In a second round of funding, the Internet startup Academia.edu has raised $11.1 million earmarked to change the way that researchers publish papers. Academia hopes to make papers available to all and substitute the success of companies like Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and LinkedIn Corp (NASDAQ:LNKD) for the more traditional peer-review process.
Ben Ling joining Academia’s Board of Directors
The second round of funding (Series B) was led by Khosla Ventures who joined earlier investors Spark Capital and True Ventures. Khosla’s lead in this round of funding will see Ben Ling joining Academia’s board of directors, while Khosla founder Vinod Khosla will take an advisory role.
“The goal is to have every single science PDF ever written available for free on the Internet and to build a network of scientists interacting with those papers that will change the face of peer review,” the San Francisco-based company said of its mission.
Since Academia.edu’s launch in 2008, it has published well over one and a half million papers with handfuls being added each day.
Functions of Academia
Presently, scientific paper publishing generally involves submitting a paper to a journal which will then find researchers to review it before it decides whether or not to publish it. The problem with this is that publishers often charge huge sums of money to access research that is quite often publicly funded. Additionally, while universities often have journal subscriptions that allow employees and students access, those outside of academia are forced to pay for each paper that interests them. Academia.edu was founded to open up this process and make it both faster and cheaper for researchers.
So how will Academia.edu make money for its investors?
“When we’ve built what we hope will become this new digital infrastructure around scientific research, there are several ways to monetize [it] that stem from mining the vast array of data we will have access to, such as providing information to pharmaceutical companies about trending areas or breakthroughs in science that haven’t yet hit their radar,” he said. “Another example is that we’ll be able to help universities and R&D companies source the top scientists in specific areas, and hence monetize via recruiting avenues,” said Chief Executive and founder Richard Price.
Academia’s membership base
At present, Academia has a membership base of 4.3 million researchers who are uploading roughly 150,000 articles monthly. This lags just behind the 160,000 articles that are published each month by traditional journals.
The big difference, however, is that Academia.edu also allows its members to follow one another’s work, track their influence with analytic tools, and, the company suggests, “build powerful brands online.”
“We believe that the norms around scientific sharing will evolve in a similar way to that of blogging,” Price said. “If a large update to a post is made, readers’ attention is drawn to the fact that there has been an update. If the update is small, say just a typo, the change can be made seamlessly.”
“The scientific journal industry knows that the current model won’t last forever. Many of them are innovating by trying new business models, such as taking down the paywalls and charging authors instead,” Price said. “I think there is a growing understanding in the industry that radical innovation is table stakes.”