Social Networks and Academia…12.24.08

24 12 2008

Here is an excerpt from In The Library With a Lead Pipe [] entitled “Social Networking With A Brain…” but read the whole post for an anlysis of each site:

Social networking may have started out as a way for students to keep track of their friends, but it has expanded in just about every direction. These days, you can find at least one related social networking site on just about any general topic, including musicphotographytelevisionbooks,shopping, and bookmarking. But it isn’t all fun games. Job sites like Monster and LinkedIn began the evolution from social networking to professional networking, and academia has joined the fray as a number of networking sites specifically for academics have popped up in recent years. Now we can add ‘research’ to the list above.

The impetus for this blog post was an email that has been making the rounds, originating from Dr. Richard Price of Oxford University, that reads as follows:

I recently finished my Ph.D on the philosophy of perception from Oxford. With a team of people from Stanford and Cambridge, I’ve just launched a website,, which does two things:

– It shows academics around the world structured in a ‘tree’ format, displayed according to their departmental and institutional affiliations.
– It enables academics to see news on the latest research in their area – the latest people, papers and talks.

We are hoping that will eventually list every academic in the world — Faculty Members, Post-Docs, Graduate Students, and Independent Researchers. Academics can add their departments, and themselves, to the tree by clicking on the boxes.

The message concludes with the names of a few notables who have joined (or been added) to the site, and a request to assist Dr. Price and friends in their efforts by further circulating the announcement.

Call me a sucker, but I got that message and immediately joined up, forwarded it to my colleagues, and started envisioning the possibilities. What intrigues me is’s combination of a professional networking site with a digital repository. Could this take the place of our nascent institutional repository or save my fellow librarians from having to put together an institutional bibliography each year?


A screen shot of's homepage.

A screen shot of’s homepage.


The networking-repository hybrid model was new to me, though I learned later that is not the first to do this. Nor is it the only virtual platform where researchers can create a profile and search for others with similar research interests. A lot of people in academia already use Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with their colleagues and friends, but and its competitors are different because they were specifically created to serve the needs of academics, in terms of research, professional networking, listing citations, and file sharing. Try some of those activities on Facebook, and you’ll soon agree that it falls far short of an academic’s networking needs.

Here’s an overview of the major academic networking sites and their features (if you know of others I overlooked, please comment below). All allow you to create a profile and search for other academics by research interest, so I’ve omitted those features in the table.

In addition to the characteristics above, these are the qualities that make each site unique.

  • Networking for academics in all fields. Offers unique visual format with organization by institution. Features Facebook Connect.
  • BibApp: Must be hosted on your server for campus-specific organization of faculty experts and research. Functions more like a catalog of faculty than a networking site, but could be used either way.
  • Epernicus: Networking targeted for scientists. Features “BenchQs,” which is like Yahoo! Answers for science.
  • Graduate Junction: Networking for graduate students that professes to be less intimidating than professional sites. Offers a conference diary & job listings.
  • Labmeeting: Networking for scientists in the biomedical and related sciences. Offers features to assist in organizing and sharing information in lab settings. Also includes strong privacy protection.
  • Pronetos: Networking for academics in all fields. Organization by discipline, and offers discussion forums for each discipline…”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: