A social networking site is not an open access repository

This article from the University of California entitled ‘A social networking site is not an open access repository‘ explains very clearly the difference between using an institutional open access research repository, and using an online platform such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu

As a Librarian I understand the importance of open access repositories for enabling the reuse and preservation of research data. However, I am sure for many academics and researchers this distinction may not be so clear – especially since a lot of it is in the platform’s fine print!

In a nutshell; “these [social networking] services provide a Facebook or LinkedIn experience for the research community.” And “might be valuable when trying to find others in your field conducting related research.” While “[t]he primary aim of institutional repositories is to make the scholarly outputs of the university as widely available as possible and to ensure long-term preservation of these outputs.”

One difference worth noting is the fact that repositories are usually not-for-profit while the other platforms are commercial, and this makes a world of difference to how your data is handled and the capacity you have for its use.

Below is the article’s summary table detailing the differences between these social networking platforms and an institutional repository. Read the article for a more in depth (and very interesting!) breakdown.

Definitely important information to know if you need to give advice about research data and the use of these technologies.


Thanks for reading,

Michelle De Aizpurua



5 thoughts on “A social networking site is not an open access repository

  1. For scientists in developing countries, however, this social networking site is very useful, particularly when the publications are ‘open access’. Although the manuscript might have not been the latest published one, i.e. final draft to the journal, still it is very useful for us as we do not have free access to new journal articles easily….


    • Thanks for the comment Lei. Yes, these social networking sites are useful. It is however important to note exactly what they are useful for, in comparison to open access repositories, (as the original article states) there is some confusion between the two and their uses/benefits. It really depends on the purpose for which you want to utilise the services. The social networking sites for example, “do not permit their users to take their own data and reuse it elsewhere” – so bringing data in and out of the system is difficult. They are however, useful for networking with people who are conducting similar research. Open access is a great movement and I feel it is important to be wary of large for-profit corporations taking advantage of it without a commitment to complete openness and data reuse. Because, as you said, open access can free up information regardless of location or funds, and that is a wonderful thing 🙂


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