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Research Sharing and Profiling Platforms

In the past year, I’ve spoken with a couple of faculty groups about research sharing and profiling platforms: what they do, and some issues and alternatives to consider. Since there is a steady stream of news about these tools – most recently that ResearchGate has restricted access to 1.7 million articles, as well as plans to launch a non-profit alternative dubbed ScholarlyHub – I thought I’d share here some of that information that I’ve shared with faculty.

What research sharing and profiling platforms do…

What I’m loosely calling “research sharing and profiling platforms” typically perform at least a couple of the following functions:

  • Present a public view (profile) of a person’s scholarship
  • Make it possible to share publications freely
  • Network – find experts, find collaborators
  • Demonstrate impact via download or citation counts or other metrics
  • Notify users of new content in their areas of interest (current awareness)

Some common platforms and their functions:

In no particular order and with no endorsements expressed or implied, these are some of the platforms that are either heavily used by faculty, or might merit consideration. (Click to enlarge)

Issues to consider in choosing and using these tools:

  • Essential functions and effort. What do they want from these tools, and what work are they willing to do to realize those results?
  • Sponsorship and control. Who owns and controls the service? What motivates the sponsor to provide the service, and what are they doing with the (their!) information? What are the terms of service? Who controls and updates the content?
  • Copyright. When it comes to sharing publications online, just because they can, doesn’t mean… they can. It might be technologically possible to upload files to a site for sharing, but that doesn’t make it legal, and publishers are starting to crackdown.

There are alternative tools for each of the functions listed in the table, some of which may have more palatable terms of use or keep their data out of the hands of for-profit entities. The top recommendations I’d make to faculty are to sign up for an ORCID iD and use it (a complete ORCID record makes for a nice, clean profile that travels with them throughout their career, in addition to unambiguously identifying their works as theirs), proactively manage their rights as authors, and to publish open access or share legal copies of their works using one of CUL’s repositories (eCommons, DigitalCommons@ILR, or SHA’s Scholarly Commons, depending on their affiliation). There are also alternatives for measuring impact and current awareness, that may be preferable to the for-profit tools.

I am happy to chat more about this topic with anyone who is interested, offline. If you are a liaison to faculty who might be interested, please feel free to get in touch – I’m happy to share materials or attend a meeting with you.

~ Gail Steinhart, Scholarly Communication Librarian



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