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I just got an email from Academia.edu saying that my name has been mentioned two times (Edit: now up to 150 papers!), but to see the mentions you have to upgrade to a premium account at 8.25AUD/month.

This seems very unlikely to me, because

  1. The name being mentioned is my nick name (and a very uncommon nick name!) and not my proper/working name
  2. I'm not an academic, and haven't published anything! I have done undergrad research and a little bit since then, but nothing published, and also nothing really worth referencing.

Is the "mentions" feature basically a scam?


I just noticed that the mentions page now says this:

We search for mentions of the name "Dannii Willis", "Willis, Dannii", "D Willis" or "Willis, D" in 20 million papers, books, drafts, theses, and syllabi on Academia, and around the web.

Which means that their count of mentions (currently fluctuating between 137 and 152 for me) must also include all of the David Willises, Dennis Willises, and Deborah Willises. What a joke!


Edit:

By searching on Google for my name in quotes and site:academia.edu I did find one paper that referenced a very old blog post I had written (and forgotten I had written!) But that's only one reference instead of two.

I guess unless anyone else has more data on the illegitimacy of this feature I'll have to call it real. But still a waste of money of course!

  • 5
    I'd imagine that this is a scam, if it's a "cold call" email, etc. – paul garrett Jun 20 '17 at 0:27
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    Ignore the email. – Coder Jun 20 '17 at 1:45
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    @paulgarrett I do have an account with them already, so it's not completely cold call. – curiousdannii Jun 20 '17 at 1:49
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    What do you mean by "scam"? There has been various criticism of academia.edu's "premium" features, and how it illustrates the problems of social networks that first attempt to gain traction, and then exploit their users: forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/01/23/… – Jeromy Anglim Jun 20 '17 at 4:02
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    Scam or not, it doesn't seem like its worth the monthly fee. – Scott Seidman Aug 4 '17 at 2:25
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It is so clearly a hoax, trying to get more subscribers. Please, Academia.edu software engineers, do not try the "we make errors" card, as it is not believable.

I do believe they are legit, but this mentions baiting reeks of dark patterns. If they continue doing this, they will lose credibility with the public, and end up losing the one thing people are willing to pay for, especially in research: a trusted reputation.

19

I'm a software engineer at Academia.edu. We have a feature which allows users to see which papers mention which users.

That feature is only available to premium users. During the first month, you can email us to cancel and we'll refund you. So users can test-drive the mentions feature, and if they decide they don't like it, they can cancel. We think it's useful, and we don't want users to be coerced into using it.

Also, we do make mistakes. Sometimes we mistake a user for another academic with the same name! But Google finding only one paper with a name on academia.edu does not mean that there is only one paper that mentions that name on the site.

  • 14
    Thanks. Next time we have a question about Google, I hope a Google software engineer will come and provide his side of that question! And similarly for other companies... – GEdgar Aug 4 '17 at 0:25
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    As many others have said, it is not at all clear why a site whose mission statement is the support of open access would charge at all for advanced search features. Google scholar certainly does not, and the burden of proof is on your company to explain what you are offering that google scholar does not. "We think it's useful, and we don't want users to be coerced into using it." The way that you're marketing the premium account is clearly a form of coercion. Why not just offer the first month free upfront? And why not offer it to all your uses? – Pete L. Clark Sep 15 '17 at 17:21
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    I am highly skeptical. I regularly get emails incorrectly asserting I’ve been mentioned in other people’s papers, and have a rather uncommon name. I closed my account because I decided your service was a scam in significant part due to this feature. – Stella Biderman Feb 19 '18 at 1:28
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    Hi Jack, can you confirm they recently changed to also include mentions that just match your first name's initial? Such a change must have greatly increased the false positives for many people. – curiousdannii Feb 20 '18 at 14:43
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    Why are people upvoting this "answer"? Or should I say free advertising...? – Herman Toothrot Jul 6 '18 at 12:46
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This is definitely a scam. (+1 for Dominique Kenens)

I registered 7 years ago, and haven't logged in for many years. I'm definitely not a premium user. Still I have received several of such emails from academia.edu. The latest one comes just today:

A paper published by a member of the Department of Nematology department at Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources mentions the name "John Doe"

Sometimes, the emails include the words "famous", "well-known" or something like that, such as: a well-known researcher of ABC has mentioned the name "John Doe".

This is really a stupid scam because I'm in Computer Science, and I don't have time to check the dictionary what is nematology or whatever.

My name is very rare in my country (Google returns only 3 other results and none of them are doing research). Moreover, I added a hyphen to my name in publication, since our language consists of only one-syllable words. So I highly doubt that this is just a classification mistake.

I think they want me to pay for my curiosity, but I have only less than 200 citations, and Google scholar tells me immediately when a paper citing my papers appears.

  • 2
    FYI: Nematology is the scientific discipline concerned with the study of nematodes, or roundworms. – Ooker Jul 6 '18 at 12:49
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I have a college email address that was used when I was researching one paper, so I was easily able to look back at the number of times I get emails from Academia.edu, telling me that my name has been published in a paper.

Essentially, I have gotten the email every three weeks or so for that past two years (since I did my one-off research). I have a very unique name (I'm the only one in the world with it, actually), so to be cited in papers having to do with biostatistics, allergy, immunology, cognitive functions, mental health, and more is beyond ludicrous. My research had to do with food and the arts...

I'm calling SCAM ALERT!

5

I agree that the "mentions" emails (1) are just trying to convince me to pay to subscribe and (2) are becoming less and less likely to be true mentions of my name. Today's was "A paper published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering mentions the name "---- --------"." (Using my real first and last names.) But I know for a fact that I am the only person in the world with my name if you include my first and last names, because they are a mix of ethnicities. And that includes all people who have ever lived, until a distant cousin happens to name someone with my first name - which isn't bloody likely.

And yes, I am a researcher, and I have a free account with Academia.edu, but my field is not at all related to Biotech/BE.

These solicitations from Academia.edu have definitely ramped up in frequency and detail in the past month, and it's really putting me off.

2

Its not exactly a scam, but it is grossly exaggerating hits. I routinely get emails saying that there are hits on "Stirling Westrup", but there never are. There are often hits on 'S. Westrup' but none of them are me. Frankly, I consider this to be false advertising because what is being told in the email is completely false. If the email said "Stirling Westrup - when we search on variation on your name we get 15 hits!" It would be true, but not nearly so compelling. So, they chose false advertising over dull truth. Not a good sign for something that calls itself Academic.

protected by Community Jul 6 '18 at 10:53

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