Virtual network benefits researchers
Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn have been instrumental in building social and professional networks all over the world. But do they work in the scientific world?  24.11.2008

A group of experts tackled this question by kicking off an innovative networking platform where researchers can connect with the click of a mouse. Being the first Web 3.0 Community available to the public, ResearchGATE is now taking the scientific world by storm.

This latest platform makes applications available to researchers, effectively fuelling and strengthening cooperation and knowledge exchange across the board. Researchers already have access to a semantic search engine that processes abstracts to find similar ones on various databases, such as PubMed. The new engine also spotlights scientists, groups or group discussions that are related to the search query, ResearchGATE said in a statement.

'ResearchGATE combines a virtual network for researchers with a powerful semantic search algorithm,' Alexander von Freyhold-Hünecken, Director of Marketing at ResearchGATE, explained to CORDIS News. 'ResearchGATE provides users with relevant information that is inherent in the platform and information that comes from publication databases simultaneously. This helps connect relevant scientists and topics worldwide.'

The development and implementation of tools and applications is important. 'We are constantly launching new tools and applications. In particular, based on the semantic algorithm, it will be possible to match relevant pieces of information automatically,' said Mr von Freyhold-Hünecken, who is also a PhD student in the fields of statistics and economics at the University of Göttingen. 'The platform will be able to send alerts about latest publications, discussions, groups or researchers based on a search query. Automated matching of co-workers or job positions will be available soon.'

Since its launch five months ago, ResearchGATE has uploaded various applications and others are on the cards. Its network base currently stands at more than 14,000 researchers, and the number is expected to grow. Over 100 networks and professors support ResearchGATE. It should be noted that new applications are examined and designed based on requests and feedback from researchers in ResearchGATE, he added.

'ResearchGATE is specifically designed for the needs of researchers - starting from the profile that contains information about research skills, projects, publications, etc. to the semantic search algorithm in the similar abstract search, which finds closely related articles from a database of more than 30 million documents,' Mr von Freyhold-Hünecken said. 'ResearchGATE provides a collaborative workspace for researchers and sub-communities for research organisations and research companies.'

The sustainability of ResearchGATE is also a key factor for this project. 'The goal is to make ResearchGATE a self-sustaining platform. For example, a job board will be implemented soon,' Mr von Freyhold-Hünecken noted.

The marketing director observed that the majority of researchers using the programme come from Germany, the UK and the US. 'In total, there are researchers from 21 countries active on the platform,' he said.

As to what lies ahead for ResearchGATE, Mr von Freyhold-Hünecken predicts that the project will form a global network of excellence and expertise. 'We are the fastest growing scientific network and the most innovative one. The goal is to make the scientific workflow more efficient,' he remarked. 'This starts from finding the right documents and co-workers, to getting help and feedback on specific problems, up to making publications known in virtual conferences.'

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