Back in August, we were talking about the new metric Twitter had given birth to: the Kardashian index. Meant as a joke, to criticize or draw attention to scientists blabbering (and seriously discussing!) on the short-form social network, this index was supposed to compare academics’ Twitter fame with their “real” scientific output (publications and such). Now that we’re all on the same page, allow me to state the obvious: regardless of what they produce on an academic level, scientists use social media in the context of their research, and Twitter is one of them.
Some weeks later, a survey and an article came out on the Nature website: “Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network”, an analysis of scientists’ use of social networks, whether they are designed specifically for science or for general use. The article provides useful interactive infographics that dramatically increases its usefulness. The results of the survey were relevant enough for the info to be taken up on several websites, raising interesting points:
Research Gate is doing pretty well: it is known and it is used
As MedCityNews puts it “ResearchGate was singled out in the Nature piece as a useful tool for academicians to post their own papers and work, and seek out other scientists for collaboration”.
Academia.edu shows a profile that is quite similar to Research Gate in the survey’s results, the difference being that people use it less than Research Gate for following discussions, and overall it is less known.
As suggested by astrophysician Luigi Foschini, it is possible that the Nature survey could draw even more attention to the scientific social network : “The Nature survey has also drawn my attention to ResearchGate, which is the social network most used by scientists with more than 4.5 million scientists. (…) Therefore, I created my account on ResearchGate a few days ago and I think I have found what I searched for.”
(I was obviously tempted to write a flamboyant e-mail to Mr Foschini, urging him to try out MyScienceWork’s exclusive features like our annotation system, for example)
It was also an occasion for some to express their more nuanced opinion on Research Gate:
@NatureNews Id' say close to 50% of scientists are aware of ResearchGate mainly because of their intense mailing campaigns...— Benjamin Cochain (@BenjaminCochain) August 13, 2014
And yes, most of these comments were made on Twitter, because...
Twitter is where all the discussion is happening.
@NatureNews A significant as well as critical clarification: ResearchGate is only for institutional members while Twitter is for all people!— dada (@dada_on) August 13, 2014
This is what the blog Neuroecology chose to highlight: “It’s clear: if you want to discuss research and actually interact with other scientists, you should really be using Twitter.”
The raw data from the survey is open and available here.
There is obviously more to this survey, beyond the focus of the Nature article, and it has been uploaded on the interwebs for each and every one of us to bear witness to. If you want to play with the figures, the University of Maryland has a tool on their website and they fed it with the data (it’s not very user friendly, but show some patience and you’ll find it is powerful).
We browsed through the data out of curiosity and self-interest (come on, people google their names all the time, no need to justify that). Once you look at it more closely, you’ll see that MyScienceWork, too, is in the survey. 7.7% of the scientists that answered Nature’s questions knew about us, which is great news since we launched the network only a year ago. What also came as a surprise was our fame among psychology researchers. Makes you think about thinking and why you think what you think. (Keep in mind, though, that this information might not be relevant, because if the numbers are too low, results are more likely to be biased)
Clever people made us laugh with funny pictures
As always, the Internet never fails to deliver quality humor and informed sarcasm from any situation. Brilliant minds moved quickly to point out the fact that not all of the researchers’ activity on the social networks might be that serious:
It's OK everyone I fixed that 'What academics use Twitter for' thing which was clearly erroneous pic.twitter.com/AysIhEhLMa— Dr Smith (@theotherdrsmith) August 20, 2014
Be sure to check our piece on Social Networks for Scientists
It’s from two years ago, but still accurate, interesting and reliable:
Social Networks for Scientists
What social media to use for your research activity ?