research technology

Social media and professional identity: Part 4 (ResearchGate)

Over the past few months I’ve been working towards my final PhD submission, and so haven’t had much opportunity to continue my my series on using social media to develop a professional online identity. Now that I have at least a little bit of time again, I’m going to try and finish it up over the next few weeks. This article is about using ResearchGate to connect with other researchers as part of a private academic social network.

ResearchGate is a social network for academics and researchers in a variety of scientific domains, although the medical field (see image below) is by far the best represented, with almost 400 000 users, and nearing 8 million shared publications (statistics accurate June, 2012).

On ResearchGate, you can create private profiles (i.e. only visible to other registered users of the site) where you highlight your publications, your areas of research interest, level of experience and engage with colleagues who have similar interests. ResearchGate offers some useful statistics based on your publications, for example, who your top co-authors are, the top journals you’ve published in (measured by the impact factor) and the general keywords your articles have used, which is a useful indicator of the areas that your publications cover. See below for an example of a profile page on ResearchGate.


ResearchGate also suggests other users to follow based on institutional affiliation and research interests. Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of ResearchGate is that it connects you with local or national academics who are doing research in areas that you might be interested in. When you follow other researchers, you’re notified of their status updates, which can include new publications that they’ve added, comments, questions and conversations that are happening online. See below for an example of a question on co-authoring and the conversation it stimulated.

ResearchGate is a great service to use for the discovery of new content and for engaging with researchers who have similar interests. The content you add to this site is not available publicly, so this is not necessarily a great service to use if you want to be found through a web-based search. However, within the user-base of the site, you will be discoverable. One of the things I really like about ResearchGate is their innovative approach to determining a user’s “scientific reputation”. They don’t only look at publication as a way of measuring your value as an academic, but also your engagement and (informal) contributions to the community. You can score points in the traditional way by sharing your publications from peer-reviewed journals and conferences. However, you can also increase your impact on the community by asking and answering questions that are posed by colleagues. In this way, your informal contributions to the field are recognised, in addition to your more traditional impact.












If you’re an academic looking to connect with other researchers in your field, or from your institution, then ResearchGate is definitely worth having a look at. The user interface is attractive and intuitive, sharing your work is easy, and the innovative approach to measuring impact is great.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

1 reply on “Social media and professional identity: Part 4 (ResearchGate)”

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