Academia.edu, a social networking platform for academics that’s looking to change the way scientific research is shared, just acquired Plasmyd, a search engine and discussion platform for research papers.
It’s all part of CEO Richard Price’s plan to change the way peer review is done online. Plasmyd has more than 60 million papers indexed, and every page has its own research abstract and an area for comments.
He’ll retire Plasmyd’s brand and incorporate its search engine and commenting system into Academia.edu’s platform. He is also bringing on the bootstrapped company’s two founders into Academia.edu for a mix of stock and cash. (Incidentally, Price first learned about them on TechCrunch.)
His belief is that opening discussion of research to a broader audience beyond the handful of reviewers that a typical scientific journal handpicks will allow both errors and high-quality work to get surfaced faster.
He pointed to a recent sting operation by Science where a researcher sent 304 versions of an error-ridden paper to dozens of open access academic journals. One hundred and fifty seven of the journals accepted the paper with only minor modifications.
In a typical journal-review process, Price says the editor operates like a “human routing function” that sends papers to relevant academics in their personal network. Those academics check for basic theoretical coherence and whether the methods look reasonable. They don’t try to replicate the results of an experiment because that is often too costly.
“The second phase of open science will be about making peer review more robust over the next few years,” Price said.
As for Academia.edu, it just crossed 5 million registered users, which makes them larger than competitors like Benchmark-backed ResearchGate and Mendeley, which was recently acquired by research giant Elsevier.
Oh, and they also recently picked up a $11.1 million growth-stage round led by Khosla Ventures.