On October 21st the ScholarlyHub initiative launched its website, mission and ideas about developing a new social academic open access network for sharing papers and other scholarly literature. The project is in its incubator stage and needs crowdfunding to further develop these plans. ScholaryHub wants to directly compete with academic social networking platforms like Academia.edu and ResearchGate. The big difference between these commercial networking behemoths and the ScholarlyHub initiative, is the scholarly-led bottom-up approach of the latter. A remarkable group of academics from different disciplines have gathered to take the first steps towards a non-profit framework with options to share papers, collaborate with other researchers, and enhance public engagement, using social networking tools.
From the project website:
“ScholarlyHub will be a non-profit framework, where members pay a small annual fee (directly or through an existing learned society, network, project or institution) and create personal, thematic, project-based, associational or institutional profiles and populate them with scholarly and educational materials as they see fit. These are stored in a searchable, real open-access archive, and are directly viewable and downloadable from the portal by anyone (that is, not only members), without having to register or volunteer personal data.”
In order to make this happen, money is needed to built an infrastructure. No venture capital, but actual support from actual researchers. On November 29th ScholarlyHub launched a crowdfunding campaign hoping to raise € 500.000,- for developing the first version of the platform.
It will be very interesting to see how this initiative will evolve in the next few months, because in the last few years criticism has grown about the commercialization of the aforementioned platforms Academia.edu and ResearchGate. For these enterprises, the user is the product and that obviously leads to important (ethical) questions power, ownership, reuse, and archiving policies, etc.. All in all, practices ScholarlyHub explicitly rejects.
As can be found on their website: “Growing threats to open science have made it more crucial than before to develop a sustainable, not-for-profit environment. One that allows you to publish, share, and access quality work without financial constraints.”
But some have already asked the question how this platform will relate to, for example, the Humanities Commons, which pursues similar goals and which saw the light last year. And another example the Open Science Framework platform, which offers an open repository for papers and data. A very interesting and much needed discussion will happen in the coming months to investigate whether and how these non-profit platforms should co-exist.
In any case, it will be a much healthier situation if, in addition to the existing commercial academic social networks, non-profit equivalents enter this market.
 Further reading: Pooley, J. (2017). Scholarly Communication Shouldn’t Just be Open but Non-Profit Too: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/08/15/scholarly-communications-shouldnt-just-be-open-but-non-profit-too/
 https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-11-16-researchers-ask-does-academia-need-another-alternative-to-for-profit-scholarly-platforms / ScholarlyHub Response: https://www.scholarlyhub.org/feed/2017/11/12/launch-weeks-ffaqs