On ResearchGate and IRs: C-EBLIP Journal Club, October 5, 2017

By DeDe Dawson
Science & Scholarly Communication Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

The C-EBLIP Journal Club article for October 5, 2017 was:

Lovett, J. A., Rathemacher, A. J., Boukari, D., & Lang, C. (2017). Institutional Repositories and Academic Social Networks: Competition or Complement? A Study of Open Access Policy Compliance vs. ResearchGate Participation. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 5(General Issue), eP2131. https://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2183

I chose this article because it discusses two things that have been on my mind a lot lately: IRs & academic social networks like ResearchGate and Academia.edu. I am thinking about IRs a lot because I’m helping with the planning and pilots of the University of Saskatchewan’s newly rebranded IR: HARVEST (still on a test site so I won’t link to it here). And about academic social networks because ResearchGate (RG) has been in the news so much recently.

It is well known that researchers often post copies of their articles on RG in violation of the copyright terms that they agreed to with the publisher. Another recent article documents this. Well, it looks like RG is finally being forced by publishers to take down these articles that are in violation – and are even removing some that are not. As librarians have been trying to tell their patrons for years: RG is not an open access repository.

So, this article by Lovett et al. from the University of Rhode Island is timely. The authors set out to understand researchers’ practices, attitudes, and motivations around sharing their articles in RG and in their IR in compliance with the university’s Open Access Policy. Lovett et al. admit that they expected to find RG to be in competition with their IR, but interestingly “Faculty who participate in ResearchGate are more likely to participate in the OA Policy, and vice versa” (Lovett et al., 2017, p1).

The group at our journal club meeting also thought this finding interesting. One member pointed out that faculty have such limited time – why would they archive papers in more than one site? And it wouldn’t be surprising if the site they chose was RG due to its ease of use. This does not seem to be the case though (in this study at least). It seems those researchers committed to sharing their articles openly will invest the time in doing this in multiple locations. It is worth noting though that most of the faculty (70.6%) in the study didn’t use RG or the IR!

So, RG and the IR are not competitors. But faculty do still seem to prefer RG. Ease of use has already been mentioned, but we also thought that it fit with the mobility of faculty too. Researchers are always moving to new institutions, so may not feel compelled to invest time in their current institution’s IR. The biggest barrier however, appears to be the fact that IRs actually respect and comply with copyright law. This means that usually authors cannot upload the final version of record of their articles into the IR. This study confirmed once again that many faculty are averse to posting other versions of their works.

The other finding that caught our attention was that Full Professors are more active than lower ranked colleagues on both RG and the OA Policy/IR! This does not fit with what we hear about early career researchers (ECRs) being more willing to experiment with new means of scholarly communications. Our group speculated that senior faculty are secure in their positions and ECRs are more tentative about rocking the boat. It is also likely that senior faculty also have more administrative support to actually do the work of uploading. This second insight rings most true to me…

On the concluding page of the article Lovett et al. (2017) state: “…librarians should prioritize recruiting more faculty to share their work in general and should not see academic social networking as a threat to open access” (p.27).


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

One thought on “On ResearchGate and IRs: C-EBLIP Journal Club, October 5, 2017

  1. Thanks! We read this article for our journal club a few weeks ago too – I found it interesting and great fodder for discussion. Your group came up with some good insights we hadn’t thought of! Thanks for sharing – and I’m going to share your post with our group!

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