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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid