Impact Challenge Day 2: Make a ResearchGate profile

Yesterday, you used to make new connections, find new readers for your work, and track how often your work is being read.

Today, we’ll help you master the other major player in the scholarly social network space, ResearchGate. ResearchGate, which claims 5 million scientists as users, will help you connect with many researchers who aren’t on (especially those outside North America). It can also help you understand your readers through platform-specific metrics, and confirm your status as a helpful expert in your field with their “Q&A” feature.

Given ResearchGate’s similarity to, I won’t rehash the basics of setting up a profile and getting your publications online. Go ahead and sign up, setup your account (remember to add detailed affiliation information and a photo), and add a publication or two.

Got your basic profile up and running? Great! Let’s drill down into those three unique features of ResearchGate that you’re going to explore for your Day 2 Challenge.

Finding other researchers & publications

Finding other researchers and publications on ResearchGate works a bit differently than on Rather than allow you to specify “research interests” and find other researchers that way, ResearchGate automatically creates a network for you based on who you’ve cited, who you follow and what discipline you selected when setting up your profile.

So, key to creating a robust network is uploading papers with citations to be text-mined, and searching for and following other researchers in your field.

Searching for other researchers in your field is easy: using the search bar at the top of the screen, type in your colleague’s name. If they’re on the site, they’ll appear in the dynamic search results, as we see below with Impactstory Advisor Lorena Barba:

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Click on their name in the search results to be taken to their page, where you can explore their publications, co-authors, and so on, and also follow them to receive updates.

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ResearchGate also text-mines the publications you’ve uploaded to find out who you’ve cited; they add both researchers you’ve cited and who have cited you to your network, as well as colleagues from your department and institution.

Here’s how to explore your network: click the “Publications” tab at the top of your screen to begin exploring the publications that are in your network. You can browse the most recent publications in your area of interest, your network, and so on, using the navigation bar seen above.

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If you find an interesting publication, you can click the paper title to read the paper or click on the author’s name to be taken to their profile, where you can explore their other publications or choose to follow them, adding a new colleague to your network in a snap.

ResearchGate Score & Stats

If you’re into metrics, the ResearchGate score and stats offer lots to explore. The ResearchGate score is an indicator of your popularity and engagement on the site: the more publications and followers you have, plus the more questions you ask and answer, all add up to your score. Check out Christoph Lutz’s ResearchGate score–one of the more diversely-sourced scores I’ve seen to date:

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ResearchGate also helpfully provides a percentile (seen above on the right-hand side), so you know how a score stacks up against other users on the site. The score isn’t normalized by field, though, so beware that using the score to compare yourself to others isn’t recommended.

Some other downsides to be aware of: ResearchGate scores don’t take into account whether you’re first author on a paper, they weigh site participation much more highly than other (more important) indicators of your scientific prowess, and don’t reflect the reality of who’s a high-impact scientist in many fields. So, caveat emptor.

All that said, ResearchGate scores are fun to play around with and explore. Just be sure not to take them too seriously.

The stats are also illuminating: they tell you how often your publications have been viewed and cited on ResearchGate both recently and over time, what your top publications are, and the popularity of your profile and any questions you may have asked on the site’s Q&A section. On your profile page, you’ll see a summary of your stats:

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If you click on those stats, you’ll be taken to your stats page, which breaks down all of your metrics with nice visualizations:

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A caveat: like stats, ResearchGate stats are only for content hosted on ResearchGate, so it can’t tell you much about readership or citations of your work that’s hosted on other platforms.


Now that we’ve made some passive connections by following other researchers, let’s build some relationships by contributing to the Q&A section of the site.

On the Q&A section, anyone can pose a question, and if it’s related to your area of expertise, ResearchGate will give you the opportunity to answer. We’ll talk more about the benefits of participating in the Q&A section of the site in the coming days, but basically it’s a good opportunity to help other researchers and get your name out there.

Click on “Q&A” at the top of your screen and explore the various questions that have been posed in your discipline in recent weeks. You can also search for other topics, and pose questions yourself.

Two more cool ResearchGate features worth mentioning: they mint DOIs, meaning that if you need a permanent identifier for an unpublished work, you can get one for free (though keep in mind that they haven’t announced a preservation plan, meaning their DOIs might be less stable over time than DOIs issued by a CLOCKSSS-backed repository like Figshare). And you can also request Open Reviews of your work, which allows anyone on ResearchGate who’s in your area of expertise to give you feedback–a useful mechanism for inviting others to read your paper. It’s a feature that hasn’t seen much uptake, but is full of possibilities in terms of connecting other researchers to your work.


Several readers have pointed out that and ResearchGate are information silos–you put information and effort into the site, and can’t easily extract and reuse it later. And they’re absolutely correct. That’s a big downside of these services and a great reason to check out open alternatives like PeerLibrary, ORCID, and Impactstory (more on the latter two services in the days to come).

Some other drawbacks to both and ResearchGate: they’re both for-profit, venture capital funded platforms, meaning that their responsibility isn’t to academics but to investors. And sure, they’re both free, which seems like an advantage until you remember that it means that you are the product, not the customer.

One solution to these drawbacks is to limit the amount of time you spend adding new content to your profiles on these sites, and instead use them as a kind of “landing page” that can simply help others find you and your three or four most important publications. Even if you don’t have all your publications on either site, their social networking features are still useful to make connections and increase readership for your most important work.

In the coming days, we’ll cover other web services that offer auto-updates and data portability, so you don’t end up suffering from Profile Fatigue.

Two more things:

  1. Be sure to check your ResearchGate notification settings to cut down on spam. They send more emails than most email-fatigued academics care to receive.
  2. Make sure you’ve opted-out of sending invitations, so you don’t accidentally contribute to spamming others.


Set up your ResearchGate profile and at least three publications you think deserve attention. Next, search for at least 5 colleagues or well-known researchers in your field and follow each of them. Once you’ve established a network, take 10 minutes to explore the “Publications” tab of ResearchGate, browsing publications that have been recently published in your network.

In the coming days, take another 10 minutes to explore your ResearchGate score and stats. Are there any that surprise you, in terms of what’s getting a lot of readers? How might you incorporate this information into your professional life outside of ResearchGate: would you put it on your CV or website, into an annual review or grant application in order to showcase your “broader impacts”? It’s ok if you say “no” to these ideas–the point is to get you thinking about what these metrics mean, and if and when you might use them professionally.

As for the Q&A section of ResearchGate–we’ll cover that soon. Stay tuned!

Day 2: Nailed it.



Now you’ve got connections on two of academia’s biggest social networks, and you’ve increased potential exposure for your publications, to boot. You’ve also got two new sources of metrics that’ll show how often you’re read and cited.

Are you ready for Day 3? We’re going to cover Google Scholar Profiles–a great tool for finding citations, upping your “googleability” even further, and staying on top of new publications in your field.

Until then, we welcome bragging about your ResearchGate mastery in the comments below! Questions also welcome. 🙂

PS It’s Day 2 and the November Impact Challenge is in full swing. It’s work, right? But stick with it–the work is worth it!

In 28 more days, your network and professional visibility will be in a place many scholars take years to reach, and ready to grow even more.

And today, we’d like to give you a extra little incentive. Here’s a deal: if you can finish all 30 days, we’ll hook you up with this free t-shirt to show off your achievement!

Screencap of the "Finisher" t-shirt, showing a boxer in silhouette with the  words "Finisher: November Impact Challenge" on it.

More info to come!

12 thoughts on “Impact Challenge Day 2: Make a ResearchGate profile

  1. Could you expand on the comment you made that “they’re both free, which seems like an advantage until you remember that it means that you are the product, not the customer”. When I watch commercial TV I don’t pay (directly) – rather the content and delivery channel is paid for by advertising. So, yes, I’m the product – but we’ve known about this for several decades. What is the point you are making?


    • That nothing is truly “free”–we’re paying for services whether out of our wallets or with our personal data. (TV, like radio, is a hard comparison to draw in some ways, since it’s not like advertisers can actively collect data on what we’re doing while we’re in the living room and watching TV (or what we do when we move into the kitchen and bedroom, too).)

      Some like yourself are OK with that arrangement–others not so much.

  2. One of the annoyances with ResearchGate is that they pester you to upload full text – both through automated services and by providing site visitors with a “Request full text” button (which asks me to upload the full text, and does not tell me who requested it, so I can’t send it directly to them). There’s no way to mark a publication as “I don’t have rights to upload the full text to ResearchGate”

    Speaking of those rights, it’s not clear that there are very many publications that I have the right to post to either RG or Most of the non-open-access journals that I publish in allow some level of “self-archiving” (usually of author, rather than publisher, versions); but they tend to say that such archiving can be on a personal website or on my institution’s website. I don’t think that RG and count as “institutional servers” in that context, and I’ve been taking down non-open-access full texts from RG.

    • More great points, Bruce. Linking out to full-text hosted elsewhere helps avoid the proliferation of duplicate versions & hosting platforms, which can cause problems for academics (which version do I cite?) and also for us (how do we track & compile metrics for our version plus other versions?). That’s why we’ve chosen to do so, and it’s one advantage I think we offer over those platforms.

      And the drawbacks of publisher restrictions on sharing on Academia/RG vs “institutional servers” is important. Some academics will upload the preprint anyway, as a form of civil disobedience. Others want to follow restrictions to a “T”, to avoid trouble. (Though some institutional restrictions are even more arbitrary, for example prohibiting researchers from uploading to an IR but allowing upload to a personal website–adding to the issues of persistence and permanent identifiers that plague scholcomm.) You’re smart for avoiding trouble, though, esp. since RG’s ToS make it clear that they absolve themselves of responsibility for copyright infringements and make the authors liable instead.

  3. ƒacu.- says:

    I’m fine with uploading pre-prints to RG, however, I’d like it to allow linking to other sources of preprints (like my own site).
    This would avoid duplication (pre-print fatigue?), and would also avoid the point made by Bruce Kendall.

  4. @tina_wey says:

    ResearchGate seems to have a more active research community (compared to, at least for my field. One aspect that is rather mysterious to me though is their ResearchGate score, which as you’ve pointed out, is only useful within the realm of ResearchGate. With that understood, I can’t figure out what that grey slice of pie for “followers” is supposed to be or how it’s measured!

  5. David Ketcheson says:

    ResearchGate has a bad reputation among the scholarly community. In my view they are nothing more than a source of spam. See, for instance, from which I will quote bit:

    “It’s hard to predict how this will develop in the future. As is, I have yet to hear any positive success story from my peers. All I’ve heard of ResearchGate are complaints about their invitation spam.

    If you sign up (or are already signed up), make sure to carefully check all settings. There are some “hidden” settings that will repeatedly send out “Invitations” and even “Invitation reminders” to your peers (make sure to disable this right at signup time, before “claiming” a single paper!). You can imagine that if your peer gets a dozen of them each week, he will get annoyed. And ReseachGate uses your name for the invitation, so he will get annoyed at you.”

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