The Main Library’s Blog

ResearchGate, Google Scholar & Co.

30. May 2018 | HBZ | No Comments |

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How do you stay connected with researchers working in your field? Where can you list your works, discuss projects, and compare your output with others? This blog introduces you to social media platforms for scientists.

In the ancient times of science, up to about five to ten years ago, scientists would present and discuss their results at conferences around the globe. Nowadays, information flows much faster thanks to the World Wide Web. Publications are online immediately after being accepted rather than appearing in printed journals months later. Of course, you want to present and discuss your latest publications right away with colleagues in your field – e.g. on social media platforms for scientists.

There are roughly four groups of social media platforms:

Types of social media platforms.

Why should you engage on such platforms? Firstly, the potential audience is much larger than on conferences. Fast, extended scientific conversations are possible (1). Secondly, you can make yourself known, connect, and find new collaborators. Finally, some platforms allow you to track your metrics (number of downloads, number of citations etc.).

But can you really increase your research impact or even your social impact by engaging on the social media? The evidence is mixed. Eysenbach reported, that highly tweeted articles from the Journal of Medical Internet Research were much more likely to be cited (2). However, it was not clear, if social media activity led to increased citations or if it simply reflected the quality of the articles and thus correlated with the number of citations. Other authors found only a low correlation between tweets and citations (3). How often an article is shared on social media seems also to depend on other factors, e.g. if it has been published open access or in major general science journals (3).

There are good reasons not engage on social media platforms, too. The activity is time consuming (unless you only open an account but never really maintain it up to date) (4). Some people re-tweet or re-post without thinking – and no real discussion will take place (5). Finally, researchers may be judged on the number of followers they have rather than on their scientific contributions (4).

If you decide to engage, the choice of the right platform mostly depends on:

  • to whom you want to talk
  • how much time you want to invest
  • whether you want to create new content or rather keep articles sorted (1).

Google Scholar and ResearchGate are the most popular networks for scientists (6). On both you can list your research items, and they will provide you with the number of citations per year and an h-index. ResearchGate is more interactive: it allows you to discuss questions with other people, to follow other researchers, and to exchange messages and articles (but make sure that you own the copyright before uploading papers onto the platform). Learn more about this in our upcoming Coffee Lecture on “Sharing your papers legally”.

Scores from ResearchGate (RG Score and h-index).


  1. Bik HM, Goldstein MC. An introduction to social media for scientists. PLoS Biol. 2013;11(4):e1001535.
  2. Eysenbach G. Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13(4):e123.
  3. Haustein S, Peters I, Sugimoto CR, Thelwall M, Larivière V. Tweeting biomedicine: An analysis of tweets and citations in the biomedical literature. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 2014;65(4):656-69.
  4. Greifeneder E, Pontis S, Blandford A, Attalla H, Neal D, Schlebbe K. Researchers’ attitudes towards the use of social networking sites. Journal of Documentation. 2018;74(1):119-36.
  5. Robinson-Garcia N, Costas R, Isett K, Melkers J, Hicks D. The unbearable emptiness of tweeting-About journal articles. PLoS One. 2017;12(8):e0183551.
  6. Van Noorden R. Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network. Nature. 2014;512(7513):126-9.

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