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Review of ResearchGate : Pros and cons and recommendations

A number of researchers have asked about ResearchGate and whether it is worth using.  I did a little research and tested it myself and these are my thoughts:

ResearchGate is a networking site for researchers, particularly those engaged in broadly scientific research.

Pros

ResearchGate is free to join and currently has about 3 million users mainly in the sciences.  It offers the following benefits to researchers:

  • Sharing publications
  • Connecting with colleagues
  • Seeking new collaborations
  • Obtaining statistics and metrics on use of uploaded publications
  • Asking questions of researchers around the world that have the same set of interests
  • Job seeking or recruitment

 

ResearchGate incorporates many elements of familiar social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:

  • Creating profiles
  • Liking and following researchers and their publications
  • Endorsing the skills of others
  • Ability to bookmark favourites
  • Ability to comment or send feedback
  • Ability to share news items and updates easily and quickly

 

ResearchGate links researchers around selected topics and specialisations – these can be chosen or edited at any time by members.  Members can track and follow the research publications of others in their field.

Members can upload copies of papers (either pre- or post-review) and the associated raw data.  All will be searchable.  Non-peer-reviewed material can be added only through manual file upload.

Researchers are encouraged not only to upload successful results but also those results from failed projects or experiments – the latter are stored in a separate but searchable area.

ResearchGate finds publications for members from a number of major databases, for example, PubMed, arXiv, IEEE, RePEC and CiteSeer enabling automatic creation of a publications list.  Lists can also be created or added to manually or importing from a reference management database such as EndNote.  It also appears to trawl University web sites and repositories so that if you have papers in the Exeter repository, ORE, it is very easy to create profiles and publication lists.  Members will be asked to accept or decline publications (as is the case with Symplectic, for example).

Members are automatically subscribed to a co-author’s feed, so that they can see work from and connect with their co-authors’ co-authors.

ResearchGate offers the ability to search and filter on a variety of topics: author, institution, journal, publication, and so on.

Members can request a copy of a paper from the author if it is not freely available.

Full text publications uploaded to ResearchGate are indexed by Google.

ResearchGate contains useful information about journals, such as impact factors, metrics and some details of open access policy – in this respect it is useful for bringing information together into one place.

 

Cons

ResearchGate claims to have 3 million users but it is not clear how many of these are active accounts that are maintained and updated regularly.

A quick trawl of Exeter members shows that many profiles contain only a small number of publications and many appear not to have been updated for some time.

A high percentage of ResearchGate members are postgraduate and other students (may be a drawback for established researchers).

Some members have complained about unwanted email spamming.  To avoid receiving several emails a day, unwanted updates or followers, be sure to manage your Notifications and Privacy settings both of which can be accessed through Account Settings.

Many of the publications that are available through ResearchGate are actually uploaded illegally in terms of publisher open access policy.

Putting a copy of your paper on ResearchGate will not mean that you are compliant with funder policy.  On the contrary, you may be in breach of publisher policy.  You will still need to upload a copy of your paper to ORE via Symplectic if you are funded by any of the UK Research Councils, Wellcome, NIHR and ERC/Horizon 2020.  New University policy from 1 April 2013 also requires researchers to put newly published research in ORE.

Recommendations

The more effort you put into maintaining and regularly updating your profile, the more you will get out of ResearchGate.

ResearchGate is not a replacement for depositing a copy of your research in Exeter’s repository, ORE.  It is recommended that you deposit the legal copy of your paper in ORE and then link to that on networking sites such as ResearchGate. NB, when you submit your paper to ORE the Subject Librarian team will check for you that it is a legal copy.

The extent to which ResearchGate will be useful to individual researchers depends on the researcher’s aims.  If the aim is to promote work then ResearchGate alone will probably not suffice.  Consider using ResearchGate in conjunction with other sites such as Academia.edu, Mendeley, Google Scholar or figshare.  Activity and membership varies from one site to another and from one discipline to another, so researchers will need to investigate for themselves in order to evaluate potential value.

If you do use a variety of sites, this is where the advantage of having your paper in a single, freely available place, i.e., ORE, will come into play as you can simply link to the paper and know that anyone anywhere can get secure, long-term and free access.  There will be no need to undertake multiple publication upload.  Note that all ORE repository content is indexed by Google and Google Scholar and typically appears at or near the top of search results.

The University of Utrecht has produced a very useful guide to increasing the visibility and impact of research and the use of metrics to track impact.  Although written for Utrecht researchers, there is a great deal of generic advice that can be applied to any discipline.

Find out more about open access, ORE and publisher policy from the Library web pages, contact the Open Access team or ask your Subject Librarian.


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