ResearchGate chief enthused by lockdown research collaboration

Survey of users on academic social network suggests many are finding more time to strengthen international ties 

April 17, 2020
Cityscape network

That scientists can continue to strengthen research collaborations while under lockdown could be a “major” boost for the world after the Covid-19 crisis.

That is the view of Ijad Madisch, chief executive and co-founder of ResearchGate, the social network for academics, who said science was in the fortunate position of being able to maintain or even improve cross-border ties even as countries put up physical barriers to deal with the outbreak.

A survey of about 3,000 ResearchGate users, conducted last month, showed that almost half believe they were spending as much, or even more, time collaborating with fellow academics as before the crisis. More than 40 per cent of those surveyed also said they were finding more time to read and write academic articles or peer review other work.  

Dr Madisch, a virologist by training, said the crisis meant researchers could devote more time to the kind of “deep work” that was normally difficult to fit in while in the lab, such as keeping on top of other research developments.

Careful consideration of others’ work and the forging of new partnerships, despite being in physical isolation, could open up major new scientific horizons for the future, added ResearchGate marketing executive Abigail Mela, who worked on the survey for the Berlin-based company.

“We have a hypothesis of this being a moment of planning and preparation and scientists are going to unleash themselves in the labs or in the field once the lockdown has ended,” she said.

Dr Madisch added: “If you look at the world right now, everyone is shutting their borders, everyone is becoming more centralised and focused on their own country, but science doesn’t care about borders.

“I truly believe that if we go back to normal, the world will come closer [together] after this crisis. And one major function in this world that will enable that will be science, because [scientists] continue to work together.”

ResearchGate recently launched a new community page dedicated to Covid-19, which allows users to quickly share and discuss research on the disease. The community contains about 11,500 authors of Covid-19 and coronavirus research from more than 100 countries.

Dr Madisch said with so much Covid-19 research being published before peer review on preprint servers, such interaction could be vital to discuss the potential pitfalls of research.

“In the current crisis, because of the speed and because of the urgency, [researchers] start to publish faster. These things will be picked up by the public…in some cases, too fast,” he said.

“I think the community can give scientists the safe space where they can…discuss, in their peer groups, their research before it is going out to the public.”

Dr Madisch added that the increased use of preprints during the crisis may also push science more permanently towards a faster mode of operating, which should be seen as a “huge opportunity”.

“This potentially could not only change, in the future, the speed of publishing but also the format.”

However, responses to the ResearchGate survey also revealed that being an academic in lockdown may not be an uninterrupted series of silver linings.

Ms Mela said “the number one complaint” about the lockdown seemed to be that it was “impossible to manage being a professional researcher and [supervise] children while working from home”.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Excellent advertorial for a website that has grown in popularity by relentlessly spamming academics, that sends out misleading and deceitful emails, that calculates spurious metrics about us from hidden sources and based on an opaque methodology, that encourages academics to upload their papers illegally while covering its own back, and whose self-confessed objective is to collect data about our research so that they can better advertise at us. ResearchGate is undermining Open Access, and causing confusion amongst researchers about the important role of institutional archives and preprint servers. The advice I give to my faculty about ResearchGate is to get off it. I do not believe they have our best interests at heart.

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