ResearchGate bills itself as the ‘largest professional network for scientists and researchers’ and ‘Facebook for scientists.’ And according to The Financial Times, it just received a second round of venture capital funding. ResearchGate claims 1.4 million registered users in nearly 200 countries. However, Biology and Medicine dominate the membership, with almost 650,000 members between the two categories.
I’m not in a great position to evaluate these services. But the support of venture capital money suggests that there could be something to this. The funders seem to think that these networks can increase the efficiency of research and development spending by reducing costs (presumably monetary and opportunity costs) of collaboration. While I can see the potential, I think it’s going to take a long time for the network to shore up its member base and to establish effective practices for using the network. Whether that timeframe is consistent with funders expectation won’t be known for a while.