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Front. Digit. Humanit. | doi: 10.3389/fdigh.2019.00005

From social networks to publishing platforms: a review of the history and scholarship of academic social network sites

  • 1The Open University, United Kingdom

Social network sites enable people to easily connect to and communicate with others. Following the success of generic platforms such as Facebook, a variety of online services launched during the mid 2000s in order to bring the benefits of online social networking to an academic audience. However, it is not clear whether these academic social network sites (ASNS) are primarily aligned with social networking or alternative publishing, and functionalities continue to change. Now ten years since the launch of the three main platforms which currently lead the market (, ResearchGate, and Mendeley), it is timely to review how and why ASNS are used. This paper discusses the history and definition of ASNS, before providing a comprehensive review of the empirical research related to ASNS to-date. Five main themes within the research literature are identified, including: the relationship of the platforms to Open Access publishing; metrics; interactions with others through the platforms; platform demographics and social structure; and user perspectives. Discussing the themes in the research both provides academics with a greater understanding of what ASNS can do and their limitations, and identifies gaps in the literature which would be valuable to explore in future research.

Keywords: Social Networking, digital scholarship, Open access publishing, Academic social network sites,, researchgate, Mendeley

Received: 28 Oct 2018; Accepted: 12 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Richard Holliman, The Open University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Ann Grand, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Clare Wilkinson, University of the West of England, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Jordan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Katy Jordan, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom,