Trees and branches
January 22, 2009 10:30 PM   Subscribe is a project by Richard Price, who recently completed a Ph.D at Oxford on the philosophy of perception. In collaboration with a team of people from Stanford and Cambridge, he's launched this website, which "shows academics around the world structured in a 'tree' format, displayed according to their departmental and institutional affiliations" and "enables academics to see news on the latest research in their area - the latest people, papers and talks".

It's a bit like Facebook for academics, with the bonus that members can upload papers for reading or downloading. In Price's words: "We are hoping that will eventually list every academic in the world -- faculty members, post-docs, graduate students, and independent researchers. Academics can add their departments, and themselves, to the tree by clicking on the boxes."
posted by jokeefe (26 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Looks very cool and potentially useful, but it's hella slow. With any luck, that'll get better.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:48 PM on January 22, 2009

It's a brilliant idea, but it's not executed terribly well from a user heuristic standpoint. There's a lot of usability issues, there's going to be massive scaling issues that will make the current ones seem insignificant, yadda, yadda,'s a groovy project, and I LOVE the idea of having easier access to papers, but from an information architecture standpoint, it appears "proof of concept-y" more than actually building for long term functionality and data viability.
posted by dejah420 at 10:49 PM on January 22, 2009

Damn, it is slow.
posted by grouse at 10:54 PM on January 22, 2009

Yeah, I'm only one of two people at UNF who signed up (as of like a week ago); however, since then, I've received THREE emails telling me that someone has "searched" for me on is highly unlikely IMO.
posted by whatgorilla at 11:14 PM on January 22, 2009

Flash! OH FLASH! Damn you FLASH!
posted by zouhair at 11:16 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

wow, how did he get an unaffiliated .edu site?
posted by boo_radley at 11:17 PM on January 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

They also have spammer tendencies. They mailed me three times to inform me they had automatically scrapped my email and put it on their site.

posted by gmarceau at 11:54 PM on January 22, 2009

They want me to enter my password to my .edu account? No thanks.
posted by AArtaud at 12:06 AM on January 23, 2009

Science broke my Opera.

Maybe if they get the flash and web design under control, stop with the weird email/password crap, and organize things a little more effectively (Abraham Lincoln is an entire field of study?) I look forward to using what may become of the idea in a decade or so. Otherwise, good idea. Good luck in getting it off the ground.

with the bonus that members can upload papers for reading or downloading

Oh yeah, and I can't wait until the publishers of academic journals get wind of this.
posted by Avelwood at 12:28 AM on January 23, 2009

Runs fine for me. Great concept, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:24 AM on January 23, 2009

boo_radley: wow, how did he get an unaffiliated .edu site?
Wikipedia: Starting on October 29, 2001, only post-secondary institutions and organizations that are accredited by an agency on the U.S. Department of Education's list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies are eligible to apply for a .edu domain.

Also: A few of the existing .edu domain registrants are not schools; often these are established museums or have some connection to education and research, others are simply protected due to a grandfathering clause of pre-2000 registrations (even though some never qualified under the registration requirements of the time).

The domain name appears to have been registered in 1999.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:34 AM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Concerns about trustworthiness of entries and the use of the .edu domain are voiced here

A further concern is the rigidity of the tree-structure in relation to organizational structure. Quite a few academics have affiliations in more than one department these days. It doesn't seem possible to occupy more than one point on the tree, i.e. be a member of more than one faculty, although you can list as many subjects as you like under interests.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 3:36 AM on January 23, 2009

It's a bit like Facebook for academics

Why is there no MySpace for academics?

We need a place to share info about our favorite bands. Amirite?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:54 AM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can always just subscribe to's rss feeds.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:09 AM on January 23, 2009

I've received THREE emails telling me that someone has "searched" for me on is highly unlikely IMO.

I get the same thing sometimes. Usually the 'someone' has searched for you on google and then come to your page on It's sort of intriguing since you never know who has searched for you--though you can sometimes link it with up emails you receive later on.
posted by leibniz at 5:06 AM on January 23, 2009

This already exists for neuroscience. And it's grown quite a bit beyond that, too. And it's fast.

It turns out that pretty much everyone can trace themselves back to Gauss.
posted by dmd at 5:49 AM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also, I can summarize this site for anyone who doesn't feel up to playing with it:

posted by dmd at 6:14 AM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Interesting, but the seemingly-jumbled organization of some of the categories (universities intermingled with subject specialties?) leaves something to be desired.
posted by teamparka at 7:04 AM on January 23, 2009

I've received THREE emails telling me that someone has "searched" for me on is highly unlikely IMO.

It's emailing you every time someone *googles* you. Go to the bottom left corner of the site for the "My Account", and uncheck all the notification boxes.

I put myself in there as it might help people from conferences find me. No way in hell and I linking it up to my facebook, though. I don't know these people well enough.
posted by Monsters at 9:01 AM on January 23, 2009

Ah, I didn't see the site was grandfathered in, Doofus. Thanks.
posted by boo_radley at 9:43 AM on January 23, 2009

So is this supposed to be a repository as well as a "facebook"? I can just imagine the copyright headaches, embargo demands, etc. The site may be slow because of copyright lawyers trolling the place for violations.
posted by lysdexic at 10:53 AM on January 23, 2009

I know this must vary by field, but I don't see the point.

If I want to know what people in my field are working on now, I can just look at the preliminary program for the next MPSA in April, or the program of the past Polmeth last summer, or at my subfield conference program.

If I want to know what a specific person is working on, I put their name into google and unless it's a very common name or also the name of someone relatively famous, it's the first link 99.9% of the time. In those other two events, I just add political science to the search and then it's the first link.

How does having to navigate through a clunky flash interface help me do, well, anything?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2009

"edu" is only used in the US. Not a great choice for a site that comprises, or intends to, every uni in the world, the majority (vast majority?) of which aren't American.

Canadian uni sites end in .ca, but I found out by accident that they've all (or every one I've checked) also laid claim to .com. I hate that- professor here...
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2009

I checked this site out a couple of months ago, but I wasn't too impressed. If it ever gets off the ground, I'll have to take a second look at it, but there are numerous problems as is.

One of the major problems is, what happens when you move schools? Academia being what it is, I don't plan to stay at one university forever, and I know professors and other academics move all the time. This site doesn't seem well-equipped to take that into account.

Secondly, as ROU_Xenophobe points out, if I want to know who's who in my field (which one should already know anyway, unless *just* entering grad school), I go to conferences and read what they publish.

Even if I have a really strong urge to go Web2.0 on the networking thing, I go to LinkedIn. Or Facebook, even (after all, there already *are* academics on Facebook, no need for a special Facebook-like thing just for academia).

It is kind of pretty, though.
posted by librarylis at 6:06 PM on January 23, 2009

Canadian uni sites end in .ca

They can have .edus if they want. Try .
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 PM on January 26, 2009

They can have .edus if they want.

Not according to the registrar:
Eligibility for a .edu domain name is limited to U.S. postsecondary institutions that are institutionally accredited, i.e., the entire institution and not just particular programs, by agencies on the U.S. Department of Education’s list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies. These include both "Regional Institutional Accrediting Agencies" and "National Institutional and Specialized Accrediting Bodies" recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Registered in 1986, a clear case of grandfathering.h
posted by grouse at 5:20 AM on January 27, 2009

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