Well, this is it. I have decided to remove all my publications from Academia and Research Gate (and no, I will not insert a link to those sites).
Sometimes, there are things you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but you didn’t feel like it, or you were a bit afraid of the consequences . In my case, I thought that I didn’t have the choice as a PhD student; I’ve been told that I need to be visible online and that scholars love those platforms for their simplicity and their ergonomy. I thought that if my community uses Academia and Research Gate, I had to follow their rules in order to be (accepted as / regarded as) a full member of this community. It is true that for many young scholars who do not have access to a page of the websites of their universities, Academia and Research Gate offer simple ways to publicly present your research.
And then I realised: no. I don’t have to. I can, because it looks like it makes things easier and because it boosts your narcissistic ego – oh, I’ve been downloaded x times! But you don’t have to, and you shouldn’t, for many, many reasons that can’t be compiled in a single blog post (and that have already been listed in excellent articles such as Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu or Delete your academia.edu account… (there are other ways to share your work)). The trigger on this ordinary day was the small add on Academia, suggesting me for the umpteenth time to create a personal website, while I don’t want to, don’t need to create one. And I thought: Why do Academia and Research Gate always make me feel like I could be missing out on something (a reference related to my work, maybe even a reference citing my work) or like I’m not doing enough?
Because this is the way modern consumerism and free market work:
- by creating artificial needs (reading this paper, knowing who downloaded your document, having your personal website);
- and by fostering competition between social actors (publishing more, always, more, always).
Academia and Research Gate pretend they promote open access . But what they really promote is making money out of our work (this article explains their business model). They encourage to look at ratings and impact factors – all things that do not necessarily say a lot about the quality of your research, especially when you don’t publish exclusively in English (and when you’re just beginning). They make distinctions between categories of scholars: the premium feature for instance allows you to know who downloaded your work, thus introducing the pernicious idea that some downloads are more valuable than others. As Sarah Bond asks in her article Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu:
Are we supposed to somehow value that a full professor looked at our work over, say, an adjunct?
Academia and Research Gate are inherently unfair to everyone:
- to researchers whose work, freely produced and, more importantly, overwhelmingly with public funds, is used for commercial purposes;
- to institutions who hosted research, made it happen, and yet have no way to collect information on their own (!) researchers (the open archive HAL-SHS, on the other hand, makes it possible for universities, research centres, etc., to aggregate the work written by their researchers, to produce for instance the publication list of the members of a given lab);
- to users (scholars or not) who often have no clue on how to cite the downloaded paper since Academia and Research Gate do not care at all about metadata (e.g. the date, the pages, the journal, etc.).
This might seem that things that you’ve heard before – to be honest, I knew all that, but I was trying to make sense of my cognitive dissonance, defined on Wikipedia as “the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values”. I knew that the interests pursued by Academia and Research Gate (basically, making profit) were not aligned with my values (sharing knowledge and, let’s be honest, making my scientific contribution visible), but I had come to convince myself that it was necessary — as a young scholar trying to make her way in academia (with a small a).
Yet it is precisely as a young scholar that I should not accept this capitalistic logic at the very beginning of my career, even if it means that my work will be less read, less cited, less recognised, maybe. I truly believe we should not subject research to the market forces, and while this might seem a (very) naive perspective given the current budget cuts (see for instance, in France), I just want to do my part. I am not judging anyone who uses Academia and Research Gate; I just want to make you aware that other solutions exist.
Last but not least, I have not deleted my account on Academia, but only removed all the papers (I deleted my account of Research Gate, though, because it kept assigning me papers I have written although I had removed them from my profile). Why is that? I hope that open access can potentially spread even more if I upload a statement directly on those platforms explaining why I won’t upload my publications there anymore:
I really hope that many will join the open access movement, but far, far away from Academia and Research Gate. I already feel like I’m reacting a bit late, but I feel kind of relieved to finally take that first step.
I strongly encourage you to upload your work on HAL-SHS, where your research (published or not) will be protected and linked to you as a single person, even when you change affiliations (especially useful given the temporary positions everyone gets those days…). I have also heard that Zenodo can be a good alternative (this article even explains how to migrate your papers from Academia to Zenodo).
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
 After a quick search on Twitter, I realised that I wasn’t the only one who needed some time, though. Even Sarah Bond, who initiated the debate, posted on 20 January 2017: “It took me a long time to get here but the only place I’ll be putting my work from now on is @UILibraries repository”.
 “Academia’s mission is to make every scholarly and scientific paper available for free on the internet”, https://www.academia.edu/upgrade?feature=searchm&from_navbar=true, accessed on 14 March 2018.
Bond, Sarah, 2017 (23 January). “Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/01/23/dear-scholars-delete-your-account-at-academia-edu/#66f814902d62, accessed on 21 March 2018.
Elden, Stuart, 2014 (24 January). “Delete your academia.edu account… (there are other ways to share your work)”, https://progressivegeographies.com/2017/01/24/delete-your-academia-edu-account-there-are-other-ways-to-share-your-work/, accessed on 21 March 2018.
Gruber, Ethan, 2017 (23 January). “Open Access, Academia.edu, And Why I’m All-In on Zenodo.org”, http://numismatics.org/pocketchange/open-access-academia-edu-and-why-im-all-in-on-zenodo-org/, accessed on 21 March 2018.
Maly, Ico, 2017 (26 April). “The end of Academia.edu: how business takes over, again”, https://www.diggitmagazine.com/column/end-academiaedu-how-business-takes-over-again, accessed on 21 March 2018.