences among fields, so thanks! I don’t really have a problem with the free version of Academia (I use it, though I’m not as vigilant about keeping it up to date as I should be). It’s just my opinion that Academia Premium doesn’t get you much that you can’t get elsewhere for free, and the way they go about trying to get you to upgrade is a little misleading (“[Click here to] View your mentions” instead of “[Click here and] Pay $99/year to view your mentions”). I also frankly don’t believe the numbers of mentions they advertise to try to get you to sign up. Mine supposedly increased by 124 in 11 days, and I’m just not that big a deal.
      I think this is a case of a company that has produced a useful, free product and is trying to figure out ways to monetize it. I have no problem with the “freemium” model; I payed for Mendeley for years, and I still pay for Dropbox, Evernote, LastPass, GaiaGPS, and I’m sure others I’m not thinking of right now. But I pay for those because doing so gets me features I want. Academia Premium doesn’t seem to me to get my anything valuable that’s not available in the free account.

  7. dali chtioui says

    By mistake i was billed for a year, Im still waiting for the refund, ive sent an email but didn’t receive any email from them

    • Munachimso Odozie says

      @dali chtioui, Sir kindly note that you cant be refunded if you don’t email them…please do email them and don’t give any chances that’s the only way you can get a refund.

  8. Santiago Mendieta says

    I did the same mistake today because I thought it was just a month but it was a year. I email academia today. I hope that they will respond me.

  9. Oyekuotor Isaac Ukwe says

    I subscribed for academia premium yesterday, and a total of twenty two thousand naira was deducted from my account. Please I need an explanation

  10. Oyekuotor Isaac Ukwe says

    I was informed by academia premium that I have 113 mentions, but up till now I can’t cite them

    • Matthew Herron says

      I don’t really know what they count as mentions, but I suspect it’s nothing useful. The numbers they claim for me are too high to be anything meaningful.

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