Critical Scholarly Communication

Alternatives to Academia.edu

Exploring Free, Open-Access, Not-for-Profit Archives & Repositories

Paywalls. Questionable companies. The pressures of curating a digital presence. Copyright confusion. There are many challenges facing scholars who want to share their work widely and accessibly. This blog post aims to help scholars navigate some issues around sharing their publications using the tools of not-for-profit archives and institutional repositories.

Your first question might be: what’s wrong with Academia.edu? As the academic networking platform has gained popularity, scholars have also begun to question the consequences of its corporate form and its influence on the future of “credibility metrics” in academic publishing. First, despite its .edu domain, Academia.edu is not affiliated with any educational institution and is a for-profit corporation. Like Facebook and other for-profit social networks, digital humanities scholar Kathleen Fitzpatrick tells us, “[Academia.edu] does not have as its primary goal helping academics communicate with one another, but is rather working to monetize that communication.” As Richard Price, Founder and CEO of Academia.edu, made clear in a 2012 interview, the company aims to restructure everything from peer review to tenure review with new forms of “credibility metrics” in academic publishing—in particular, selling its user data to publishers in the form of a “‘trending papers’ algorithm, analogous to Twitter’s trending topics algorithm”. While Price claims these innovations will improve the speed and accuracy (“larger sample sizes”) of peer review, others argue that Academia.edu’s relationship to public education is unjust: profiting off of the un-paid labor of the academics who post content and provide data by using the platform.

In the face of these questions and concerns, I want to offer some free, open access, and non-profit alternatives. There are two basic options: institutional repositories (like our own CUNY Academic Works) and discipline-targeted platforms (like SocArXiv). Below is a compilation of repositories, archives, and networks that cover various fields and subfields, although there are more options out there!

What can I post?

The acceptable forms of content vary from platform to platform, but they all allow you to post some form of a publication or research data. If the article has been or will be submitted to a journal, use the helpful tool called Sherpa/Romeo to find the acceptable version (preprint, post-print, etc) to upload (see prior Social Mediums post on copyrights). (Related: On Google Scholar, another place where your articles will appear in searches, you can edit your account to link to multiple versions of your publications, a more accessible version and the version behind the paywall)

All Disciplines

Institutional Repositories like our own CUNY Academic Works, “a service of the CUNY Libraries dedicated to collecting and providing access to the research, scholarship and creative work of the City University of New York.” (See CUNY GC Library blog post on “Why You Should Ditch Academia.edu and Use CUNY Academic Works”)

Zenodo, funded by the European Commission, is “an open repository for all scholarship, enabling researchers from all disciplines to share and preserve their research outputs, regardless of size or format. Free to upload and free to access, Zenodo makes scientific outputs of all kinds citable, shareable and discoverable for the long term.”


Arxiv is “a free distribution service and an open archive for scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. arXiv is a collaboratively funded, community-supported resource founded by Paul Ginsparg in 1991 and maintained and operated by Cornell University.”

Social sciences

SocArXiv is an “open archive of the social sciences, provides a free, non-profit, open access platform for social scientists to upload working papers, preprints, and published papers, with the option to link data and code.”


Humanities Commons (HC) is “a network for people working in the humanities. Discover the latest open-access scholarship and teaching materials, make interdisciplinary connections, build a WordPress Web site, and increase the impact of your work by sharing it in the repository.”


Bond, Sarah. 2017. “Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu.” Forbes. January 23, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/01/23/dear-scholars-delete-your-account-at-academia-edu/.

Cirasella, Jill. 2015. “Why You Should Ditch Academia.Edu and Use CUNY Academic Works.” Graduate Center Library Blog (blog). November 6, 2015. https://gclibrary.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2015/11/06/ditch-academia-edu/.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2015. “Academia, Not Edu.” Blog. Kathleen Fitzpatrick (blog). October 26, 2015. https://kfitz.info/academia-not-edu/.

Shema, Hadas. 2012. “Interview with Richard Price, Academia.Edu CEO.” Scientific American Blog Network. October 31, 2012. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/information-culture/interview-with-richard-price-academia-edu-ceo/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *