Aaron Saenz at Singularity Hub has an excellent long analysis of why anyone would want to give Academia.edu an injection of $4.5m of venture funds (which they just did). The payoff seems to be the ability for large research investors to spot leading-edge emerging trends and topics in the crunched statistics. Statistics that can potentially stream out from sites such as Academia.edu, arXiv.org, Mendeley, and ResearchGate. And, as noted here on the JURN blog, Microsoft’s academic search seems to be headed the same social-network-y way, albeit at Microsoft’s usual glacial pace. Google Scholar responded nippily to Microsoft’s changes just a few days later. Such social networking -based data extractions have dangers, of course, in terms of pushing research funding further toward a lurching playground-like game of “follow my leader”. I daresay that process happens informally anyway, at conferences and in forums, but one has to worry about the valuable proto-research that might get trampled underfoot (or quietly whisked off to China) in such tech-accelerated stampedes.

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