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There are now may different ways of increasing your research visibility: Google Scholar, laboratory/faculty/industry or even personal websites, LinkedIn, to name a few.

In your opinion, how does ResearchGate fit into all of this ? Is it really 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"?

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    It seems you are asking for a complete analysis of ResearchGate. I don't think your question in this generality and broadness can be answered easily. I think this is one of the points that makes people close a question. So it is better you revise and restrict your question. – user4511 Feb 12 '14 at 21:03
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    I have avoided any interaction with ResearchGate due to its aggressive method of attracting sign-ups. – Nicholas Feb 12 '14 at 21:59
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    Is this supposed to be a poll? Personally, I think "waste". – walkmanyi Feb 12 '14 at 23:41
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    @VahidShirbisheh If you do believe this is not a question worth asking, feel free to close it. I on the other hand, believe ResearchGate to be a controversial topic and was hoping to get some insight on its benefits and its drawbacks. For instance, I totally agree with Nicholas and Penguin_Knight with the fact that the way they approach researchers is very aggressive. Yet, more and more people seem to be using it... – Nicolas Feb 13 '14 at 15:37
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    My personal stance is that RG is a wonderful idea (especially the Q&A parts) which are terribly executed. The Q&A section is utterly useless as it is flooded by horribly basic questions and clueless and factually wrong answers. I think they would absolutely need a system like SE for reputation management and clear and policed rules for posting. For visibility, I don't care much about RG - I do not have the impression that many readers find my papers there and not via my web page. – xLeitix Feb 16 '14 at 20:23
64

It's hard to predict how this will develop in the future. As is, I have yet to hear any positive success story from my peers. All I've heard of ResearchGate are complaints about their invitation spam.

If you sign up (or are already signed up), make sure to carefully check all settings. There are some "hidden" settings that will repeatedly send out "Invitations" and even "Invitation reminders" to your peers (make sure to disable this right at signup time, before "claiming" a single paper!). You can imagine that if your peer gets a dozen of them each week, he will get annoyed. And ReseachGate uses your name for the invitation, so he will get annoyed at you.

Before "requesting" a paper on Researchgate, make sure they have signed up. Otherwise, use regular email (even better, just use regular email right away!) When you request a paper from a non-user, they will be sent an invitation letter, but they cannot answer without joining: researchgate does not include contact information in your request!?!

Other than that, I have the impression that ResearchGate is mostly used by students, not by established researchers. Therefore, do not expect much high-quality interactions to happen.

Most of my peers that were on RG once, seem to have left. This is not a good sign.

If they don't manage to get high-quality interactions happen soon, their name may end up remaining associated with spam. They may have been too aggressive at boosting their user numbers quickly. The overall idea is good, but they need to find a way to get quality contributions, not only quantity. As is, I see them only strong on the quantitative side so far...

Honestly, in my opinion there is one thing really important for the visibility of your research:

  1. Make it available. Publish with open access, or a publisher where you can put the preprint on your webpage. Make sure that Google Scholar indexes it, because that is what everybody I know uses for searching literature. You must get Google Scholar to return a PDF link for your article.
  2. Make it available. Also put data sets, detailed description, source code, etc. on your web page; offer collaboration.

If you make it easy for others to build upon your work, they are more likely to do so. In particular, you must make it easier to build upon your work, than on alternatives. Making a RG profile does not really help; effectively it just means your data is spread to one more site. Instead, put a lot of information on your homepage.

Here is an example. I'm convinced that one of the reasons why he has been very successful is that you can download data and software and tutorials right on his homepage. Compare to his ResearchGate profile (I was even surprised he has one) - it's a dead duck, absolutely useless. A Google Scholar Profile may be much more useful, as it will be linked from any article, making it easy for people to reach your other publications. Again, the same example: Google Scholar does a much better job at providing an automatic publication list for you.

IMHO, Google Scholar is a must, because the profile will make it easier to get updated on your other publications. I visit Scholar profiles quite often; in particular to see the latest and the most cited work of an author of which I already have discovered a good article.

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    +1 I got "trapped" by such an "invitation" by a close colleage and friend early on (judged by the time the colleagues in my office started to get their invitation spam). The only question I ever asked over there ("How to link to already existing download") never got any answer... I have one of those half-dead profiles as many colleagues actually (still?) have an account there. The green OA policies in my field often would allow me to link a paper record from there to e.g. an institutional page with download, but not to upload the paper there (remember academia.edu & Elsevier?). – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 20 '14 at 20:21
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    @Anony-Mousse: do you work at Google ? :-) – Nicolas Jul 10 '14 at 15:47
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    As a mathematician, I have to strongly disagree with the last part of the answer. Google Scholar is near to useless in my area, and I have yet to find a single one of my colleagues who uses it. – Martin Argerami Nov 3 '14 at 12:56
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    You don't appear because you didn't set up a Google profile, and he didn't add you. The one thing I hate most about ResearchGate is that it created a "profile" for me without my consent. Google didn't. Google counts everything; sometimes preprints (if they differ too much) need to be manually merged by the authors (there is a function to do that). I consider it a feature that it gives me access to all citations, even from some master theses etc. that build on my work, not only if they are in some journal. I wouldn't care about the Chinese fake journal citations, on contrary. – Anony-Mousse Nov 3 '14 at 19:03
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    But I don't think Google Scholar means to be the most exact citation count as accepted by your rating committee. It aims at allowing you to find articles that cite your work, without randomly distinguishing them in "valueable citations" or not. – Anony-Mousse Nov 3 '14 at 19:08
42

My experience with ResearchGate has been negative. I was searching for a paper online, and a ResearchGate page came up. I signed up as a member because they promised to send me a pdf of the paper. They never sent it and instead sent unrelated spam.

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    RG will send a message to the author of the paper who is bugged to upload it to their web site (which isn't allowed in many cases when directly sharing with a colleague would be OK). After a while they added an option to send it directly, but it doesn't seem to work any more. (If the request doesn't look like spam, I usually send the requested paper by normal email if I can easily identify who asked). – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 20 '14 at 20:24
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    I recently got spammed by researchgate because someone "requested" my paper. I couldn't even reply without joining (no real email address included)! I consider this highly abusive behavior by RG, trying to trick users into joining. – Anony-Mousse Jun 29 '14 at 12:04
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I personally find one aspect of ResearchGate very useful, although I find that its benefit for me is only in small part due to any effect it has on my research visibility. Perhaps others can say more. But I do find it very helpful for keeping up with the state-of-the-art in my area.

I’m in an interdisciplinary social/medical science field where people publish in a very wide range of journals, and I try to keep track of several different literatures. So for me ResearchGate, in letting me follow researchers to see what they’ve published recently, is a nice complement to journal Tables of Contents. It’s a nice way to keep track of what others are working on without too much effort. I choose to follow both researchers I’ve met and strangers who recently published a useful article and might publish more in the same area.

To do this, I have the settings organized so that I am not following any “interesting Topics”, only people. This avoids having questions and answers in my live feed (which I find totally useless). Consequently, my live feed contains only new articles other academics in my fields are adding, and going through this from time to time in a moment of procrastination is fantastically useful. Of course, using ResearchGate in this way is only worth it if a largish proportion of researchers in your sub-fields are on the site.

7

Researchgate is a very poor way, often and perhaps generally, counterproductive vehicle for the spread o publication news. It does an incredibly sloppy job of assembling information on scholars (e.g., catches only about 350 of my over 1000 citation at ISI and 3500 at Google Scholar and Hazing's Publish or Perrish). It lures one in with an appeal to recognition of other authors who are friends or co-authors.

Perhaps it's operatiuons are guided the old Russian adage that "if something is worth doing, it's worth doing wrong."

7

I think that ResearchGate can be a useful tool to promote your research and contact peers, if you invest quite some time in it. It does not happen automatically. You must work to find people with relevant work for you, and follow them (and also occasionally unfollow some people) - so that you get a minimally lively and relevant news feed.

As scholarly communication goes, until now I have only received a letter from a professor via RG, but he was an established figure, so I was really happy to get a message from him. I also promptly started to read his older publications which were great, so this was an added benefit. That is, I think the best advantage of ResearchGate consists in how it creates alternative paths for exploring the scholarship universe: instead of jumping from text to text you jump from text to author to text. This is more lively and it leads you on surprising paths, sometimes.

Also, I enjoy finding established scholars from my interest topics on RG (and Academia.edu), browsing through all their publications and clicking "Follow". I like the idea of a connection with them - especially when, occasionally, they "follow" back. It's a variety of entertainment, I guess.

Still, in terms of visibility I think that my publications do get more views and downloads compared to my personal site - well, partly because I don't know how many they get there. At least, I can say that it gives me a reason of occasional joy see some view & download numbers on ResearchGate. (All these considerations also apply to Academia.edu, who has a much nicer - or not so evil- marketing strategy).

6

I was never a member of Researchgate or tried to be one. But at one point I was spammed with mails from Researchgate of former collaborators, with whom I published or did not publish, and it still goes on. There are also researchers included who I personally don't know. I was asked constantly to confirm authorship of some of my papers. This turned me completely off, and I think it is simply a spam company. A company, which wants to do serious business does not use this kind of method.

2

ResearchGate is pretty much like Linkedin or Academia.edu. I prefer Academia.edu because it doesn't send me an email every time someone looks at my profile. At the same time, Academia.edu doesn't look as visually aesthetic as ResearchGate. On the other hand, you have Linkedin which is for professionals, not really academics. However, a lot of academics are now setting up their profiles because Linkedin is most likely the first place employers or other researchers go first.

In my opinion, it's not bad to have an account in as many places as possible to allow as may people as possible to see your profile. You can also sign up on Google Scholar and it will assign your papers to your profile, or you can insert papers that Google does not find.

Basically, it's entirely up to you and how you want your information to be spread!

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    "Spreading" information is a nice concept. But it also needs to be read. Can your report on any success due to any of these sites? Did you get collaboration or even just citations because they found you on that website? – Anony-Mousse Jun 20 '14 at 17:10
  • I've had the most success from Academia.edu with regard to getting other scholars interested in my work. As far as Linkedin is concerned, I have people who follow me, but I haven't had any work opportunities. – A. J. Alger Jul 8 '14 at 17:44
  • You can deactivate notifications in settings->notifications. There are a lot of boxes to un-check... – Cape Code Sep 10 '14 at 0:15
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I think it is worth mentioning that ResearchGate's policy on invitations has improved. This is what they say on the matter:

One way to make sure that your publications gain maximum exposure among your peers is by inviting your co-authors to join you on ResearchGate when you add publications to your profile. If you’d like your co-authors to join you, just make sure that the Invite my co-authors to ResearchGate box is checked when you’re adding publications and, where possible, an invitation will be sent to them. By clicking Preview, you can also choose which of your co-authors you would like to invite. Invitations will only be sent to the co-authors selected; ResearchGate does not email your co-authors on your behalf without your knowledge or consent.

You can customize your Invitation settings at any time. To do this, go to your Invitation settings and choose which of your co-authors you would like to invite by selecting them from the list. If you would like to disable invitations entirely, simply click Turn off all. If you have turned off invitations, you can always turn them back on again by selecting Turn on all. We take personal data and anti-spam policies very seriously; our processes are compliant with European and U.S. regulations and are audited on a regular basis.

There are still plenty of problems with the site. Here is an extensive list of things a computer scientist thinks should be addressed http://ptbcs.blogspot.ca. He seems to be keeping the list updated with new problems or improvements.

ResearchGate has only sent invitations from me to two people. One of those I was unhappy that they had sent an invitation as it was not clear they would do that. But I immediately realised this would be an issue and disabled the setting.

I think ResearchGate has huge potential and has many benefits if used appropriately. But as @Cosima mentioned, you need to invest some time setting things up, making sure the settings are appropriate. Facebook went through similar problems with privacy and has since improved. When I first joined the site several years ago, I was hugely dissapointed and quickly realised that I would have to wait and see if it amounted to anything. I finally feel like the site is going down the right path. Most of my colleagues and peers are now on the site, I see their citation updates and the metrics are improving. I recognise the sites current major flaws, but am optimistic about its future role for the research community.

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I don't really think that ResearchGate is a waste of time.

EDIT:

As this answer was being downvoted because it was not originally focused on ResearchGate, following I try to explain why this social network is not a waste of time for me.

You can already search for journal articles and or researchers in Google Scholar and Scopus, to name just a few. ResearchGate gives a social approach to it. InResearchGate you can follow researchers, so that you can get notified when any of them publishes new papers, for instance. Moreover, you can set your profile and tell other researchers what you are dealing with, what topics you are interested in, and so on.

I think it could still be quite more useful if some functionalities were added (maybe adding the ability of creating, announcing and promoting à-la-Facebook events, which means conferences, workshops, symposiums, etc., for instance), but it is actually becoming the social network for scientific researchers, in my humble perception.

THE REST OF THE ORIGINAL ANSWER:

I personally recommend having your own academic profile in the following social networks/tools:

  • ReseachGate, It is nearly the Facebook for researchers, so you just must be in.
  • A personal website (better if it is hosted by your University) - With all your contact information, teaching and research info (the info that you consider to be interesting for those people that are looking for you at the Internet). Keep it as clean and simple as possible.
  • LinkedIn - More professional than academic. One doesn't know when it can be useful.

Optional but also interesting:

  • Twitter, A simple and fast way to share short messages, interesting pieces of info, etc. with your audience, whoever they are.

  • About.me or similar, A kind of landing page that you can configure to show all your very basic information, together with links to all your Internet profiles, etc. all with a minimalist and nice touch. You can add it to your e-mail signature.

  • A blog, Basically a place where you can say things. It could be integrated within your website.

  • Why did I get negative opinions to my answer!? :/ – Vicent Sep 3 '14 at 8:58
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    The question is about ResearchGate. All you say about that site is "you just must be in", which sounds more like an advertisement than an independent evaluation. Why just must I be in? Bear in mind that I don't have a Facebook account, either. The rest of your answer is completely irrelevant to the question: it is neither directly about ResearchGate, nor does it compare the other options with ResearchGate. – David Richerby Sep 9 '14 at 23:07
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    @EnthusiasticStudent I don't think there's any point editing a heavily downvoted answer to include links to places such as Twitter and Facebook. Everybody knows where to find those sites so the links aren't useful. This kind of trivial edit of a rather old answer is harmful because it moves the question up to the front of the Active list, displacing some other question onto the second page. – David Richerby Sep 16 '14 at 14:00
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    @EnthusiasticStudent OK, fair enough on the bumping. But I'm not convinced that bulk-editing to add links to sites that are way more famous than this one is worthwhile. – David Richerby Sep 16 '14 at 14:09
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    In Google Scholar, you can also follow researchers and set up a profile. – ff524 Sep 16 '14 at 16:27

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