ResearchGate is an academic social network for scientists. It was built on the notion that collaborating with colleagues around the world should not be a difficult task. In order to connect researchers with each other and facilitate collaboration, ResearchGate allows its members to share their publications and negative results. It also lets users see who has been reading and citing their work. ResearchGate has discussion forums which allow users to pose questions to a global community of fellow researchers who help each other find solutions. ResearchGate also hosts a job board which can help members find their next research job. These activities encourage scientists to interact with others in their field around the world and can spark new ideas or collaborative efforts.
ResearchGate has 12 million members, ranging from students to professors. About 2.5 million publications are being uploaded to the site on a monthly basis. This represents a significant growth for this German startup since, in its first four years, the total number of papers uploaded was 2.5 million. ResearchGate not only facilitates sharing academic research’s successes but also its failures. In a relatively new feature called Projects, members can share the results of current research, including the results of their most recent experiments. This allows members of the community to see what experiments work and which ones don’t—which is also very valuable information.
The Berlin-based company has recently raised $52.6 million dollars bringing the total funding that they have acquired to more than $100 million. The most recent round of funding has come from an impressive list of benefactors. They include the Wellcome Trust, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Four Rivers Group, Bill Gates, Benchmark, and Founders Fund. The funding has in part been used to launch Projects, improve the website’s computing infrastructure, and hire more team members. ResearchGate is also contemplating on expanding to a new country, for which it may also use this funding.
However, there are those who are concerned that ResearchGate is inadvertently helping its members violate copyright laws. In many instances, publishers require authors to sign over their copyright to the journal before publishing their academic research. ResearchGate enables file sharing. While the site encourages users to check if they have the legal right to share their published article online, there is no real enforcement of this policy. This means that at least some of the papers being hosted on ResearchGate may be there in contravention of the rights of journal publishers. A random sample of 500 articles hosted on ResearchGate found that 51.3% of them were shared in violation of their publishers’ copyright policy. This problem could be addressed by educating researchers so that the power of ResearchGate isn’t diluted by users violating copyright law.