Creating a social network for scientists is not a revolutionary idea—Academia.edu, Ologeez, and Lab Meeting are all startups that have developed variations of communities for researchers and scientists to share their works. ResearchGATE joins the group by offering a free LinkedIn-like professional network that allows scientists to connect with other colleagues, discover new methods, papers, and people and then collaborate using applications built specifically for researchers.
On ResearchGATE, scientists can create Facebook-like profiles where users can list their education, work experience, skills and interests and attach research papers. Users can add professional contacts by searching for other researchers who have the same focus. ResearchGATE also gives users the option to engage in online discussions by joining or forming groups. ResearchGATE also offers a few applications that help connect scientists in the virtual world. ReStory, similar to GoogleDocs, allows users to collaborate together with colleagues to write and edit documents. ReMeet lets users schedule meetings and conference calls online and ReVote enables users to create surveys and polls on topics. ResearchGATE is planning to roll out several new features in the near future including virtual conferencing and a job board.
The site also offers a powerful search capacity that scours its internal resources and all major external research databases, including Pubmed, Citeseer and others, to find research papers. ResearchGATE also suggests similar papers written about a topic when users upload their own papers, giving users an easy easy to find like-minded individuals and papers. And based on the profiles of other members, ResearchGATE can suggest other scientists, groups, and resources to users.
Currently, ResearchGATE, which was launched earlier this year, has a user base of 50,000 researchers from 196 different countries. More than 40,000 papers and documents have been uploaded to the site and there have been 1100 groups formed around different subject matters. For example, over 100 Influenza specialists formed a research group to discuss the outbreak of the Swine Flu. And more than 1300 researchers from different disciplines formed a group to discuss research methodology and practices. According to the site, ResearchGATE’s groups center mostly around the disciplines of biology, medicine and computer science.
Competitor Labmeeting, lets scientists upload all of those documents, organize them, search them, and share them. Academia.edu also lets scientists connect with each other and provides a useful news feed of papers, conferences and project news and allows users to stay up to date on current events in their field. What makes ResearchGATE’s site useful is not only its its ability to share documents but to be able to connect with scientists all over the world on issues of interest. By suggesting users with similar interests, the site does a lot of the networking work for users. Of course, one of ResearchGATE’s biggest challenges will be recruiting large numbers of scientists to the site. ResearchGATE is hoping to do this by forging partnerships with universities and research institutions and already has a few on board including The University of Georgia and the Medical School of Hannover, Germany.