Research drives progress in science and tech, and scientists are ultimately valued by how often their research gets cited. But public access to research has been limited by traditional publishing. Academia.edu is aiming to “accelerate the world’s research” with its platform for researchers to publicize their work online. Fortune Magazine reports a 5-year study led by 10xer Yuri Niyazov has found that scientists who publish publicly receive over 80% more citations.
Like a social network for scientists, Academia.edu gives researchers a community for connecting with peers and a platform for publishing and sharing original content. The company’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s research” is attracting enormous engagement:
Academics use Academia.edu to share their research, monitor deep analytics around the impact of their research, and track the research of academics they follow. 21,427,565 academics have signed up to Academia.edu, adding 5,783,923 papers and 1,548,265 research interests. Academia.edu attracts over 36 million unique visitors a month.
In Scientists win when they are social with their work, study shows, Fortune Magazine discusses the results of Academia.edu’s 5-year study on the impact of sharing on the life cycle of articles and research. 10xer Yuri Niyazov was originally contracted as a backend programmer, but the project’s scope soon demanded more leadership than was available. Niyazov’s value as a “10xer” – a flexible and creative problem-solver – was subsequently engaged to manage the project by coordinating the engineering team, enlisting outside expertise, and driving the engineering and data science, a role he was happy to fulfill.
The results of the study are published in Open Access Meets Discoverability: Citations to Articles Posted to Academia.edu:
Using matching and regression analyses, we measure the difference in citations between articles posted to Academia.edu and other articles from similar journals, controlling for ﬁeld, impact factor, and other variables. Based on a sample size of 44,689 papers, we find that a paper in a median impact factor journal uploaded to Academia.edu receives 37% more citations after one year than a similar article not available online, 58% more citations after three years, and 83% after ﬁve years. We also found that articles posted to Academia.edu had 75% more citations than articles posted to other online venues, such as personal and departmental homepages, after ﬁve years.
Niyazov says analyzing longitudinal data will further help the company understand how to optimize the platform for scientists to more easily discover and share relevant research.
Issues and Topics for Further Research
Our results raise several questions that warrant further research. Primarily, our datadon’t allow us to conclude why papers posted to Academia.edu might receive more citations. We observed that the Academia.edu citation advantage is distinct from a general open access advantage; even amongst papers posted online elsewhere, those that are also posted on Academia.edu receive more citations. One hypothesis is that Academia.edu goes to various lengths to expose posted paper to other users. Academia.edu users are actively notiﬁed about papers posted by users they follow and in research topics they follow. This may provide more articles with more exposure than they otherwise would have had, which may lead to more citations. More data and further work would be necessary to measure how articles are discovered on the site and whether more exposure leads to further citations. Another line of study relates to the dynamics of citations. In this study, we have looked at citation counts at a ﬁxed moment in time. Other studies, notably Schwarz and Kennicutt Jr. (2004), have looked at the accumulation of citations over time. Having longitudinal data on citations would help us answer several questions. For articles uploaded to Academia.edu after they were published—which we exclude from this study—we could test for a change in the rate of citations received after uploading. For articles posted atthe same time they’re published—which we did study here—we could analyse to what extent there are feedback eﬀects. Is the relatively large citation advantage a result of being more likely to receive the ﬁrst one or two citations from posting to the site? Beyond Academia.edu, our work raises questions about how characteristics of venues matter for open access citations. To our knowledge there has been no research on what features of open access repositories or databases make articles easier to discover, and to what extent that leads to increased citations.