In searching for a few colleagues’ webpages I noticed a new URL popping up in the search results. It either included the prefix academic.microsoft.com or the IP address 126.96.36.199. I got curious and checked it out to discover Microsoft Academic Search (Beta) — a neat presentation of the author’s research publications and collaborations. In addition to the usual list of publications, there are nice visualizations of publications and citations over time, a network chart of co-authors and citations, and even an Erdos Number graph. The genealogy graph claims that it is based on data mining so “might not be perfect”.
All this is cool and helpful. But there is one issue that really bothers me: who owns my academic profile?
I checked my “own” Microsoft Academic Search page. Microsoft’s software tried to guess my details (affiliation, homepage, papers, etc.) and was correct on some details but wrong on others. To correct the details required me to open a Windows Live ID account. I was able to avoid opening such an account until now (I am not a fan of endless accounts) and would have continued to avoid it, had I not been forced to do so: Microsoft created an academic profile page for me, without my consent, with wrong details. Guessing that this page will soon come up in user searches, I was compelled to correct the inaccurate details.
The next step was even more disturbing: once I logged in with my verified Window Live ID, I tried to correct my affiliation and homepage and added a photo. However, I received the message that the affiliation (Indian School of Business) is not recognized (!) and that Microsoft will have to review all my edits before changing them.
So who “owns” my academic identity? Since obviously Microsoft is crawling university websites to create these pages, it would have been more appropriate to find the authors’ academic email addresses and email them directly to notify them of the page (with an “opt out” option!) and allow them to make any corrections without Microsoft’s moderation.