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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs