Recently, I started receiving requests from Academia.edu to review papers for their Academia Letters publication. The requests are seemingly generated by an algorithm as they state in the emails: “While we verify all returned reviews for author qualification, on rare occasion our algorithm will misidentify a member’s research area.” As such, it is not surprising that the company tries to automatize the labor intensive involvement of humans and speed up the review process. In fact, I could not find any information regarding an editorial board, if any, for the publication.
I don’t mind deleting a few more spam emails a day and, having been an entrepreneur myself, I appreciate experimenting with different ideas. However, the approach that the platform has adopted with Academia Letters is so totally wrong that one must wonder what are the intentions behind it. The approach is seemingly not much different from predatory journals, although since you don’t have to pay money to get published I rather call Academia Letters merely a fake journal.
- First, Academia.edu is not open access. You need to be signed into the platform to download articles. While an account may not cost you money, you pay with your data and, in the worst case, by academia being locked into the platform just as we are as individuals with Facebook. If you think scientific research should be openly available for the betterment of society and business, Academia Letters is a step backwards.
- Second, real academic journals are governed by academics. While you may feel that traditional publishers charge extortionate fees for their journals, those journals are at least run by academic communities, not by a for-profit company and its algorithms. This is critical since academic knowledge lives in an academic community — if you cut out the community, you are not anymore publishing academic knowledge.
- Third, emphasizing the speed of publishing without quality is plain stupidity. Do we really need a rapid fire of bogus ‘journal’ articles that have not been properly vetted by the community? Anyone can, after all, publish whatever they want in the web. It may be tempting to get a ‘publication’ and perhaps some ‘citations’ for your Academia Letters paper, yet those have very little to do with advancing academic knowledge.
The scholarly community can very well stand one more fake journal like Academia Letters — so why the rant and rush to delete my account? The tipping point for me was the kind of vision for academia that the company, Academia Inc., represents with its Academia Letters and other initiatives; for instance, the company previously toyed with the idea of allowing individuals to promote their papers for a fee. The company seemingly does not understand or care — I don’t know which one is worse — what academia is about.
We have seen what happens when for-profit platforms take over a domain of social activity — and we do not want that to happen for academia. Traditional academic publishers have their problems, but Academia Letters or, for that matter, Academia.edu are not a solution but a step to a potentially very wrong direction. As a venture-funded platform, Academia Inc. will happily turn publishing into a rapid-fire game of quick, shallow publications, likes, meaningless citations and other vanity metrics — if that makes money.
Finally, A platform like Academia.edu may be tempting for a junior scholar desperate to get a publication and few citations, but be warned. Publishing your paper in a fake journal like Academia Letters does no good to your reputation and may mean that you cannot publish your work later in a real journal.