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Scientific publishing is much like the regular media world, except that instead of being measured by clicks or pageviews, researchers are judged according to the number of citations they get in papers written by other scientists. But in both cases, being social with your work seems to help a great deal: according to a study by Academia.edu that was released this week, scientists who shared their papers on the service got 83% more citations than those who didn’t.
Interestingly enough, the influence of this social behavior seems to display a kind of “long tail” effect over time—after one year of being shared on the network, papers have an average of 37% more citations, and after three years that climbs to 58% more citations, and hits 83% after five years. The study looked at more than 44,000 papers on a wide range of scientific topics.
Since Academia.edu is a venture-funded social network whose entire purpose is to get researchers to publish their papers there, this result may not come as a big surprise. But CEO Richard Price—who started the company after getting a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford—says the study and its conclusions were rigorously tested by the data scientists at Polynumeral. Academia.edu is also publishing all of the data behind the paper on the code-sharing and blogging site Github so anyone can challenge it. Said Price:
I think this may be the most scrutinized piece of research ever done in this area. We are posting the study, along with the data set of 44,000 papers, and we are posting the code on Github, in keeping with our open-science principles. We’re also going to email the study and data to all 21 million of our members.The study also showed that posting a paper on Academia.edu was better—from a citation point of view—than just publishing it on a personal blog, or on any of the sites that also offer open-access scientific publishing, such as ArXiv or PLoS (the Public Library of Science). After five years, papers published on Academia.edu had an average of 75% more citations than those published elsewhere online.