By Thomas Boyle
In October, ResearchGate announced a new content partnership with Rockefeller University Press (RUP). Under the agreement, around 2,800 open access (OA) full-text articles from three RUP journals — the Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), and Journal of General Physiology (JGP) — have been made available directly on ResearchGate.
When we first announced this partnership, we were often asked: if this content is already open access, does it really make a difference if it’s on ResearchGate? In this post, I’ll try to provide some insight into why our team started forming content partnerships like this one, and the benefits of making OA content accessible on our platform.
It’s a product manager’s job to have a finger on the pulse of their industry, and this requires a lot of listening and iterating. We check in with engineers to understand what’s possible from a technical standpoint, with designers to help determine if a product is user-friendly, and with data analysts to understand how the products we help build are being used. But the most important conversations we have are with the people who use our products. At ResearchGate, these are the 20+ million researchers who use our network to discover new publications, connect with peers and mentors, and advance their science.
In my four years as a product manager at ResearchGate, I’ve talked with researchers around the world to understand the problems they face and what they need to make their jobs easier. ResearchGate’s mission is to connect the world of science and make research open to all. Through our conversations with researchers, we’ve learned that carrying out this mission requires systemic changes far beyond the scope of our platform — but we’re always looking for ways to help make those changes happen.
One of the pain points researchers often bring up is the discovery process. Even as many publishers are switching to open-access models — which in theory means that full-texts should be easily discoverable online — our members have told us that getting access to relevant content adds unnecessary friction and frustration to an already stressful job. They report needing to click through several sites to find the version of record for an open-access article, or having to go to several publishers' sites to access the articles they want to read. All that time spent searching, sifting through endless open tabs and hitting dead ends can really add up and distract researchers from the work they’re doing.
We designed our syndicated content partnerships with an eye to solving these problems. So far, these partnerships have made around 660k open access and hybrid open access-subscription journal full-texts from a variety of publishers — which in addition to RUP, include Hindawi, Springer Nature, and Wiley — available directly on the ResearchGate platform, helping researchers to easily access the articles they need to do their work.
Accessing these full-texts on ResearchGate also adds some unique social elements to the discovery process: ResearchGate members are served with relevant research through Home Feed recommendations, which may help them to find journals and authors they weren’t familiar with before. This has some clear benefits for both readers and authors: readers who are ResearchGate members can also directly contact authors with questions and comments through the ResearchGate platform; meanwhile, authors can expand the reach of their work and receive clear insights into the impact their work has had through its usage on ResearchGate.
While the RUP content has only been available on our platform for a short time, results from other partnerships have already shown positive reception among readers and authors alike. We look forward to seeing this trend continue as we deepen our partnerships with RUP and other publishers.