I have noticed a lot of computer scientists, physics, and a few more subjects but I think there is a lack of people from a lot of other major fields, for example Biology.

How do we attract people to contribute to the website from less computer-centric areas?

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7 Answers 7

Maybe ore or more of the more creative ones among us could contact Jorge Cham (PhD Comics) to see if he is interested/willing to promote Academia Stack Exchange with a nifty, amusing comic. For this we would need to find a shared interest. Our interest is to get attention (particularly in under-represented fields), his aim is to entertain people with funny, thoughtful comics. If he likes the idea of our site it might not be impossible — it never hurts to try.

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Great idea! Is there anyone knowing him personally, or being in the same place, or in high standing (I doubt if he can read all messages, save from responding). Moreover, while SE is great and giving a lot of if intellectual value to the world (e.g. think about countless programmers' hours saved) , it's a commercial enterprise and Jorge Cham (or anyone else, not already invloved) may be less inclined to advertise it for free. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 17 '12 at 18:51

Is there any mileage in the idea of one of us writing an article about SE.Academia for publication in a high profile academic magazine? An example of such a publication in the UK would be The Times Higher Education Supplement. This journal doesn't have a particular subject bias - it is read by folk from all disciplines.

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Does it work in that way "Hey Times, I am a random PhD student. Please find attached my article for you."? (But if there is anyone who has any info if it is possible - it would be great.) –  Piotr Migdal Dec 17 '12 at 18:20

Is there some way I can help via exposure through Mendeley?

If it makes you feel any better, I don't understand much about how to get people to contribute to Mendeley either ;-)

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Well, maybe if there is a Q&A on some aspect of Mendeley, or reference management systems, then it can be linked on Mendeley Blog, or via Mendeley Facebook Page? Is it possible? Do you think that it makes sense? –  Piotr Migdal Dec 17 '12 at 19:31

First of all, Academia SE grew from Stack Exchange (Overflow), Programmers SE, etc. It's no surprise that many of our audience come from computer science.

Compared to other SE sites, I think Academia SE is not that bad. By its nature, academians are minorities in most societies. So, it's no surprise that we have a little less readership than other SEs.

Of course, that's not to say that we don't want to grow. We do.

I live in Taiwan. The population here is 23 million. There are approximately 1 million people here who's got masters/PhDs. But, it seems to me that there are only a few people in Taiwan hanging around on this site. I can tell that by observing the activity of this site during the local time interval 1pm - 3pm.

I do have friends in Taiwan who are academians and have encountered issues. Some of them came to me to ask for help. In some cases, I pass the links on our site to answer their questions. Sometimes, I cannot find the right Q&A for them.

In those cases, I tried to encourage them to ask their questions on Academia SE themselves. So far, my attempts have not been successful. The major reasons I failed are:

1. English. They know how to write their field-specific papers in English. But, they have problems with stating their academia-specific issues in English. Sometime, it's really hard to do so. If you're a native-English speaker, you can tell that I am not a native-English speaker. The reason I can write in the way most people can understand is because I lived in US over 30 years and I have many years of hard time writing in English after a lot practices. And I still do have hard time with writing in English. For example, it took me an hour to write this answer. I suggested them to use our English Language & Usage SE. Some of them did. I myself looker at that site sometimes. I saw quite a bit down-votes and closed questions, much worse than our site. I am just stating my observation here. No complaint.

2. Anonymity. Everyone I talked to expressed anonymity concern. One of the reasons is again, English writing. They are so afrid that they are going to be laughed at when their questions get down-voted or closed due to poor writing. I told them don't worry. People will help to edit. Still, no avail. Again, I am simply stating my observation. No complaint.

Most of our participants on this site are fluent English speakers. I can tell that because they write better English than mine. So, I think we can attract more people from everywhere by helping others to encourage them to ask questions when the questions are not so well-written in English. The help can be in many ways. We can help them by editing the questions. We can help them by making comments to ask questions to clarify what they are asking, etc. Just my two-cents here.

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I have noticed a lot of computer scientists, physics, and a few more subjects but I think there is a lack of people from a lot of other major fields, for example Biology.

I see it that way too. Take computer science or theoretical physics. Both are mostly concerned with theories and if experimental (e.g., particle physics) than still in a relatively "dry" manner (i.e., experimenting by means of sitting in front of a computer screen mostly). In contrast, biologists and chemists spend a lot of their time in labs getting their hands literally dirty. My point is, that accessibility, as well as opportunity costs might be a part of explanation for the lack of people from "wet" disciplines. Another issue could also be deeper computer literacy (knowledge of what wikis are good for etc.).

How do we attract people to contribute to the website from less computer-centric areas?

My point above was meant to sketch a hypothesis about inherent limits and hurdles for recruiting people from some disciplines, especially those heavily experimental, or field-work requiring ones.

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I do see a lot of people from math and computer science but perhaps that is just the people who are posting. Are there others who come but do not post?

It would help if we could track users by their discipline. I think adding something about their discipline to users' profiles would help us to know who is really here and who is posting. Once we know we don't have any biology people, we can focus on getting some biology people. Then, continue on to the other disciplines.

I, for one, don't see many posts about economics/business (except mine). I would love to see more.

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To attract people in specific field, it would be nice if they could track their field questions via a tag and follow such tag. E.g., medicine tag, computer science tag, economics tag.

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Why the down vote with no comments? –  earthling Mar 31 '13 at 1:23
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@earthling the down vote is mine. I down voted because I disagree, not because I think it is a low quality post. I think this is consistent with how voting works on meta meta.academia.stackexchange.com/faq#vote-differences. –  StrongBad Mar 31 '13 at 6:39

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