Looking to measure and visualize the real-time usage of online scientific research, Academia.edu, a social platform for sharing scientific research, is launching an Analytics Dashboard on the site that gives scientists immediate feedback on the level of traffic accessing their content online. The new dashboard provides a dynamic real-time graphical interface that shows the number of people viewing a document, what search engines are driving the traffic and what country the viewers are from.

Academia.edu CEO and founder Richard Price, an academic entrepreneur with a PhD in philosophy from Oxford University, said the new dashboard offers scientists an new tool for measuring interest in their works as well as for use to support their professional standing and drive academic promotions. Price called it "our most significant product launch," and said that while scientists have always used the web to post their work, “they have not been able to measure their web impact. This is the first time scientists can track the real-time impact of their work.”

The Academia.edu platform allows people to “follow you, like Twitter and the dashboard offers a profile of a scientist’s footprint online, where your traffic comes from.” Price said the dashboard can be used as a tool that “helps academics advance their careers and standout in a crowd,” by showing the level of online interest in a scientists work. Price explained that there are two traditional ways that scientists enhance their resumes for promotions: journal publication, a long process involving peer review, and citations of their work by other scientists, which can take years to accumulate. “The dashboard can show the impact of their work online from day one. Scientists work on the long tail, the super long tail,” Price said, “and they think no one is interested in what they are doing. Now they can see the impact of their work right away.”

The Academia.edu Analytics Dashboard offers graphic visualizations of web traffic and shows four categories of information: Overview, Documents, Keywords and Countries. The Overview gives the user a look at how many people have looked at the users documents over the last 30 days; the documents category tells how much traffic has been generated by each document over the month, all-time views and when the document was last viewed. The Keywords field tells which search terms show up the most and what search engine is sending the traffic; and the countries category uses a world map that tells the user how many users from a specific country have viewed the content.

Academia.edu was founded by Price in 2008. The site has 1.6 million users, he said, and attracts about 100,000 new users each month. Price said that while the new dashboard will become key to helping academics get promotions, he also said the dashboard will “accelerate scientific reseach. Scientists don’t really blog or tweet. They post PDFs but don’t show their data sets because it takes time and they don’t get credit for it. Even professors who upload their papers don’t really check the downloads. We think measuring the real-time impact of their work online will encourage more sharing and a richer form of communication. This is what scientific research will look like in the future.”