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Scientists, funders flock to ResearchGate

Networking site gathers momentum in quest for open science

by Alex Scott
March 1, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 10

Big network

What fields do ResearchGate’s 12 million members come from?
Source: ResearchGate
A pie chart showing the focus of Researchgate’s members by academic discipline, with medicine coming out on top with 15%.
What fields do ResearchGate’s 12 million members come from?
Source: ResearchGate

ResearchGate, a scientific networking website, says it continues to grow strongly. The organization now boasts connections to more than 100 million publications, 12 million researchers, and 1 million answers to research questions. Akin to a LinkedIn for scientists, ResearchGate claims 840,000 members who are primarily chemists, up from 270,000 in 2013.

The Berlin-based company disclosed this week that in November 2015 it raised $53 million in a fourth round of funding from organizations including the Wellcome Trust, Goldman Sachs, and wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates. That follows a $35 million investment by Gates and others in 2013.

The 2015 investment enabled ResearchGate to begin an initiative called Projects, through which scientists provide updates to peers and the wider world about their ongoing research. Since the inception of Projects, scientists have begun sharing data on more than half a million active studies, ResearchGate says.

“Like other research results, scientific data will be included in researchers’ profiles, enabling collaboration and discovery,” Ijad Madisch, ResearchGate’s CEO and cofounder, says about Projects. “ResearchGate will become the hub for scientific data online.”

The organization says its activities reflect the scientific community’s shift away from siloed experimentation and toward network-driven collaboration. “With its member network of 12 million individuals, ResearchGate has clearly become the dominant player driving that collaboration,” says Ian Friedman, head of Goldman Sachs’s venture capital team.

But the network’s online sharing model can introduce conflicts. “ResearchGate members can upload copyrighted, peer-reviewed journal articles, and in some cases, this could breach copyright law,” says Stephanie Dawson, CEO of ScienceOpen, a networking platform that also promotes open science.

ResearchGate, though, asserts that it encourages its members to check with the publisher when they are unsure about copyright and that it can readily disable access to content if any infringement takes place.

ScienceOpen takes another tack. Rather than allow its members to upload content, the organization works with scientific publishers to encourage them to share papers or at least some of the papers’ underlying scientific data. In this way, ScienceOpen can create a context-rich environment for users, Dawson says.



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