For about five years, Richard Price and the team at Academia.edu have been quietly building a social networking platform for academics and researchers.
For years, it was slow going. It took three years for the company to get its first million users while mainstream consumer social networking platforms like Twitter were taking off. But now, Academia.edu boasts 4.3 million users — perhaps around one-quarter of an estimated 17 million academics globally. They have been picking up about 1 million new users every three months.
The ultimate goal is to change the way scientific research is distributed and validated. Price envisions a platform where every research paper ever published will be freely available to the public.
“More outsiders will be able to come in and bring that beginner’s mind thinking to research,” Price said, pointing to 16-year-old Jack Andraka who studied papers from Science on applications for nanotubes and used that research to invent a new test for pancreatic cancer that is 26,000 times cheaper than previously existing tests and 400 times more sensitive.