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Creating & Managing an Academic Profile

This guide focuses on skills and tools for discussing, interacting, presenting, writing, commenting, and finally publishing your research in the social networks used by academics.

The scholarly information life cycle has traditionally focused on the published article or book as the key output of the process but with the growth of social media and networked technologies, the cycle has expanded the reach of a scholar's ideas in new and interactive ways. This guide focuses on skills and tools for engaging in the "new" scholarly communication environment.

Each form of social network engagement provides different opportunities to communicate but also different levels of engagement with social media technologies and networks disperse the information.

Before jumping into the academic social network environment, you need to ask yourself the following questions. These questions will help guide you in making choices about how you engage and with what tools.  

What type of engagement are you interested in developing?

One of the challenges when developing your academic profile is making the decision as to what technology you will use.  When making this decision, you should consider what is the purpose for your engagement. This could include:

  • Connecting to other scholars
  • Sharing your knowledge
  • Highlighting a particular skill or ability

For example, if you are trying to connect to scholars in your academic community, following them on Twitter or Academia.edu may be where you begin.

What are you trying to communicate now?

Thinking carefully about what you want to say about yourself as scholar is an important part of developing and managing your profile. However, it's important to remember that what you want to communicate will impact the technology you use and the item you share.  You may want to highlight the following:

  • Formal writing skills
  • Public speaking skills
  • Classroom and instruction skills

For example if you are interested in showing your public speaking skills, video recording a conference paper presentation and posting it online would be an excellent choice.

How much time and effort do you want to put into updating and maintaining your online profile?

When developing your academic profile the last thing you want to do is leave a partially developed or unfinished profile online.  Making decisions around how much time you have for developing your online profile will help guide you tp the right tool to use.  The following chart outlines the type of profile tool and the time it will take you to maintain it.

There are a number of risks associated with academic profiles that are developed through commercial tools. While there are a number of benefits to engaging in using these tools, it's important for you to be aware of the risks and tensions to make an educated decision on using these tools. 

Dirty data for academic profiles is the reporting of incorrect publication data (e.g. number of times an article is cited). The quality of the data will impact the metrics associated with your academic work, putting into question the validity of what is reported. For example, the quality of Google Scholar citations has also been questioned, because they’re different from what scholars have traditionally considered being a citation worth counting: a citation in the peer-reviewed literature. Google Scholar gathers citations from online undergraduate papers, slides, white papers, and other non-traditional sources. Because of this, Google Scholar citation counts are much higher than those from competitors like Scopus and Web of Science. That can be a good thing. But you can also argue it’s “inflating” citation counts unfairly. It also makes Google Scholar’s citation counts quite susceptible to gaming techniques like using fake publications to fraudulently raise the numbers. 

Academic profile tools share a common limitation. Each of the sites is somewhat of an information silo. You cannot export your citation data, meaning that even if you were to amass very impressive citation statistics on the platform, the only way to get them onto your website, CV, or annual report is to copy and paste them. This siloed approach to platform building definitely contributes to researchers profile fatigue, that of maintaining multiple spaces with their academic records. 

"Free" academic profile tools are most often created by organizations seeking to monetize the platform. It is important to remember that you are not the customer when you interact with these companies, even though you may feel like one. Instead, you are the product that these services seek to monetize and/or “offer up” to advertisers. Companies like Academia.edu and ResearchGate are an extension of those who monetize what many scholars believe should be freely shared. Importantly, if these companies are bought, sold, or go out of business, what would happen to the content you’ve placed there? This is one reason why it is advisable to first upload items you want to share – articles, preprints, postprints, conference posters, proceedings, slide decks, lesson plans, etc. – to cIRcle, UBC Library's institutional repository.

When using a commercial tool to develop your profile, questions about the privacy of your data and the data of other users is an important consideration. How your information is used, packaged, and potentially sold or made available to others, may lead you to question whether the tool is worth investing in. Familiarizing yourself with the Terms of Service and Privacy Statement of the tools to understand what you may be giving up in using the “free” tool
 

Most publishers require authors to sign a publication agreement/copyright transfer prior to a manuscript being published which outlines what you can/cannot do with your own work in the future (we will cover this later in the challenge). Uploading your work – especially a publisher’s pdf – to an academic profle tool may be a violation of the terms of the publishing agreement, whereas uploading it to an institutional repository may not be (or can be negotiated not to be).
Adaption Statements

There are several tensions that exist for researchers and scholars in using academic profile tools that are associated with the intentions behind the use of the information provided by users.  Some of these tensions include:

  • Requiring an identification tool (e.g. ORCID, ResearcherID, etc.) to publish within a journal may be against academic freedom
  • Reliable machine-readable research outputs can be used for data mining without the permission of the profile creators 
  • Undesirable use of research outputs data for algorithmic rating/ranking of researchers reinforcing a problematic system of evaluation 
  • The creation of a value system that reinforces peer pressure to create such a profile and optimize rankings through questionable practices  
  • Loss of control over communication about publication outputs and presenting the content in a way that is relevant to the researcher
  • Quality control of the academic profile tool itself, including the creation of fake, false, outdated, or "ghost" accounts