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A Social Network for Researchers and Scientists?

April 19, 2011

On my drive home from work tonight I came across a radio segment discussing Researchgate – a social networking site in existence since 2008 that claims more that 900,000 users from 192 countries and 1,100 social groups.

Having never heard of this before, I decided to look into the site a bit further to see what it was all about and what might make it appealing to researchers as compliment to (or replacement for) their use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What apparently sets Researchgate apart from other social media sites is its focus on helping scientific researchers network and become more productive. The site includes forums, job postings, built-in file sharing and a search engine that searches external research databases.

With the amount of research taking place and the number of publications out there, I can certainly see the value of a tool that allows individuals to follow those who may be in the same field or carrying out research and using methods that they find particularly interesting as a method of “filtering out the static”. Apparently, others see value in such a concept as well. The site was initially funded by a former Facebook executive and the same venture capital firm that helped launch Twitter.

I’m curious to know what others, both inside and outside the area of scientific research, think of this concept. This particular site has been around for a couple of years and has collected just under a million somewhat specialized users, so it has to have some appeal. A potential concern is that researchers may be hesitant to share certain information out of the fear that others will steal their ideas. However, the site’s founder, Ijad Madisch, is hopeful that the site will someday be such a valuable resource to the world of scientific research that it lands him a Nobel prize. It’s a great concept and a creative yet practical use of social networking, but I think he may be shooting just a little bit high. What are your thoughts?

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