Bodong Chen

Crisscross Landscapes

Notes: Van Noorden. (2014). Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network



Citekey: @VanNoorden2014

Van Noorden, R. (2014). Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network. Nature, 512(7513), 126–129. doi:10.1038/512126a


A brief commentary on the use of social media (esp. ResearchGate) by academics.


Ijad Madisch, a Berlin-based former physician and virologist, tells this story as just one example of the successes of ResearchGate, which he founded with two friends six years ago. (p. 126)

The list of failed efforts to launch a ‘Facebook for science’ included Scientist Solutions, SciLinks, Epernicus, 2collab and Nature Network (run by the company that publishes Nature). (p. 126)

In an effort to get past the hype and explore what is really happening, Nature e-mailed tens of thousands of researchers in May to ask how they use social networks and other popular profile-hosting or search services, and received more than 3,500 responses from 95 different countries. (p. 126)

More than 88% of scientists and engineers said that they were aware of it — slightly more than had heard of Google+ and Twitter — with little difference between countries. (p. 127)

Some of the apparent profiles on the site are not owned by real people, but are created automatically — and incompletely — by scraping details of people’s affiliations, publication records and PDFs, if available, from around the web. That annoys researchers who do not want to be on the site, and who feel that the pages misrepresent them (p. 127)

The results suggest that Facebook is not widely used professionally; that researchers on Twitter are very active and social; and that many users of and ResearchGate signed up in case someone wants to contact them — but are not chatty themselves. (p. 128)

the European Commission last year found that 18% of biology papers published in 2008– 11 were open access from the start, and said that 57% could be read for free in some form, somewhere on the Internet, by April 2013 (see Nature 500, 386–387; 2013). (p. 128)

“I hardly know any scientists who don’t violate copyright laws. We just fly below the radar and hope that the publishers don’t notice.” (p. 128)

They are nice-to-have tools, not need-to-have,” says Auclair. But Price says that the networks are on the front line of a trend that cannot be ignored. “We saw the changes in the market, and we could see that academics wanted to share openly. The tide is starting to turn in our direction.” (p. 129)