The growth of social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, demonstrates that forging and creating connections is important to people. While some have criticized social media as a potential threat to privacy and even as a frivolous waste of time, some scientists have embraced the power of social connections within the scientific community.
ResearchGate was founded as a social networking site for academic researchers and scientists. To help maintain the focus of the platform on academic researchers and scientists, registration requires an email address from a recognized institution or manual confirmation of an appropriate research publication. The ResearchGate site allows scientists to “follow” others in their field and even share their latest findings by uploading copies of published manuscripts. However, this sharing of manuscripts has been criticized by major publishers as copyright infringement.
However, despite threats of lawsuits over the distribution of copyrighted material, ResearchGate has established a partnership with Springer Nature to facilitate the sharing of full-text articles published in select Nature journals. Although only a trial, and limited to manuscripts published since November 2017 select journals, this partnership demonstrates a shift in how major publishers view social networking sites. While such sites were once viewed as lawless and a threat to copyright, they are now worthy of an investigation of how their tools can be used to spread knowledge and increase readership.
ResearchGate currently has 15 million users. It will be interesting to see if this trial partnership leads to an increase in the number of academic researchers and scientists who use the site, or if it leads more publishers to negotiate similar partnerships that allow the sharing of copyrighted material on ResearchGate.
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