Who joins the Academia.edu website? Contrary to popular myth, the site is not just for working and emeritus academics
Sort of helps if you are going to a university or better yet graduated from one. Grad student? The site awaits. Got a Masters? Better yet. Got a PhD? Now you’re talking. Postdoc? Academia was made for you.
Yes, many actual working or emeritus academics are on the site. The site is used by them to publish work of theirs that they are ok with putting in the public domain for free.
But it can also be used by independent scholars, which is what I am in addition to holding a graduate degree in the Humanities. There are quite a few independent scholars out there. In some cases, some of the best and most cutting edge work in the field is being done by them.
Independent scholars and better yet people with graduate degrees can also and often do publish in academic journals, write academic books and sit on review boards for academic journals. Actually, I am an independent scholar, and I actually sit on a review board for an academic journal published in the Near East.
In addition some excellent work is published in academic journals by people who are actually working in the field outside of academia. For instance, in a lot of chemistry and engineering journals, scientists working in the private sector publish most of the information. Their research is of course funded by their corporate employer.
In addition to publishing work by academics and scholars, there are many impromptu peer review sessions on there. On the right side of the homepage it says Sessions. There will be a few sessions up there that Academia thinks I may be interested in listed. Some folks who have written a paper that is not yet published put it out on the site for impromptu peer review. They invite other scholars to participate in the session or you just ask to join.
The debate can get pretty ferocious at times. I just came from a session on the laryngeal theory of Proto Indo European or PIE. This is one of the oldest long-standing problems in PIE Historical Linguistics. They were going at it like wildcats in there, and some of the people in the session were tearing into the rather arrogant and narcissistic academic who wrote the paper.