In the past, we've discussed how you can use Twitter as a scientist, and how you can use the internet in general to curate the information others can find about you. Today, I want to focus on two academic social networks, Academia.edu and ResearchGate.
On Academia.edu and ResearchGate, you can upload your publications (provided that this does not violate the copyright transfer form you signed with the publisher) and share research with other scientists. You may be wondering why you should take the effort to develop a profile on these websites, while anyone can find your journal papers through search engines such as Scopus. Or you may think that it is enough to have your publications listed on your online CV in LinkedIn. In fact, there are a number of advantages to adding your research items to Academia.edu or ResearchGate. Which of these platforms you should prefer depends on your field, so look up a few colleagues on these websites first before deciding which platform you'll use. Here are some of the advantages these platforms offer:
1. You can make your research available to disadvantaged scientists
Not all scholars have the same access to journal articles through library subscriptions. Not even all scholars have access to paid academic search engines such as Scopus. For those scholars that have otherwise no access to your publications, providing your publications on ResearchGate may be a lifesaver. Publishing open access is also an option, but many open access journals charge a heavy fee to the authors. If the copyright transfer form you signed prior to publication of your article does not allow you to upload your paper, you can still create an entry on your platform of choice, and simply not add the paper. Other scholars can then request you to send them the paper privately for example. If you have created the entry without adding the paper, your paper will also show up in online searches through regular search engines, which in turn can make your research more visible in general.
2. You can organize your publications according to projects
ResearchGate allows you to create different research projects and topics, and to sort your publications acordingly. For fellow researchers who may be particularly interested in one of your projects, it can be helpful to see all documents you have generated from one project. You can also add your collaborators into projects. As such, visitors of your page will see your collaborators and can click through to their pages and perhaps fellow their work as well.
3. You can receive updates about recent publications by colleagues
If you decide to "follow" other researchers, you will receive updates in your mailbox about their recent publications. You can also follow a project in ResearchGate, and receive updates about the progress of the project and publications that have been added to this project This feature can be particularly helpful if you want to keep an eye on the recent work of colleagues that are working on a topic closely related to yours. Likewise, your colleagues will receive an update when you add a new research item (with or without uploading the actual paper), when you create a new project, or when you comment on someone else's research item.
4. You can use these platforms to build your online CV
ResearchGate and Academia.edu allow you to add information about yourself to your profile. You can add your work experience with regard to teaching and research, the journals you review for, the societies you are a member of, and your awards and prizes. While these platforms don't build your CV in the saem way as LinkedIn for example, they do allow for a more research-oriented version of your CV. And this overview may be perhaps just what a full professor is interested in when considering hiring a new post-doc.
5. You can discuss research topics by asking questions
ResearchGate offers a feature of discussions and questions, where you can ask your peers for input on specific topics. Yes, you can have similar discussion on Twitter and LinkedIn (in groups, for example) as well, but ResearchGate may be a more optimal way to connect to your peers.
6. You can discuss publications publicly
You can add comments to papers, recommend papers to colleagues, or start a discussion about a paper on these platforms. If the author has uploaded the paper or created the entry, you can directly interact with the author through these platforms.
7. You can interact privately with other scientists, without needing their email address
You can interact by leaving comments publicly, or you can interact by writing messages privately. The advantage of using a platform that does not require you to know the email address of the author is that you can remain in contact even after changing institutions. Especially for early career researchers, their email address may change quite often, as the researcher moves from institution to institution on short-term post-doc contracts. If you don't have their most recent email address, you can still stay in touch through these platforms.
8. You can see job openings that suit your profile
Universities can post job openings on ResearchGate and Academia.edu for a fee that is smaller than on most other job boards. As such, it has become a popular choice for universities to make their job openings known through these platforms. Moreover, these platforms can automatically show you jobs that could be of your interest based on your profile and skills.
9. You get an insight in your readership
These platforms give you all the stats you may want for getting insight in your audience. You can know the keywords fellow researchers use to find your publications, the institutions they work for, and their location. You may find that your research is downloaded a lot in a particular area of the world, which may open possibilities for future collaborations there.
10. You can tag your publications with keywords so that others are directed to your publications
When you upload a research item, you will be asked to add keywords to your publication. These keywords can be followed by other researchers, who will then be notified about your new research item, or in whose feed your recently published research item may appear. Again, by adding these keywords, you can increase the visibility of your research, and you may draw the attention of a reader that previously was not aware of your work.