Social Networking for Academics (ResearchGate/

Social networking is the practice of expanding the number of one's business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals. Social networking establishes interconnected online communities that help people make contacts that would be good for them to know, but that they would be unlikely to have met otherwise. There are a number of networking sites for academics/researchers.  However, two popular ones are ResearchGate and

ResearchGate and

These sites are intended for academics/researchers and a user must join to obtain a login and password. As of 2015 ResearchGate has about 7 million users but only a small percentage have filled out their profiles and uploaded a photo. The user base is largely European and American and centres on STEM. asserts that as of 2015 it has 21 million registered users and again it is largely STEM. The platforms can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field. The system 

  • Provides a user profile
  • Messaging (public/private)
  • Identifies other users with similar interests

Conversation strings focus on a research interest or paper and a user can "follow" a research interest, in addition to following individual users. A blogging feature for users provides the facility to write short reviews on peer-reviewed articles. ResearchGate indexes self-published information on user profiles to suggest members to connect with, as in people that have similar interests.When a user posts a question, it is fielded to scientists that have identified on their user profile that they have a relevant expertise. The system also has private chat rooms where scientists can share data, edit shared documents, or discuss confidential topics.


ResearchGate has been criticized for emailing unsolicited invitations to the co-authors of its users. These emails are written as if they were personally sent by the user, but they are sent automatically unless the user opts out which causes some researchers to boycott the service because of this marketing tactic. A study published by the Association for Information Systems found that a dormant account on ResearchGate, using default settings, generated 297 invitations to 38 people over a 16-month period, and that the user profile was automatically attributed to more than 430 publications.

It has also been suggested that most users do not care about sharing their expertise and tend to ask, but not answer, questions.  However, this is not unusual for social networking sites.

ResearchGate uses a crawler to find PDF versions of articles on the homepages of authors, institutional repositories and publishers. These are then presented as if they had been uploaded to the web site by the author: the PDF will be displayed embedded in a frame, only the button "External Download" indicates that the file was in fact not uploaded to ResearchGate.

Despite being passworded, these platforms are not open access platforms and publications are subject to the normal copyright rules. It is always more advisable to publish on an institutional repository such as Arrow  and then link to that from ResearchGate or Do not upload a published version of an article unless you have the copyright holder’s permission. does pretty much the same thing. The .edu would imply that it is coming from an educational institution but it is not. As of 2015 it has 21 million registered users. The platform can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field as with ResearchGate.  In 2013 when Elsevier purchased a rival product Mendeley the publisher sent thousands of take down notices to producing a storm of complaints by academics and the practice has ceased.

To Join ResearchGate

ResearchGate help centre and FAQs

To Join

Useful blog post on how to join and use

Useful blog post on pros and cons of ResearchGate



Back to top