Social networking for researchers: ResearchGate and their ilk

Posted on Tue 18 November 2014 in misc

The Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health asked me to give a lunch'n'learn presentation on ResearchGate today, which was a challenge I was happy to take on... but I took the liberty of stretching the scope of the discussion to focus on social networking in the context of research and academics in general, recognizing four high-level goals:

  1. Promotion (increasing citations, finding work positions)
  2. Finding potential collaborators
  3. Getting advice from experts in your field
  4. Accessing other's work

I'm a librarian, so naturally my take veered quickly into the waters of copyright concerns and the burden (to the point of indemnification) that ResearchGate,, Mendeley, and other such services put on their users to ensure that they are in compliance with copyright and the researchers' agreements with publishers... all while heartily encouraging their users to upload their work with a single click. I also dove into the darker waters of r/scholar, LibGen, and SciHub, pointing out the direct consequences that our university has suffered due to the abuse of institutional accounts at the library proxy.

Happily, the audience opened up the subject of publishing in open access journals--not just from a "covering our own butts" perspective, but also from the position of the ethical responsibility to share knowledge as broadly as possible. We briefly discussed the open access mandates that some granting agencies have put in place, particularly in the States, as well as similar Canadian initiatives that have occurred or are still emerging with respect to public funds (SSHRC and the Tri-Council). And I was overjoyed to hear a suggestion that, perhaps, research funded by the Laurentian University Research Fund should be required to publish in an open access venue.

I'm hoping to take this message back to our library and, building on Kurt de Belder's vision of the library as a *Partner in Knowledge* help drive our library's mission towards assisting researchers in not only accessing knowledge, but most effectively sharing and promoting the knowledge they create.

That leaves lots of work to do, based on one little presentation :-)