Yesterday I received the following email from Academia.edu, a social network for academics to share research papers.
We noticed that you are following the Computer Science research interest on Academia.edu. We wanted to mention that we are hiring software engineers at Academia.edu, and if you know any current or former students who might be interested, we offer a $5,000 referral reward. We'll send you a $5,000 check for every person you refer to us, whom we end up hiring.
Academia.edu is an engineering-driven culture, and our mission is to accelerate the world's research. More information on the kinds of software engineer we are looking to hire is here.
Please drop me a line if you have any questions about jobs at Academia.edu. Thanks in advance for referring any people you might know, and I hope your work is going very well,
Richard CEO, Academia.edu
My question: Is this ethical? The Georgia Tech Code of Ethics states that faculty ought to "Refuse to accept, for ourselves or our families, any favors, gifts, or privileges that might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of our assigned Institute duties." These matters are always ambiguous, but $5k is a substantial finders fee, and it does seem reasonable to assume that its pursuit might unduly influence. And of course, my own institution's code of ethics is just one way of analyzing the issue.
Perhaps this practice is far more prevalent than just Academia.edu, but I have never encountered it before in such a brazen fashion directed at university faculty specifically (certainly finders fees are a common practice in recruitment). In the tech and games industries, the competition is brutal enough that recruitment isn't really an issue; my students compete on their merits. I'm particularly intrigued at this example because it's directed from a research aggregation site (with a .edu address even) to university faculty specifically.
What do you think?