November 22, 2017

Anianet Debuts, Aims to Expose Chinese Scholarship to Broader Audience

By Josh Hadro

Can the new scholarly networking site bridge the gap between China and the West?

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  • English-language site for Chinese researchers to create scholarly profiles
  • Facilitates connections to others outside of China based on research interests
  • Helps address plagiarism stigma?

Technology barriers inevitably fall, but cultural and language barriers are more persistent. Seemingly Aninetnowhere is this more true than in the divide that separates Western scholars from their Chinese counterparts, something Anianet plans to address.

It’s a site designed to give Chinese scholars an English-language platform to describe themselves and their research interests in order to connect them with those outside the country interested in their research or just seeking further information. As librarians take on the increasingly important role of facilitating scholarly communications, this tool may well become increasingly valuable.

There are individual profiles for Chinese scholars, as well as networks organized around topics and subject specialties. The site made its official debut in mid-October, and takes its name from the Strait of Anian—a passageway legendary among early world explorers that supposedly connected East and West.

Formulating strategy
Greg Tananbaum, Anianet’s founder and CEO (and former President at Berkeley Electronic Press) told LJ that, over the course of talks with librarians and higher education administrators, he found that nearly all were "keenly aware that China was growing as a producer and consumer of content in the academic space.” A move toward increased usage of this content begins with a basic familiarity with scholars and their research interests—“the first step is a handshake,” Tananbaum said.

Though Anianet shares certain similarities with other scholarly social sites like Nature Network and BioMedExperts, it isn’t just another LinkedIn clone for Chinese scholars. “We’re focusing on a very specific issue: the disconnect between China and the West, that has significant ramifications on the discovery of human knowledge,” he noted.

Tananbaum added that the service aims as much at researchers seeking a better understanding of the scholarly output coming from China than at Chinese scholars seeking to promote themselves. The goal: to have balanced traffic from both sides, with enough profiles to make the site indispensable for those seeking collaborators, speakers, authors, or scholars to serve on editorial boards.

Hot topic in research community
Tananbaum isn’t the first to call for increased dialog between these two cultures. At the 2009 SPARC-ACRL Forum in Chicago, Columbia University librarian James Neal outlined a number of radical alternatives to the current broken model and asked “Where is SPARC China?” Neal portended the end of the “Western hegemony” over scholarly publishing, and urged librarians to take immediate steps in order to prepare for the coming paradigm shift.

Of course, in discussions of scholarship coming out of China, the issue of plagiarism inevitably comes up. Tananbaum acknowledged the issue, but stressed how this stigma negatively affects authors of the enormous volume of genuine research coming from the country.

If scholars and journal editors have access to a greater amount of background to inform their decision about another scholar’s work or editorial submission, he said, they may be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

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