Social media in Academia (5): ResearchGate

<<< GO TO PART 4: Social media in Academia (4): LinkedIn

Your Google Scholar Profile is essentialy the publication list of your CV, covering all your publications and their citations. LinkedIn is the “go to” place for finding out more about your career history and allows you to easily share your professional news in various formats. ResearchGate has become the “go to” place to find full-text versions of your papers, especially for academics in the Social Sciences. Humanities scholars often use Academia.edu, a very similar service, whereas academics in the Sciences and Engineering frequently use repositories such as arXiv.org. Increasingly though academics from all disciplines are starting to use ResearchGate.

Unless you have your own website and upload full-text pre-publication version of your papers there, ResearchGate is thus the "go to" place to upload full-text versions of your papers, something which is crucial to disseminating your work more widely. Even though I do have papers on my own website under Online papers I still upload them on ResearchGate as well as I know this is where many academics are looking for them.

Setting up your profile

Creating a profile is really simple:

  1. Go to researchgate.net
  2. Click Join for free or connect with Facebook or LinkedIn
  3. Select which type of researcher you are
  4. Enter your name, institutional email address, and choose a password
  5. To finish creating your account, you will need to click the link in the activation email you receive.
  6. Flesh out your account by adding a bio and other CV type items under Overview and Info Make sure you keep it future proof so you don’t need to constantly update these.

Adding publications and full-text versions

ResearchGate has an extensive publication database drawn from a variety of sources. Once you have created a profile, it will search whether it already has publications in their database under your name. It will generally notify you that it has found publication matches for you; review them and accept inclusion if they are yours. If any of your publications are missing you can add them manually. Once this is done add full text versions for as many of your publications as possible. The full-text availability will be clearly shown on your profile.

If the article is available Open Access [i.e. accessible for everyone, even for individuals and universities without a subscription] on the publisher’s website you can upload that version. Otherwise, simply add the “pre-publication version” of your article. This is the version that was accepted by the journal, but contains your own formatting. However, the pre-publication version doesn’t have to be the unattractive “double-spaced, all tables and figures at the back” version. You can make it look as nice as you want, as long as it is your own version. Finally, you can pick up to five research items as featured items. This is a really good way to feature articles you are particularly proud of or articles that are recent. This is one of my five, an article introducing a fairer new research metric, which I felt had received less attention than it deserved.

Creating projects

Make it easier for people to understand what you are working on by grouping your published articles into projects. In these projects you can also add data, power point slides or other resources such as videos. This is especially useful if you have a coherent body of research on a particular topic that you want to showcase or have a new project that you want to bring under people’s attention. I have not been very effective in using this feature as I already have defined six research programs on my personal website and I just can't be bothered doing something similar on ResearchGate. So I have only half-heartedly created a few projects, literally in 5-10 minutes each. However, it can be a very useful feature and one of my Middlesex colleagues - Lilian Miles - has used it very effectively in summarzing her funded work in Malaysia.

ResearchGate as a source of professional/academic information

  • You can use ResearchGate to request full-text versions of papers if they are not yet online and others can do the same for your papers. This is especially useful for items that you are not allowed to post publicly on ResearchGate. You can store a full-text of these items privately and then just send them to individuals asking for a copy.
  • Just like on Linkedin/Twitter, you can follow people on ResearchGate. This might be useful if you are starting out in a particular field and would like to keep up to date with key authors.
  • Just like Linkedin/Twitter, ResearchGate also has a time-line. This tells you whenever someone you follow or one of your co-authors is "doing something" on ResearchGate, whether that's adding content, commenting on a paper, asking a question, following a project or a question, or anything else really. However, your time-line also seems to include some people who are only linked to you through citations. For me, this is just complete and utter information overload, most of it irrelevant. However, it might be quite useful if are just starting out and not yet connected to many people.
  • You can ask and respond to questions on ResearchGate. However, typically I find the level of these Q&A exchanges to be rather low. You are better off going to Academia Stack Exchange or ask your colleagues.

Metrics

ResearchGate provides an extensive set of metrics under the Stats and Scores tabs. Unfortunately, ResearchGate is not transparent about how these are calculated and regularly changes both the metrics included and their calculations. They are therefore not quite as reproducible as metrics from publishers or data sources such as the Web of Science, Scopus, Microsoft Academic and Google Scholar. However, they might give you some interesting insights into the popularity of your entire body of work as well as your individual articles.

Under the Scores tab you see your own very own ResearchGate score, the calculation of which unfortunately is rather obscure. You also get a h-index based on ResearchGate citations as well. Under the Stats tab, there is no end to what you can find out about how your publications are doing. As you can see below, you can review the development of reads and citations of your body of work and individual articles over time.

Every week you can view a report with the number of new reads, recommendations and citations, as wel as see which individuals are downloading or reading your work [omitted in the screenshot below for privacy reasons] and the countries and institutions in which your work is read most. You also get a list of your most-read articles every week, as well as a list of your "achievements" such as "this paper has achieved 200 reads, that paper has achieved 20 citations". If you click on the "view more" link under Research Interest you are shown a new window in which you can see how you compare to other ResearchGate users. The sheer amount of these metrics is quite overwhelming and I think the granularity of them easily leads you to overestimate their level of accuracy and importance. However, there is no denying that some of these metrics can be useful if you are making your case for tenure and promotion.

Adjust your notifications settings

Just like for LinkedIn I suggest you adjust your preferences to ensure you are not overwhelmed with emails. Click on Account/Settings and just spend five minutes to uncheck nearly all of your notification settings. If you don’t, you might well get several emails a day. You will be told if academics engage in any way with any of your papers or your projects and all the metrics and achievements listed above will be emailed to you on a regular basis. As one of my co-authors said: "ResearchGate's default settings alert you whenever someone in your networks farts".

Not only does this create serious email clutter [do I really need to know that one or other of my 133 papers has "achieved" 5 or 10 or 20 citations or 100 or 200 reads?], it also creates an unhealthy obsession with metrics. All of this might be a bit of fun if you are just starting out, have only one or two papers, and are truly excited with every read or citation. Weren't we all? However, I wouldn't recommend it for established researchers, especially if you want to keep your sanity and get any work done.

GO TO PART 6: Social media in Academia (6): Twitter >>>

Videos: ResearchGate, Blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter

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