Part of the reason I developed this site is to reduce my reliance on quasi-commercial third parties. I’m not comfortable supporting academic capitalism by my involvement in some academic networking sites. In particular I have significant concerns about Academia dot edu. Recently
he site has changed to include a number of ‘premium’ options at a fee. This raised alarm bells so I bit of digging – I discovered that it is in fact owned by a commercial operator who uses the data analytics to sell to other commercial operators – i.e. they sell data. That is, they are making money from our involvement, and now offering more services at a cost but still based on our free involvement. Its just another ring in the commercial world of academic publishing.
While this is the intractable problem of commercial ownership of most journals, I personally am not happy to ‘voluntarily’ add to it by my voluntary contribution of my woks to the site.
From what I have explored ‘ResearchGate’ uses data analytics on usage to sell targeted advertising, and was initially backed by venture capital and the gates foundation. It is owned by a company that has 3 shareholders, those being the academics who developed it from Germany. It seems to use the revenue to support the system (at the moment as best I can see). It doesn’t seem (yet) to be commercial I the sense of profit to a private individual or company. However it is also imperfect as the impact score it generates can be easily gamed (by asking questions, answering questions, endorsing people and so forth – not at all linked to citations and views of ones papers uploaded). It also uses your contact list to elicit responses from colleagues.
In the end it seems institutional repositories committed to open access and preservation of publications are the real ethical solution.
Personally, I have deleted my academia account outright and am reserving judgement on my use of ResearchGate.