ResearchGATE.net is an online network of scientists and researchers that is similar to Academia.edu in that it offers a platform for scholars to share information and work collaboratively; however, ResearchGATE boasts many additional features that encourage users to be much more interactive with each other and with the site. Key features include suggestions for related researchers, which helps users expand their networks, and bookmarks, personal blogs, and member groups, which provide users with various ways of interacting with each other and of managing contacts.
The ‘Related researchers’ feature, which has no equivalent in Academia.edu, suggests researchers that you may want to connect with based on similarities between your research areas. In addition to suggesting possible contacts, the site has a bookmarking feature that provides an alternative way to organize profiles that you’re interested in without having to follow or contact them. This feature is useful in that it allows users to keep track not only of confirmed contacts, but of potential contacts as well. The only flaw in the bookmarking feature is that it does not allow users to create tags or folders; the absence of such tools makes it quite difficult to organize a large number of bookmarks.
One of the more exciting features of ResearchGATE is that each user can publish their own personal blog within the site; personal blogs are un-moderated, are managed solely by the user, and generally consist of research, science news, conference information, and reviews. This feature encourages users to take part in the site by allowing them to create and manage their own content.
ResearchGATE also has over 2,300 groups that users can browse through and join; any user can create a group based on the subject of their choosing, and as the administrator can determine whether the group will be open for anyone to join, or have joining restrictions applied. Once a group is created, the administrator can send messages to all members of the group, and if other members want to do the same, their messages must be approved by the administrator. There is also a discussion board feature within each group where members are free to post messages and reply to each other. The group feature allows users to cluster into smaller networks based on specific research interests within the larger network of the site; this allows them to have more in depth conversations, collaborate on projects, and share their ideas and opinions to a smaller, more intimate group of users.
ResearchGATE is an excellent site for scholars, especially those who wish to create content and be actively involved in a social network. The site provides many features and tools that enable easy communication and collaboration among users. Other interesting features that were not mentioned above include a network graph that visualizes all relevant papers, connections and groups in your network, and a search engine that allows users to search within eight different online databases without leaving the site.