Academia.Edu and “Open Science”

December 1st, 2011

Academia.Edu seems to be a cool new social network for academics. TechCrunch has a nice write up.

I just made a profile. I wonder how this will jive with SSRN?

This seems to be a part of a trend known as Open Science where academics are making their research and data available open source.

Founder Richard Price (whose Academia profile you can check out here) says that aside from getting an increasing amount of traction with researchers, the site is also benefitting from a recent movement among universities and researchers that’s referred to as ‘Open Science‘. If you’ve ever tried looking up scholarly papers online, you’ve likely encountered one of the many paywalls put up by the journals those papers were published in. Access to these papers can be very expensive, depending on the journal — in some cases prohibitively so. In short, the information is fragmented and doesn’t flow freely.

Recently some scientists have begun to combat this by deeming their papers ‘open access’, thereby making them publicly accessible for free. Princeton now requires researchers to get a waiver if they want to assign all copyright to a journal; MIT and Harvard have both enacted open access policies as well. Many researchers believe that this open access will help streamline the research itself, allowing for faster innovation. benefits from this movement because it means that researchers are free to share papers amongst themselves on the site. Price says that is already the largest platform for sharing these research articles, and the company looks to help foster this trend going forward.

Paul Allen had a piece in WSJ on “Open Science” yesterday:

A crucial aspect to this project—and others the Allen Institute has pursued over the last eight years—is an “open science” research model. Early on, we considered charging commercial users for access to our online data. From a strictly financial standpoint, it made sense to reap front-end fees and, down the line, intellectual property royalties. The revenue could cover the high costs of maintenance and development to keep the resource current and useful.

But our mission was to spark breakthroughs, and we didn’t want to exclude underfunded neuroscientists who just might be the ones to make the next leap. And so we made all of our data free, with no registration required. The Institute would have no gatekeeper. Our terms-of-use agreement is about 10% as long as the one governing iTunes.

Our facility is neither the first nor the last to use a shared database to embrace “open science” and reject the competitive, single-lab R&D paradigm. Traditional research incentives—where journal publications are the coin of the realm—tend to discourage vital sharing.

Most important, we generate data for the purpose of sharing it. Since opening shop in 2003, we’ve had 23 public releases, or about three per year. We don’t wait to analyze our raw data and publish in the literature. We pour it onto the public website as soon as it passes our quality control checks. Our goal is to speed others’ discoveries as much as to springboard our own future research.

Yes I think this is the key. Sharing data *before* publishing it in journals.

This is something that I have tried to implement at the Harlan Institute and at FantasySCOTUS.