If you have an account on academia.edu, chances are you’ve seen a few emails similar to this one:
Clicking that button doesn’t take you to your mentions, though, it takes you to this screen:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.