During the “What would you say?” workshop last week, which covered topics like the Dartmouth Faculty Open Access Policy and the Dartmouth Digital Commons, some of our participants had questions about academic social networking sites (e.g., Academia.edu and ResearchGate) and how they are different than an institutional repository. The question is: once it is available, why should Dartmouth scholars share their publications within the Dartmouth Academic Commons rather than ResearchGate and/or Academia.edu? This is a great question, especially since many scholars make use of these sites because they are highly visible and easy to use.
[Open repository work at Dartmouth is transitioning. For the most current information about the status of open repository development for the Dartmouth faculty scholarship, please see: https://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/schcomm/DDC.html]
Sharing content in an open access repository benefits an author in ways that sharing it in Academia.edu does not. Many authors don’t know that sites like Academia.edu are commercial with goals of profiting from content; open access repositories are typically non-profits with goals of preserving and providing long-term access to content. In order to better understand this and many other differences between social networking sites and open access repositories, a colleague facilitating the workshop recommended that we all read the University of California’s Office of Scholarly Communication article titled, “A social networking site is not an open access repository“. This article does a wonderful job of explaining in a clear, concise, and neutral way what open access repositories, like the Dartmouth Academic Commons, can offer that academic social networking sites cannot. The article makes note that there may be a time and place for authors to share their work on Academia.edu or ResearchGate, but it also brings important awareness to how social networking sites and open access repositories differ in what they take from authors and what they provide in return.