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Humanist Archives: April 10, 2020, 8:34 a.m. Humanist 33.751 - on using academia.edu, continued

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 751.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2020-04-10 07:00:35+00:00
        From: Norman Gray 
        Subject: on academia.edu

[The following note rested in limbo for a time. --WM]


Ken Friedman wrote:

People can only do so much with their time. I do research. I edit a 
journal, which is available open access on the World Wide Web. I make 
my own documents and teaching resources available on Academia. I'm not 
prepared to manage a web site just so that people who don't like 
Academia can read me.

And quite right, too!

Only a minority of academics should be managing their own website.
That's partly because they have better things to do, and partly because
the things that make an academic website valuable are fussy things to do
with long-term curation, which are both more important, and harder to do
correctly, than most folk expect.  A personally hosted website is the
fourth-best option here.

The third-best option might be a site like academia.edu.  I don't have
strong opinions about them, but although I see no evidence that they're
wicked, they don't give a very positive impression to me personally.
There's more one could say here.

The very best option is a disciplinary repository such as arxiv.org and
its imitators, but not every discipline has one of those (I think
journals have a defensible function of being the zeroth-best option in
terms of curation and preservation, but let's leave those out of this
discussion about ways one can manage this as an individual).

The second-best option is... the library.  As librarians repeatedly
remind us, their job is not fundamentally about books, but about
information dissemination, and the library, or a library consortium, is
_the_ place on campus which should be managing an institutional
repository.  If your institution doesn't have one, then the most
productive thing to do might not be to start a website of your own, but
to work out how, bureaucratically or administratively, to help the
library start.  Your enquiry may be the n-th quantum of 'evidence of
community demand' that (to their jubilation) gets them to a winning case
for local funding.

An institution which _doesn't_ have such a repository should be asked
some penetrating questions from its staff, starting with 'why not?'
Speaking personally, I think it looks bad for an institution if they
support their academics so poorly, that they have to go to academia.edu
to disseminate their non-journal work (this isn't a dig at academia.edu:
they'd have to be garlanded in roses before I thought they were a better
solution than an academic library of some sort).

Of course, this remark doesn't help if you're working outside of an
institution (I omit a mass of other qualifications and hedges from the

Best wishes,


Norman Gray  :  https://nxg.me.uk
SUPA School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK

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