You may have heard about ResearchGate, the so called facebook of scientists. Yes, another social network. Its structure is actually more similar to twitter: each user is a node and you can create directed edges from yourself to other users. Since I finally got rid of my facebook account (I am a Bellwether. In five years all the cool guys will not be on facebook), I decided to try ResearchGate. I wanted a stable platform to upload my preferable versions of my papers so that they will be the first to pop up on google. Also, I figured if I am returning to blogging then I need stuff to bitch about. ResearchGate only partially fulfill the first goal, but it does pretty well with the second.

First, some data: Roughly 50% of authors I know have some presence on RG, but most of them do not maintain their site. In fact, I suspect many of them don’t know they are on RG since a page for author X seems to be automatically created when his co-author Y uploads a paper. Nobody I know of is actively using RG as a way to collaborate with other users by posting questions and answers, which seems to be a big part of the purported RG experience. But there are quite a few who upload their working and published papers.

Some RG features that make it different from other social networks are designed especially for academics types. There is for example the RG score. Academics are obsessed about ranking each other. One of the more difficult requirements for graduating in a top econ program is to memorize the publication records of all economists in the world, who got offers where, how much JETs are worth one ECMA and the historical record of these exchange rates. Well, students will have much easier life if Bill Gates and his fellow RG investors have their way: you will only be tested on a single score for each researcher, his RG score,  “a metric that measures scientific reputation based on how all of your research is received by your peers.” I should say though that, at least in games and decision theory, it will probably take some time until the age of the RG score arrives. The current score is, not to put a too fine point on it, totally useless. There is a more or less universally agreed on ranking of scholars which is based on CVs and the offers they get. There is also a correct ranking based on the originality and quality of research. These two rankings are typically very different. The RG score is similar to neither.

If the score is the most useless feature of RG, the most annoying feature is the aggressive way in which they try to force you to update your site. First, their minions search the web for every old version of your papers, and once they find it they will suggest that you add it you your profile. I say `suggest’ but it’s not like you can refuse. You can choose between `yes’ and `maybe later’. And by `later’ they mean next time you log in. In the end you either surrender or accidentally click yes. Even worse is when they nag you to mind other people’s profiles. Here is for example what I get when I go to Janos’ page.

Screenshot 2014-07-23 15.29.30

And here is what I go to  Rakesh’s

Screenshot 2014-07-23 15.10.58

Hey Ricky, just pick one, they are all nice :)