||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (October 2015)|
Type of site
|Social network service for scientists|
|Owner||ResearchGate, Berlin, Germany|
|Created by||Ijad Madisch, Sören Hofmayer, Horst Fickenscher|
|771 (August 2015[update])|
ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. The website claims to have millions of users and to be influential. However, it has been widely criticized for emailing unsolicited invitations to the coauthors, for being "intransparent and irreproducible", and failing to answer questions from its users.
ResearchGate was founded in 2008 by a virologist and computer scientist Ijad Madisch. It started in Boston, and moved to Berlin, Germany, shortly afterwards. In 2009, the company began a partnership with Seeding Labs in order to supply third-world countries with surplus lab equipment from the United States.
According to The New York Times the website began with very few features, then developed over time based on input from scientists. Adoption of the site grew rapidly. From 2009 to 2011, the site grew from 25,000 users to more than 1 million. The company grew from 12 employees in 2011 to 70 in 2012 and 120 in 2014.
The New York Times described the site as a mashup of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One may "follow" a research interest, in addition to following individual users. 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 those who have similar interests. When a user posts a question, it is fielded to scientists that have identified on their user profile that they have a relevant expertise. It also has private chat rooms where scientists can share data, edit shared documents, or discuss confidential topics.
As of 2015[update], it claims to have 7 million users,[dubious ] but only about a sixth of these have filled out their position and uploaded a picture. ResearchGate's largest user-base is in Europe and North America. Most of ResearchGate's users are involved in medicine or biology, though it also has participants from engineering, computer science and agricultural sciences, psychology, among others. Participants can get a higher "score" that ranks their "scientific reputation" by providing popular answers to questions and other metrics. ResearchGate statistics seem to largely reproduce traditional academic reputations based on citation indexes.
ResearchGate does not require peer review or fees. Since accessing documents usually requires an account, ResearchGate is not considered to be open access. The "Open Review" functionality, which allows for reviewing published work, is little used: in a study, only 4 out of 3407 users had used this function.
As of 2009, according to BusinessWeek, ResearchGate was influential[dubious ] in promoting innovation in developing countries by connecting scientists from those nations with their peers in industrialized nations. BusinessWeek said the website had become popular largely due to its "navigation" and "ease of use". It also noted that ResearchGate had been involved in "a string" of notable cross-country collaborations between scientists that led to substantive developments. A paper published in the The International Information & Library Review conducted a survey with 160 respondents and found that out of those 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 study found that only a small fraction of users (about 85000) were active in the Q&A part of the site.
Although Researchgate.net is used internationally, its uptake -- as of 2014 -- is uneven, with Brazil having particularly many users and China having few compared to the number of publishing researchers.
ResearchGate has been criticized for emailing unsolicited invitations to the coauthors of its users. These emails are written as if they were personally sent by the user, but they are sent automatically unless the user opts out, which causes some researchers to boycott the service because of this marketing tactic.
A study published by the Association for Information Systems 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 have found that the "RG score", calculated by ResearchGate via a proprietary algorithm, can reach high values under questionable circumstances.
A study by the University of Graz 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 a serious metric. 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.
A study found that most RG users "do not care about sharing their expertise" and that only about 85000 users are active on the platform, and tend to ask, but not answer, questions. Most of the questions did not receive answers. A similar, independent study came to similar conclusions: only 6.6% of users were found to have ever asked or answered a question, and only 1.1% then asked a second question.
ResearchGate uses a crawler to find PDF versions of articles on the homepages of authors and publishers. These are then presented as if they had been uploaded to the web site by the author: the PDF will be displayed embedded in a frame, only the button "External Download" indicates that the file was in fact not uploaded to researchgate. It is not documented which robots.txt directive would prevent the researchgate bot from doing this.
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.
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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.
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Some irritated scientists say that the site taps into human instincts only too well – by regularly sending out automated e-mails that profess to come from colleagues active on the site, thus luring others to join on false pretences. (Indeed, 35% of regular ResearchGate users in Nature 's survey said that they joined the site because they received an e-mail.) Lars Arvestad, a computer scientist at Stockholm University, is fed up with the tactic. "I think it is a disgraceful kind of marketing and I am choosing not to use their service because of that", he said. 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.
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