Academia.edu just passed 10 million users. I remember when the site started, and a hundred or two hundred people were joining each day. Now around thirty to forty thousand people are joining each day.
The ten million milestone reflects the growing interest in open science. A few years ago open science was a niche movement. It’s now starting to be mainstream to want to share papers openly.
We need to get to a world where every science PDF ever written is on the internet, accessible for free. Why is this important? The main reason is that spreading knowledge is a wonderful thing that can lead to all kinds of unexpected benefits. It can lead to a more informed population that can make better decisions about things like stem cell research or climate change.
Another benefit is that outsiders may come to science with fresh perspectives and say “I have a crazy idea” There are a few examples in science of outsiders coming to science with a beginner’s mind and moving the field forward. A car mechanic in Argentina, Jorge Odon, came up with the first invention in assisted child birth in 150 years after watching a YouTube video about getting a cork out of a bottle.
It would be good if science was able to harness crazy ideas from wherever they can be found. I wrote about some more examples of outsiders bringing fresh thinking to science in a recent guest article in Times Higher Education.
It would be a great thing if we could get every science PDF ever written on the internet, available for free. There is a lot of work to do before we make that vision a reality, but this 10 million user milestone is a good start.