I received a mail today from Academia.edu (a site I wasn't previously aware of), asking me to confirm that I co-authored a paper with a colleague.
Having looked into it a little it sounds like it might be a useful site - the idea of a "social network for scientists" is one I've seen the need for in the past. However, partly due to bad experiences with the seemingly similar ResearchGate, I'm also skeptical.* Without signing up for an academia.edu account the site doesn't offer much information, so I would like the following information:
What specific features does academia.edu offer to its users?
Is it genuinely useful for any of the following purposes (each of which seems genuinely needed)
- as a platform for networking with academics
- for discovering relevant research
- as an effective system for post-publication peer review
- for organising references among a small team of people working on a project
Will it send out mails to my colleagues without my express and explicit permission? (I.e. are the mails I received today the result of a deliberate action by my colleague, who is aware that I will be emailed and wishes me to join the site; or are they essentially spam from a social networking site aggressively trying to expand its user base?)
It's clear from its Wikipedia page that it's a private, venture-capital funded company. What is its business model?
In short, is this a site that has some genuine utility for academics, or should I just ignore it?
*I've never signed up for ResearchGate but I regularly receive spam from it purporting to be from my colleagues, who aren't aware that it's being sent on their behalf. I would be mortified if my senior colleagues received such mails claiming to be from me, so I won't touch it with a barge pole.