Type of site
|Social network service for scientists|
|Owner||ResearchGate, Berlin, Germany|
|Alexa rank||576 (August 2016[update])|
|Users||More than 11 million|
ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. According to a study by Nature and an article in Times Higher Education, it is the largest academic social network in terms of active users, although other services have more registered users and more recent data suggests that almost as many academics have Google Scholar profiles.
People that wish to use the site need to have an email address at a recognized institution or to be manually confirmed as a published researcher in order to sign up for an account. Members of the site each have a user profile and can upload research output including papers, data, chapters, negative results, patents, research proposals, methods, presentations, and software source code. Users may also follow the activities of other users and engage in discussions with them. Users are also able to block interactions with other users.
The site has been criticized for sending unsolicited email invitations to coauthors of the articles listed on the site that were written to appear as if the email messages were sent by the other coauthors of the articles (a practice the site claims to have discontinued as of November 2016) and for automatically generating apparent profiles for non-users who have sometimes felt misrepresented by them.
The New York Times described the site as a mashup of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Site members may "follow" a research interest, in addition to following other individual members. It has a blogging feature for users to write short reviews on peer-reviewed articles. ResearchGate indexes self-published information on user profiles to suggest members to connect with others who have similar interests. When a member posts a question, it is fielded to others that have identified on their user profile that they have a relevant expertise. It also has private chat rooms where users can share data, edit shared documents, or discuss confidential topics. The site also features a research-focused job board.
As of 2016[update], it has 11 million users, with its largest user-bases coming from Europe and North America. Most of ResearchGate's users are involved in medicine or biology, though it also has participants from engineering, computer science, agricultural sciences, and psychology, among others.
ResearchGate publishes a citation impact measurement in the form of an "RG Score". RG Scores have been reported to be correlated with existing citation impact measures, but have also been criticized as having questionable reliability and an unknown calculation methodology. ResearchGate does not require peer review or fees.
ResearchGate was founded in 2008 by virologist and computer scientist Dr. Ijad Madisch, who remains the company's CEO, with another physician Dr. Sören Hofmayer, and a computer scientist Horst Fickenscher. It started in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to Berlin, Germany, shortly afterwards.
The company's first round of funding, in 2010, was led by the venture capital firm Benchmark, with contributions from investors such as Joachim Schoss, founder of the German portal site 24Scout. Benchmark partner Matt Cohler became a member of the board and participated in the decision to move to Berlin.
According to The New York Times, the website began with few features, then was developed further over time based on input from scientists. From 2009 to 2011, the number of users of the site grew from 25,000 to more than 1 million.
A second round of funding led by Peter Thiel's Founders Fund was announced in February 2012. On June 4, 2013, it closed Series C financing arrangements for $35M from investors including Bill Gates.
ResearchGate's competitors include Academia.edu, Google Scholar and Mendeley. Academia.edu reportedly has more registered users (about 34 million versus 11 million) and higher web traffic, but ResearchGate is substantially larger in terms of active usage by researchers. The fact that ResearchGate restricts its user accounts to people at recognized institutions and published researchers may explain the disparity in active usage, as a high percentage of the accounts on Academia.edu are lapsed or inactive. In a recent and ongoing survey of academic profile tools, about as many respondents have ResearchGate profiles and Google Scholar profiles, but almost twice as many respondents use Google Scholar for search than use ResearchGate for accessing publications.
Madisch has said the company's business strategy is focused on highly targeted advertising based on analysis of the activities of users, saying "Imagine you could click on a microscope mentioned in a paper and buy it", and estimating the spending on science at $1 trillion per year under the control of a "relatively small number of people".
A 2009 article in BusinessWeek reported that ResearchGate was a "potentially powerful link" in promoting innovation in developing countries by connecting scientists from those nations with their peers in industrialized nations. It said the website had become popular largely due to its ease of use. It also said that ResearchGate had been involved in several notable cross-country collaborations between scientists that led to substantive developments.
A 2012 paper published in the The International Information & Library Review conducted a survey with 160 respondents and reported that out of those respondents using social networking "for academic purposes", Facebook and ResearchGate were the most popular at the University of Delhi, but also "a majority of respondents said using SNSs [Social Networking Sites] may be a waste of time". Another paper reported that only a small fraction of users (about 85000) were active in the Q&A part of the site.
Although ResearchGate is used internationally, its uptake—as of 2014—is uneven, with Brazil having particularly many users and China having few when compared to the number of publishing researchers.
In a 2014 study by Nature, 88 percent of the responding scientists and engineers said that they were aware of ResearchGate:Q1 and would use it when "contacted", but less than 10% said they would use it to actively discuss research with 40% instead preferring to use Twitter when discussing research. ResearchGate was visited regularly by half of those surveyed by Nature, coming second to Google Scholar. 29 percent of regular visitors had signed up for a profile on ResearchGate in the past year, and 35% of the survey participants were invited by e-mail.
A 2016 article in Times Higher Education reported that in a global survey of 20,670 people who use academic social networking sites, ResearchGate was the dominant network and was twice as popular as others: 61 percent of respondents who had published at least one paper had a ResearchGate profile. Another study reported that "relatively few academics appear to post questions and answers", but instead use it only as an "online CV".
ResearchGate has been criticized for emailing unsolicited invitations to the coauthors of its users.:Q2 These emails were written as if they were personally sent by the user, but they were sent automatically unless the user opted out,:Q3 which causes some researchers to boycott the service because of this marketing tactic:Q4 and contributes to the negative view of ResearchGate in the scientific community.:Q5,Q7 As of November 2016, the site appears to have discontinued this practice.
A study published by the Association for Information Systems in 2014 found that a dormant account on ResearchGate, using default settings, generated 297 invitations to 38 people over a 16-month period, and that the user profile was automatically attributed to more than 430 publications. Furthermore, journalists and researchers found that the "RG score", calculated by ResearchGate via a proprietary algorithm, can reach high values under questionable circumstances.
Several studies have looked at the RG score, for which details about how it is calculated are not published. These studies concluded that the RG score was "intransparent and irreproducible", criticized the way it incorporates the journal impact factor into the user score, and suggested that it should "not be considered in the evaluation of academics". The results were confirmed in a second "response" study, which also found the score to depend mostly on journal impact factors. The RG score was found to be negatively correlated with network centrality, i.e., that users that are the most active (and thus central to the network) on ResearchGate usually do not have high RG scores. It was also found to be strongly positively correlated with Quacquarelli Symonds university rankings at the institutional level, but only weakly with Elsevier SciVal rankings of individual authors. While it was found to be correlated with different university rankings, the correlation in between these rankings themselves was higher.
Nature also reported that "Some of the apparent profiles on the site are not owned by real people, but are created automatically – and incompletely – by scraping details of people's affiliations, publication records and PDFs, if available, from around the web. That annoys researchers who do not want to be on the site, and who feel that the pages misrepresent them – especially when they discover that ResearchGate will not take down the pages when asked.":Q6,Q7 ResearchGate uses a crawler to find PDF versions of articles on the homepages of authors and publishers.:Q6 These are then presented as if they had been uploaded to the web site by the author::Q7, Q8 the PDF will be displayed embedded in a frame, and only the button label "External Download" indicates that the file was in fact not uploaded to ResearchGate.
ResearchGate has also been criticized for failing to provide safeguards against "the dark side of academic writing", including such phenomena as fake publishers, "ghost journals", publishers with "predatory" publication fees, and fake impact ratings.
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Quote 1: ResearchGate is certainly well-known [...] More than 88% of scientists and engineers said that they were aware of it.
Quote 2: "They do send you a lot of spam," [Billie Swalla] says
Quote 3: [...] regularly sending out automated e-mails that profess to come from colleagues active on the site
Quote 4: "I think it is a disgraceful kind of marketing and I am choosing not to use their service because of that", [Lars Arvestad] says
Quote 5: "I've met basically no academics in my field with a favourable view of ResearchGate", says Daniel MacArthur
Quote 6: Some of the apparent profiles on the site are not owned by real people, but are created automatically – and incompletely – by scraping details of people's affiliations, publication records and PDFs
Quote 7: That annoys researchers who do not want to be on the site, and who feel that the pages misrepresent them – especially when they discover that ResearchGate will not take down the pages when asked.
Quote 8: [Madisch] will not say how many of [the papers available on ResearchGate] have been automatically scraped from freely accessible places elsewhere.
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ResearchGate automatically emails invitations to your coauthors on your behalf. These invitations are made to look as if they were sent by you but are emailed without your consent.[dead link]
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- page change
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ResearchGate more recently, has been lenient in its policies against this dark side of academic writing.