News / USA

'Facebook' for Scientists Could Speed Advances

Social network allows researchers to share information

Ijad Madisch's profile on ResearchGate, the social networking website for scientists which he created.
Ijad Madisch's profile on ResearchGate, the social networking website for scientists which he created.

Multimedia

Audio

Social networks like Facebook allow users to keep in up with their friends. Now, a social network for scientists hopes to use the technology to speed up scientific progress.

As he worked on a medical imaging experiment a few years ago, Harvard researcher Ijad Madisch kept running into problems. It could have been the algorithms he was using or the way he set up the experiment but, whatever it was, something wasn’t quite right.

"These are the small things, which in science, you know, cost you a lot of time," says Madisch.

His advisor didn’t know why the experiment wasn’t working. Nobody in his lab worked on the same stuff and none of his researcher friends could help.

"I was so frustrated. I said there has to be something online where I go, where people can present themselves as a scientist, and where they put their information about their research and their publications and you can search for it."

That’s when Madisch got the idea for a social network for scientists. It would be like Facebook, but with a more serious mission. The web platform would be a place for researchers to connect with each other and share best practices and information about their work that doesn’t get published. Madisch saw his idea - which he named ResearchGate - as a tool to make scientists more productive.

"My goal: to win the Nobel Prize. And I really believe in that. If we think that ResearchGate will accelerate research in all the different fields, it will change the speed of science significantly in the future," says Madisch. "I definitely think that ResearchGate could win the Nobel Prize for that one day."

That big idea wowed investors. ResearchGate received funding from a former Facebook executive and the same venture capital firm that backed Twitter. So far, 900,000 people have signed up to be members.

ResearchGate fan Caroline Moore-Kochlacs logs onto the website at her Boston University office.
ResearchGate fan Caroline Moore-Kochlacs logs onto the website at her Boston University office.

One of them is Caroline Moore-Kochlacs, who logs onto the website at her Boston University office. Her profile page shows her picture, her field - neuroscience - her doctoral advisor and publications. She can follow other researchers, or click onto group pages that discuss specific topics.

"Let’s see what’s going on in the computational neuroscience group today." Moore-Kochlacs uses Facebook too, but says people on that site feel like they have to be clever or stick to ordinary topics. "What’s the best camera to buy? I’m going on a vacation. They’re never anything to do with science."

ResearchGate also appeals to Moore-Kochlacs because she can ask obscure questions about algorithms or what reagent to use in a certain chemical reaction. She can also find out what labs are working on before they publish as well as catch up with recent publications.

"The scientific literature is so huge at this point, that it’s really impossible to get through everything in your topic area. People really rely on hearing it from other people," she says.

But not everyone sees the benefits of ResearchGate.

"I’m not really seeing the value in this," says Kim Bertrand, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Sometimes I get these e-mails that are like, 'Dear Sirs: I’m writing a dissertation on public health. Any suggestions? Please advise.' I don’t need that."

Bertand signed up for ResearchGate at the suggestion of a colleague but says she’s content so far with her own offline network of fellow researchers and advisors.

ResearchGate founder Madisch knows his site will only prove valuable if scientists use it to help each other. And, if it develops into the indispensable social network for scientists he hopes for,  he’ll have made more of a contribution to science than he ever could as a lone researcher.

You May Like

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurd President Urges World Community to Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid