Academia.edu is “a tree of academics around the world.” It’s exactly what it says: once you become a member, it allows you to place yourself at one ‘leaf’ of the tree; as you go up the hierarchy (or, down the tree), you go through your department, institution/university, and country, with the trunk being the world.
It’s a free site; membership is open to anyone who’s a faculty member, post-doc, or graduate student. Once you register, you can create a node for yourself in the hierarchy I mentioned above. If some of the other nodes in the tree are missing (say, your institution or department), you just go ahead and create those nodes as well.
Once you have your own node on the tree, Academia.edu “enables [you] to have an easy-to-maintain academic webpage” with a nice URL, like “your-univ.academia.edu/your-name.” For example, here’s my webpage. Better yet, the webpage of one of the founders of Academia.edu, Richard Price, will give you a better idea about what all you can use the site for (some of which I describe below).
To be sure, there are many sites that allow you to create a home page for yourself, but they typically give you a “xyz.com” URL. For an academic, there’s nothing like having a URL with “academia.edu”!
On your own website on Academia.edu, you can
- store your papers, books, talks, CV, teaching material
- give links to your other home pages on the web, and
- start a blog! (Here’s mine; the blog functionality is not all that great, though).
In short, your webpage on Academia can be an excellent and permanent home for your ‘academic portfolio’.
Academia.edu has some social networking features, such as followers, friends, contacts, … There’s also an internal e-mail mechanism through with you can contact other members of Academia.edu.
Overall, I really like Academia.edu. As it gets better, it has the potential to give sites like Nature Network a serious competition.
What are the features that I would really like on academia.edu? Here are several that I can think of right now:
- A good e-mail feature (firstname.lastname@example.org) that can be used for corresponding with other academics, journals, publishers, …
- A better blog platform with RSS feeds, and so on. Right now, it’s too rudimentary for any serious use.
- Academia.edu does a good job of highlighting one’s individual portfolio. It will be nice if it can aggregate data on individuals to present a departmental portfolio as well. Such a feature can present data on faculty, fields of interest, publications, academic programs, etc. The data that cannot be obtained from the individuals (for example, academic programs) can, in principle, be obtained through a wiki. I realize that this will require collecting information in a structured fashion, but it’s worth it.