Most of todays openaccess preprint servers like Arxiv.org are special scientific networks for scientist have only “real” physicians in mind who are publishing papers. But is every paper who is not suitable for Arxiv automatic a fake-paper? No, there are many papers like midterm-exams papers written by students in fifth semester or paper with a non-physics background which are on the one hand clearly academic oriented and absolutely mainstream but on the other hand not welcome on the Arxiv repository. If we take, and everybody should, the Arxiv submission guidelines seriously it is forbidden for normal students to posting a paper there and also for professors in the arts or humanities. As a consequence, no paper with that subject can be found in the repository.
But who wants to classify that a physics paper of a normal student where he gets a “very good” from his teacher is not suitable for uploading to a preprint server? Yes, nobody wants that and so the Arxiv idea only to host physics paper which are written by professors is not the best idea. An alternative is out there. No, it’s not researchgate because there are also only papers welcome from the hard sciences but its academia.edu According to Alexa ranking, Academia.edu traffic ranking is lower than the researchgate counterpart. Most scientists doesn’t even know the portal, only a few of them have a profile there. But my impression is, that the openess for liberal arts is future compatible in that sense, that every academic subject is welcome.
I want to express, that physics, biology and mathematics are important but universities have a lot more to teach: for example music, history, literature and philosophy. So it’s no wonder, that some historians have decided to upload their papers to academia.edu. It’s the only commercial openaccess repository today which welcomes such content.
The roots of Researchgate are in the medical experiment. The idea is, that in daily practice a researcher analyses an important problem which has something to do with proteins, writes a lab-journal and uses researchgate for getting connection to other researchers on the same field. That is the motivation, why researchgate has today more than 14 million members who share their papers. But is working in a lab as a medical doctor the only academic discipline where openaccess will going forward? According to the published articles, biological and medicine has only a small amount of overall knowledge. And many professors at universities have in 30 years never seen a “real” scientists. They are working in a different area which is not science oriented but works more with historian sources, economy questions or culture in a general meaning. According to the researchgate help-site this knowledge has nothing to do with the aim of researchgate. It is a different subject. Or better Researchgate itself has a very focussed subject in mind and created a barrier for all papers outside of dedicated hard-science.
It is important to read also critics about academia.edu A good example is this blogpost http://mittelalter.hypotheses.org/7123 That is formulated as an open letter and get a lot of attention in the community. The author see no sense in building up an academic network which is in opposition to personal websites and in opposition to university repositories and so he decided to leave Academia.edu A main critique point is against the policy of academia.edu to establish a premium service for money. I don’t understand the point. At first, a personal website is not the same as an academic network. Academia needs repositories and communication with thousands of members. And I also not understand the second point that there is something bad with a private founded company established as a service against traditional universities. Because the role of universities will not fulfil future conditions. Main critique against traditional universities is, that they are physical located and that the students must pay enormous amount of money to get the possibility to read books. So I noticed the critique against Acadamia.edu but i have a different opinion.
I like the attitude of Academia.edu to see the subject of publishing as a business. Because today library system, universities and workforce is also business oriented. And creating knowledge, consuming knowledge and connecting people who share the same goals was in every time in worlds-history a business topic which has to do with earning money. Alone the united states are spending actually more than 17 billion US$ per year for the library industrial complex. None of the universities libraries where printed books are archived is for free. The best thing what Openaccess movement can do is at first step to calculate the real costs of publishing and build a new business model around them to get the money back from the customers. That’s exactly the same what Red Hat does, General Motors or McDonalds.
The best example that non-business preprint server will not work is arxiv. That server was setup like a hobby project from an enthusiastic single administrator in his spare time and until now, only he and his best buddy’s are allowed to upload content there. That exactly the opposite of free flow of information, it is more like a medieval cathedral. If we have learned one lecture from opensource movement than that earning money is a fundamental part of the movement to bring the development forward.