Social network sites, like Facebook, allow individuals to connect with people they are acquainted with or share some sort of interest. While this is seen as probably the most popular social network site, there is a social networking platform that allows users to connect with one another based on academic research, called Academia.edu. This site is specifically for academics that wish to share their research with others in their field. It allows for the user to monitor how many times their work has been read online, permitting them to see if their research is relevant and has aroused interest in the academic community. Individuals could even follow their research field in case of new developments from other academics. This site has opened the world up to new venues of learning, and as a History graduate student I know the site has proven beneficial when conducting my own research.
Richard Price founded Academia.edu in September 2008 following the new trend of “open science or open access movements.” This new internet society follows the belief that research should be distributed instantly for others to view and use in their own field of interest. Many regarded this new site as a platform where the academics hold authority over their own research, providing them with a way to view who reads their work and how many times. Users also have the option of receiving feedback from other users on their presented work. This aspect to the site opens up dialogue between researchers who normally would not have the opportunity to discuss with one another. Interestingly, this site combines both academic and social networking practices, creating a new space online for research to be circulated and practiced.
Academia.edu offers public historians, like other researchers, a platform to display their own work. While their job probably has its own website, Academia.edu is free to users and can be accessed throughout the world. Some museum, archives, or library websites have restrictions on who could view the work presented online, especially academic papers. Therefore, public historians could upload their current work to Academia.edu to gage if the respected community is interested in their research. If the reviews aren’t substantial, they have saved money and time from not attempting to present it on an actual institute’s site. If the work receives good reviews, this site could be shown as evidence for further funding into their own research.
This style of social networking, a website that has open access for all, is important for public historians to think about for their own institution’s website. As museums, archives, and libraries are constantly trying to draw in the interest of more people, digital collections and resources are increasingly used. However, some require login or onsite access. While copyrights of certain materials might prevent specific collections or exhibits to be shared openly, it is still important to notice what sites like Academia.edu are trying to provide to the world, information that they usually cannot get their hands on. Studying the progression of such open access movements could help strengthen their own institution’s online presence.