Survey: Scientists talk on Twitter, network on ResearchGate

With scholarly social network ResearchGate now adding 10,000 users a day to its network of 4.5 million researchers, the idea of a "Facebook for science" has finally taken off. But these numbers say nothing about whether people actually use the site and why, a shortcoming Nature has tried to fix by surveying thousands of researchers about their social media habits.

ResearchGate founder Ijad Madisch

The survey gathered responses from more than 3,000 scientists and engineers, 88% of whom said they were aware of ResearchGate. The finding suggests ResearchGate is better known among this community than Google+ and Twitter ($TWTR). Many people actually use ResearchGate, too, with almost half of respondents saying they visit regularly. Only Google Scholar was more widely used among the survey population.

Yet these numbers only tell part of the story. While some people use ResearchGate to find papers and share their own work, most users simply create and maintain a profile in case someone needs to contact them about their research. Other, less popular social networks see higher levels of engagement. More than one-third of the surveyed Twitter users visit the site once a day--compared to 9% for ResearchGate--and many comment on research relevant to their field. 

Regardless of how they are used, each of the social networks faces a struggle to generate income without alienating their communities. ResearchGate founder Ijad Madisch told Nature the site won't sell its user data, but is looking for new ways to make money. The site already runs job adverts and hopes to add a marketplace for laboratory services to connect companies, corporate researchers--who make up 28% of users--and academia.

- read the Nature feature

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