Yesterday, you used Academia.edu to make new connections, find new readers for your work, and track how often your work is being read.
Today, we’re going to look at one of the major players in the scholarly social network space, ResearchGate. ResearchGate claims 5 million researchers as users, and it will help you connect with many people who aren’t on Academia.edu. It can also help you understand your readers through platform-specific metrics, and confirm your status as a helpful expert in your field with their “Q&A” feature.
Given ResearchGate’s similarity to Academia.edu, I won’t rehash the basics of setting up a profile and getting your publications online.
Go ahead and sign up, setup your account, add detailed affiliation information (including a hyperlink to your UON web profile, which you will find a spot for on your profile under ‘Info’, ‘Contact’, ‘Website’), your profile photo, web bio and add a publication or two.
Got your basic profile up and running? Great! Let’s drill down into those three unique features of ResearchGate that you’re going to explore for your Day 2 Challenge.
Find other researchers & publications
Finding other researchers and publications on ResearchGate works a bit differently than on Academia.edu. Rather than allow you to specify “research interests” and find other researchers that way, ResearchGate automatically creates a network for you based on who you’ve cited, who you follow and what discipline you selected when setting up your profile.
So, key to creating a robust network is uploading papers with citations to be text-mined, and searching for and following other researchers in your field.
Searching for other researchers in your field is easy: use the search bar at the top of the screen and type in your colleague’s name. If they’re on the site, they’ll appear in the dynamic search results, as we see below:
Click on your colleague’s name in the search results to be taken to their profile, where you can explore their publications, co-authors, and so on, and also follow them to receive updates.
ResearchGate also text-mines the publications you’ve uploaded to find out who you’ve cited. Using that information, they add both researchers you’ve cited and those who have cited you to your network. Your network also includes colleagues from your department and institution.
To explore your network, click the “Publications” tab at the top of your screen to begin discovering the publications that are in your network. You can browse the most recent publications in your area of interest, your network, and so on, using the navigation bar seen here:
If you find an interesting publication, you can click the paper title to read the paper or click on the author’s name to be taken to their profile. And on the author’s profile, you can explore their other publications or choose to follow them, making adding a new colleague to your network a snap.
ResearchGate Score & Stats
If you’re into metrics, the ResearchGate score and stats offer lots to explore. The ResearchGate score is an indicator of your popularity and engagement on the site: the more publications and followers you have, plus the more questions you ask and answer, all add up to your score.
ResearchGate also helpfully provides a percentile (seen above on the right-hand side), so you know how a score stacks up against other users on the site. The score isn’t normalised by field, though, so beware that using the score to compare yourself to others isn’t recommended.
Some other downsides to be aware of: ResearchGate scores don’t take into account whether you’re first author on a paper, they weigh site participation much more highly than other (more important) indicators of your academic prowess, and don’t reflect the reality of who’s a high-impact researchers in many fields. So, caveat emptor!
The ResearchGate stats are also illuminating: they tell you how often your publications have been viewed and cited on ResearchGate (recently and over time), what your top publications are, and the popularity of your profile and any questions you may have asked on the site’s Q&A section.
On your profile page, you’ll see a summary of your stats:
If you click on those stats, you’ll be taken to your stats page, which breaks down all of your metrics with simple visualisations:
A word of caution: like Academia.edu stats, ResearchGate stats are only for content hosted on ResearchGate, so it can’t tell you much about readership or citations of your work that’s hosted on other platforms. And since it’s likely that your entire field isn’t active on ResearchGate that means ResearchGate stats aren’t representative of your full impact.
Now that we’ve made some passive connections by following other researchers, let’s build some relationships by contributing to the Q&A section of the site.
On the Q&A section, anyone can pose a question, and if it’s related to your area of expertise, ResearchGate will give you the opportunity to answer. Basically it’s a good opportunity to help other researchers and get your name out there.
Click on “Q&A” at the top of your screen and explore the various questions that have been posed in your discipline in recent weeks. You can also search for other topics, and pose questions yourself.
Two more cool ResearchGate features worth mentioning: they mint DOIs, meaning that if you need a permanent identifier for an unpublished work, you can get one for free. However, keep in mind that they haven’t announced a preservation plan, meaning their DOIs might be less stable over time than unique identifiers issued by an institutional repository like NOVA.
You can also request Open Reviews of your work, which allows anyone on ResearchGate who’s in your area of expertise to give you feedback – a useful mechanism for inviting others to read your paper. It’s a feature that hasn’t seen much uptake, but is full of possibilities in terms of publicising your work.
As is often pointed out, Academia.edu and ResearchGate are information silos – you put information and effort into the site, and can’t easily extract and reuse it later. And they’re absolutely correct. That’s a big downside of these services and a great reason to check out open alternatives like ORCID (which we will cover later).
Some other drawbacks to both Academia.edu and ResearchGate: they’re both for-profit, venture capital funded platforms, meaning that their responsibility isn’t to academics but to investors. And sure, they’re both free, which seems like an advantage until you remember that it means that you are the product, not the customer.
One solution to these drawbacks is to limit the amount of time you spend adding new content to your profiles on these sites and maybe concentrate on getting your work published full-text in a repository like NOVA (we’ll look at this more on Day 11), which is committed to Open Access and keeping your work discoverable. Instead use them as a method of profile Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that can help others find you and your three or four most important publications. Even if you don’t have all your publications on either site, their social networking features are still useful to make connections and increase readership for your most important work.
In the coming days, we’ll cover other web services that offer auto-updates and data portability, so you don’t end up suffering from Profile Fatigue.
Set up your ResearchGate profile and add at least three publications you think deserve attention. Next, search for at least 5 colleagues or well-known researchers in your field and follow each of them. Once you’ve established a network, take 10 minutes to explore the “Publications” tab of ResearchGate, browsing publications that have been recently published in your network.
In the coming days, take another 10 minutes to explore your ResearchGate score and stats. Are there any metrics that surprise you, in terms of what’s getting a lot of readers? How might you incorporate this information into your professional life outside of ResearchGate: would you put it on your CV or website, into an annual review or grant application in order to showcase your “broader impacts”? It’s ok if you say “no” to these ideas – the point is to get you thinking about what these metrics mean, and how you might use them professionally.
Now you’ve got connections on two of academia’s biggest social networks, and you’ve increased potential exposure for your publications, to boot. You’ve also got two new sources of metrics that’ll show how often you’re read and cited.
Are you ready for week 2? Next week we will cover more social networks for engaging with other researchers and the broader community, we’ll continue to improve your “Googleability”, and set-up social media automation to make your life easier. Have a great weekend!