You all know Facebook and Twitter, but did you know there are social networking platforms designed specifically for academics and technical professionals? The three platforms below allow users to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field. They also allow users to discuss their findings with other users in public and private forums. This section outlines the major features, benefits, and drawbacks of these newcomers to the academic publishing industry.
- Research repository. Users can upload their research output–such as papers, data, negative results, presentations, and software source code–for other users to search for and read. ResearchGate automatically recognizes uploaded content from public records, ensuring uniform citation information across the Web. Entries can include full text PDFs, or simply citation information.One neat feature is that if the full-text version of a publication is not uploaded, you can request it directly from the authors. This is very useful if you have institutional restrictions that prevent you from accessing a work, or if you simply cannot find it.
- Verified sources: Only researchers whose institutional affiliations and status have been verified can publish content on the platforms (although anyone can browse.).
- Discussion forums: This is a major benefit of ResearchGate. Users can pose questions, concerns, or discussion topics to the ResearchGate community. Other users answer their questions and recommend helpful answers: this is like the well-known Yahoo Answers service, but you have the advantage of knowing the institution and expertise of everyone who’s providing you with advice.
- ‘Follow’ function. Users can follow other users to receive updates on new uploads, blog comments, and other activity. You can also follow a field of research generally, and receive updates on new publications in that field.
- Citation metrics: ResearchGate uses a proprietary measure called RG Score to measure a work’s impact in the field.
- User blogs and reviews: Users can post and read short reviews on peer-reviewed articles. This functions as a kind of a post-publication peer review.
- Large active user-base. ResearchGate is the largest academic social network on the Web by number of active users.
- Extensive research repository. Instead of uploading research output to the website as is the case for ResearchGate, Academia.edu users can link their content published elsewhere on the Web directly. Additionally, as with ResearchGate, you can request the full text of publications from authors on the network.
- Good integration with online repositories. If you have a paper deposited in an online repository like arXiv or SSRN, you can link your profile with it, allowing you to monitor pageviews and downloads in one unified location.
- High global visibility. edu has a strong marketing department when it comes to global expansion, which means that it tends to have more non-Western users than ResearchGate. Some users find this results in more global exposure (in terms of pageviews and downloads.
- Bibliography management: Mendeley’s main unique feature is its support for reference management. It’s not only a website, it’s also a desktop client, which makes it easy for authors to create a complete and well-formatted Reference section as they write a paper.
- Dataset sharing: With Mendeley, you can assign a unique DOI identifier to your research data, and easily (and safely) share it with colleagues around the globe.
- Industry connections: The company was acquired by traditional publishing company Elsevier in 2013, and has a Careers section where you can look for job opportunities.
Which Social Network is Best?
|Advantages||Largest active user-base of the three networks Online platform is focused on interactivity, allowing for in-depth discussions of research.||Largest paper depository of the three networks. Good compatibility and integration with other online networks like arXiv and SSRN.||Useful reference software to speed up your paper writing. Easy to share datasets around the globe.|
|Disadvantages||Relatively small number of papers in depository.||Forums tend to be general, not regarding specifics of research. Lower barrier to entry, meaning poor-quality papers are archived along with polished professional work.||Smallest user-base of the three networks No paper depository function|
Moreover, you shouldn’t overlook the networking power of popular, generalist social networks. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool, through which you can make professional connections outside of academia. Many academics use Twitter more actively, both to publicize and comments on research, so that is a good place to follow other researchers and post your findings as well.