About 4 years ago, a question was asked about usefulness of ResearchGate for academics. Judging by the most upvoted answers, the portal had a rather negative opinion back then. However, social media trends tend to change on much shorter timescales, and my experience with RG has actually been slightly positive. This makes me curious as to how the perception has changed since then.

To quote the previous question, I would be very interested in knowing if, as of 2018, ResearchGate is a good way of increasing the visibility of your publications and finding fellows with common research interests, or is it just a "waste of time"?

Since the above is - as many have rightly pointed out - too opinion based, I would like to ask, more specifically: In what ways has ResearchGate changed over the last 4 years? How do these changes affect perception of ResearchGate in the academic community?

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    I would very much like to see an A.D. 2018 update on the linked question, since it is the only (but dated) resource I can refer to when asked, as I was just recently, about pointlessness (or pointlesslessness) of ResearchGate. Perhaps the OP could rephrase his question to "what exactly has changed" regarding the issues with RG raised in the answers to the old question (spam, fake profiles, indexing, available content, low and low-level participation) and regarding the advantages that some have seen (visibility, networking, stats, Q&A). This seems a less opinion-based angle. – lemon314 Jul 15 '18 at 23:48
  • @lemon314: Thank you, I've edited the question accordingly. Also - thanks for the input to those who pointed out that the question might be too opinion based. – Jakub Konieczny Jul 16 '18 at 10:33
  • What I am wondering if having a profile in RG increases your citation count. – Herman Toothrot Jul 16 '18 at 11:54
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    Since I never use it, I won't write an answer; but I do have a profile (one that I think was made "for" me rather than by me) and I get occasional completely useless emails from them. Everything I hear from them suggests they are aggressively useless, ignorant of academia and unwilling to learn. For the fanboys who wish to disagree, explain why they think it's reasonable for an academic with publications dating back 30 years to constantly be showered with "We think you may be interested in this position!" for post-doc positions. – iayork Jul 16 '18 at 17:39
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    This is not an answer, but I just want to mention that I find it utterly disgusting that there are no links to the original sources of any of the papers on researchgate (neither to arxiv nor to the journal). They actually show the DOIs but don't make them clickable! That really makes their priorities clear. – Almoturg Jul 17 '18 at 12:18

I have a Researchgate profile, but I only see my activity decreasing in the near future. To me, the issue with RG is that it only appeals to junior or unknown scholars. While it is great that they now have a way of disseminating their research, RG doesn't help reaching the "big names" because most don't use the platform. Most fields are sufficiently small that people reasonably know each other or can ask someone else to be introduced. Hence, RG doesn't help narrowing the gaps between academic circles of "big names" and "unknown researchers", although this is something urgently necessary.

Additionally, many of the services that RG provides are subpar compared to competitors. I already have a number of ways to keep updated with the current literature in my field, and most of the recommendations that RG sends me are unsurprising or duplicate. The citation/read count is mostly useless, and many services such as Google Scholar and Scopus are much better at that. The platform for including current projects is also fairly inflexible and generally asks to share more than what the researcher is comfortable with---lab webpages are much better at that. I also don't see RG as a reasonable platform for uploading preprints, and like many uncurated venues, most people who do resemble cranks, and I don't use RG to look into someone's publications because it looks messy and incomplete. I use Google Scholar, Scopus or personal webpages for that.

I have never used the "Questions" section of RG, but the few times I glanced it, I expected to see some sort of a forum for academic discussion over some topic, but it seemed more like a watered-down version of SE minus the efficient curating. And most questions remain unanswered.

I do keep my RG updated, and every week or two I receive a request for a pdf of one of my papers. I suppose easing this request process is an advantage over other means of communication, but I don't think many people who use RG attend those requests anyway. I have also never received a request to collaborate through RG, but I have received such requests through e-mail.

I think the rationale behind RG is interesting (i.e., connecting researchers online), but it just doesn't work well, and doesn't appeal to most of the relevant people in (my) community. Collaborating in science is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. I don't see how an online platform that connects people who don't know each other and have no way of knowing how each other work can reasonably help at that.

I do think one aspect of RG is fine, which is post-publication peer-review. But while it does allow people to publicly comment in publications, the platform is also not built for long comments, only back-patting, and most people don't use it for that anyway.

In general, it seems that maintaining your own webpage, even if with much less functionality, appears to be better than having a ResearchGate profile. But two things that RG attempts to implement are worth pursuing: 1) post-publication peer-review, and 2) some way to connect people from the same field but who belong to different academic circles.

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  • can you define collaboration? what does it mean to you? and why you find it dreadfull? – user94263 Jul 16 '18 at 10:11
  • I tend to agree that I don't see the big names on RG, but those are not the people who cite you, not necessarily. – Herman Toothrot Jul 16 '18 at 11:55
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    @Stefan my definition of collaboration is pretty standard, I suppose, i.e., working on a project and/or publication with someone else. I never said I find collaborations "dreadful", I said that I don't see how RG significantly helps collaboration. – FBolst Jul 16 '18 at 14:47
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    @HermanToothrot in using RG, I am not particularly interested in getting more citations, but I would expect it to help me reach others in my community, get some sort of feedback, and narrow the gap between different academic circles. It doesn't help me in any of that. Moreover, given that there are many more efficient (cleaner, easier, more direct, more complete, etc) ways to get up to date with the current work in my field, I doubt it helps increase my citation count. – FBolst Jul 16 '18 at 14:50
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    @FBolst hmm it was intended for making new collaboration, it was never intended for fishing to the big names. It is like saying, why celebrities wont follow my twitter or fb account – user94263 Jul 16 '18 at 15:35

You correctly tagged this with social media, because RG does share one quality of social media - it's useful only if like-minded people are already on it. In certain fields you will find a lot of relevant people signed up already, so there's a good chance RG will be helpful. In others, you may end up with irrelevant answers/article suggestions that could put you off.

I always recommend first finding out if researchers connected to your field, or researchers you know are already on it. If they are, it could be a great platform to connect. I have personally been able to get very specific inputs from very senior researchers, who may have otherwise been difficult to reach. You can't generalise though; different people visit at different frequencies.

The same holds for the Q/A section. You shouldn't go expecting an efficient answering system like SE, especially if there aren't many active researchers from your field already signed up. Think of it more as a shot in the dark, there is a chance you end up with valuable inputs withon a reasonable time. My personal experience over 3 years indicates a roughly 60% satisfaction level with answers/discussions.

As for 'whats new', there is an option for users to indicate labs/groups they work in. This can help you reach out to non-corresponding authors of work you may be interested in (possibly corresponding authors are too senior/busy to expect a short turnaround time).

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  • First paragraph seems like a comment and makes no mention of this question being a repeat, which would be greater grounds for it to be removed. – vol7ron Jul 15 '18 at 17:39

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