What’s the point of ResearchGate?

Some years ago, in a moment of weakness, I joined a website called ResearchGate. I’m not sure why, but it seemed a good idea at the time. I don’t visit the actual site very often, but it does send me large numbers of emails. Normally about things I’m not particularly interested in or asking me if I’m an author of a paper about biochemistry they’ve found somewhere on the net. Once a week I get one like this:


I get a similar one every week without fail. It’s always flattering to be thought of as being in the spotlight, but the obvious inference to be made from the fact that I get such a message every week is that I am the only person in the Department silly enough to have joined ResearchGate.

Has anyone out there joined ResearchGate and found it worthwhile? Maybe there’s something worthwhile about it?

Do tell.


25 Responses to “What’s the point of ResearchGate?”

  1. lordbubonicus Says:

    I joined it, and my experience is much the same as yours. The only thing I seem to get out of it is irritation at the sheer number of emails that they send me.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m not using it ‘properly’. But it does seem like a bit of a waste of time. Academia. edu is similar in my experience, but seems to produce a lower level of spam email, is marginally more user friendly, and actually seems to have some features that are useful.

  2. Russell Smith Says:

    Apart from getting lots of emails yourself, having joined research gate you also have the pleasure of having all your collaborators receive spam appearing to come from you inviting them to join too…

    • telescoper Says:

      Gah. I didn’t know this.

      • Russell Smith Says:

        I don’t seem to get these as much as I used to, though, so maybe they’ve stopped doing it (or maybe it’s getting filtered better).

    • Russell – They only get spammed if you don’t decline that option at sign-up.

      and the best way to “join” is to use an email address you’ve created for junk activities… thus ensuring you never see any of their constant barrage.

  3. I use both ResearchGate and Academia.edu. There is a marginal benefit to both in making my work more easily available to others; the latter site is more useful in that I believe it can be accessed by anyone (and via Google), not just members.

  4. Very early on ResearchGate created automatically a profile of a collaborator of mine (see the final para of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ResearchGate for some discussion of this). They then sent me an email claiming to be from the collaborator, inviting me to join. I did, then it invited the collaborator, closing the circle.

    When we found out about this we all left. They claim to have stopped doing this particular evil variant of spamming, but it took many years of box ticking and complaints before all the spam email stopped.

  5. Like everything else Research Gate has its good points too I find it is easier to find colleagues with the same interests from across the world. It is also much easier to get otherwise limited access articles directly from the authors.
    The multitude of emails can be irritating , but you can turn most of them off, as far as I know.

  6. I signed up just a few days ago. Someone mentioned that he had added a comment to a discussion which might interest me. I read it and wanted to add one myself, which apparently requires signing up.

    Although still active on usenet, some of the world has moved to blogs, forums (fora?) and so on, and signing up is sometimes meaningful. So I did.

    I am annoyed by the large number of emails and if I can’t find an easy way to turn them off (and if I can’t find it quickly) I will cancel my membership.

    The basic structure seems similar to many other sites (academia.edu) was mentioned above. The publication stuff is similar to ORCID (which I signed up to only because arXiv indicated that it might become mandatory, and also to allow me to submit to the OJA (by the way, when can we expect the first batch of papers?)).

    The person mentioned above said that he thought it was one of the better such sites and that academia.edu was a poor copy. :-
    Does anyone actually doing research (as opposed to crackpots participating in discussions) actually use these for anything productive?

    If I am interested in publications, I still use ADS. It is not always up to date, but is usually correct, probably because there is more human intervention. Mistakes are corrected quickly when pointed out. Google Scholar Citations is at the other end of the spectrum in all three respects: fast, but sometimes not accurate, and it is difficult to get things fixed. I do like the automatic collection of papers and the possibility to be asked to confirm updates. Apart from occasionally merging two versions of the same paper, it requires little maintenance.

    Even if there were a good such site, it would make sense only if there were just one. Sometimes a monopoly is a good thing.

    I check arXiv every morning for new papers, download some, read most of what I download and file them away in the appropriate category. Any research I do is based on papers, not discussion at such sites (though of course discussion can take place via email). As for general propaganda, usenet or blogs seem better. There are some forums, but the problem there is to stay on top of discussion without wasting time. Usenet is still the best option here, and RSS feeds for blogs are an acceptable second-best solution.

    • Absolutely: ADS is usually right, in constrast Google scholar picks up heaps of cr*p (but at least is a free version of Web of Science, which is just as bad). ADS also has the advantage that the people running are much nicer than arXiv. [I hope you appreciate the capitalization]

      • Sometimes the page numbers are off by 1 or 2 in the scanned files at ADS (so something is incomplete or has part of the next article attached to it), but send an email and it is quickly and politely corrected.

        “I hope you appreciate the capitalization”

        What can I say? Absolutely capital, old chap! 🙂

  7. I joined at some point, then got fed up with the emails and at first unsubscribed to emails and then later to the website as a whole (see also LinkedIn). I never found any real use for it. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything in my research area through traditional social networks (collaboration, conferences, etc)

  8. Mukesh Bhatt Says:

    I’ve found Researchgate and Academia.edu to be useful in finding rsearchers with similar interests. Whereas the exact sciences have arxiv, these other sites are frequented by other scientists, non-scientists (humanities, arts, social sciences) and interdisciplinary researchers from the rest of the world (and especially developing countries) who do not find a home on arxiv. It allows open discussion and comments online through the use of sessions, particularly useful for subjects which are not strictly data-driven, and for projects which are not enormous, international or globally funded. It acts as a preliminary filter, before submisson to the more formal peer-review process used by subscription and open-access (!) journals.

    It is also where I’ve found copies of papers by a researcher which may be so widely scattered that I could not access them through the very limited onine journal subscriptions. This allows me to understand how a specific researcher’s idea has evolved and developed over time, and to identify hidden assumptions which may contradict or confirm final and much later conclusions by the same or other workers.

    These are some, and I’ve no doubt I could find more, of the advantages that these sites provide.

    For those irritated by the frequent emails, a few seconds to change the settings will reduce the frequency to a manageable level, and you can always delete the account as a final resort.

    For what it’s worth, I find the constant barrage from science accounts on Twitter and the like to be overwhelming too, and so I don’t use social media except occasionally. The same can be said of the various blogs to which I subscribe.

  9. Peter, your subscription to Researchgate gives as your affiliation ‘Astronomy Centre (University of Sussex)’; far more your colleagues are subscribed under Department of Physics and Astronomy
    (University of Sussex), https://www.researchgate.net/institution/University_of_Sussex/department/Department_of_Physics_and_Astronomy
    where you can see 98 names (including PhD students, former visiting researchers, and such like). Similarly for Mathematics,

  10. Chris Chaloner Says:

    To be controversial, I find Researchgate useful… I was in academia and then worked for SRC/SERC/PPARC/.., but have for many years worked in industry, mainly on scientific space missions. My name is actually on a reasonable number of papers from that industrial work, but given the relationships mainly as a co-author – so I completely lost track of my list of publications. Researchgate is accessible to people not employed by universities, so is one of (the only?) site which enabled me to rediscover the list. Again, because I can join while not being a university employee, it has several times given me access to full texts which otherwise lie behind paywalls. It is also interesting to be notified that papers I wrote as the result of my DPhil work 40 years ago are still being referenced!

  11. It can also come in hand for young researches, who are about to start seeking for a new position. Meanwhile they are busy finishing the papers, ResearchGate can already inform them about recently-posted vacancies of their interest. Vice versa, I think, it can be used for headhunting too.

  12. I’m sorry for those who are complaining about the frequent messages RG send, but you are missing the point. RG has, at least, two revolutionary features, one is the “Ask a question/answer a question”, of course, many people use this as a way to avoid a bibliographic search, but there are legitimate questions which can get an answer from anywhere in the world. I remember once I found a question on how to etch a Zamak sample for metallography. This was something I did thirsty years ago, so I gave my answer. Surely I helped, this is the kind of thing is very hard to find out in the literature. The second feature is that it encourage us to scholarly post our reprints for free download. Since the site is password protected this is allowed by copyright regulation in some journals and helps turning our research available to people who cannot afford to have a journal subscription or access to a university library. Naturally RG plays with our ego, how should it attract our attention otherwise. People who find the constant e-mails annoying should do as I do, program your message filter to store RG messages in a folder or even to send to the spam folder, and, of course, complain too about the constant e-mails from twitter, linkedin, facebook and so many others.

  13. I signed up too, not sure why. I don’t mind it too much but I wish other members (of RG and academia.edu) would stop emailing me for reprints…have they never heard of the physics ArXiv?

  14. G Roberts Says:

    RE: Ian Hawke-”particular evil variant of spamming, but it took many years”

    After 2+ years of harrassing (unlike your email) and very similiar content email spam; I finally found in the header, a definite source -researchgate.net. Either these servers have been hacked/bots or intelligence/cyber agents/fraudsters are using this as a front.

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