A Match Made in Cyberspace: How Networks Nurture Science
With the growth of online science networks, geography and economics no longer dictate how research is undertaken or published. Just as matchmaking sites connect romance-seekers based on their relationship compatibility, new academic social networks are connecting scientists based on their professional research interests.
These sites obviously lack the general appeal of Facebook, which topped one billion users last month, but in the last five years ResearchGate, Mendeley and Academia.edu have each generated a user base of almost two million users. Mendeley has seen an increase of 1.5 million in just 12 months. Once registered with such sites, users can upload their latest journal papers or images from the laboratory, join discussion groups and follow updates from colleagues. The sites offer a space for researchers to share, review and collaborate — and perhaps even a secure environment in which to conduct research. Those who cannot afford fee-based journals and databases — a common problem for scientists in many developing countries — can search papers posted by authors themselves.