Profiling Use of Third-Party Research Repository Services
Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 February 2013
In a recent post I explained Why I’m Evaluating ResearchGate. In the post I summarised the reasons why I felt that researchgate.net could provide an additional service for depositing research papers which would complement Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository. But what others services might also be relevant? And which services are hosting the largest numbers of research papers?
In order to seek answers to these questions, I used Google to provide a measure of the size of a number of hosting services for PDFs and the number of PDFs they host. The services I analysed were:
- Researchgate.net: This site is described in Wikipedia as “a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. The site has been described as a mash-up of “Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn” that includes “profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and ‘like’ and ‘follow’ buttons”. Members are encouraged to share raw data and failed experiment results as well as successes, in order to avoid repeating their peers’ scientific research mistakes.“
- Academia.edu: This site is described in Wikipedia as “a platform for academics to share research papers. It was launched in September 2008. Currently the site is approaching 2 million registered users. The platform can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.“
- Mendeley.com: Thus site is described in Wikipedia as “a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers, discovering research data and collaborating online. It combines Mendeley Desktop, a PDF and reference management application (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) with Mendeley Web, an online social network for researchers. Mendeley requires the user to store all basic citation data on its servers – storing copies of documents is at the user’s discretion“.
- Citeulike.org: This site is described in Wikipedia as “based on the principle of social bookmarking [the service] is aimed to promote and to develop the sharing of scientific references amongst researchers. In the same way that it is possible to catalog web pages (with Furl and del.icio.us) or photographs (with Flickr), scientists can share information on academic papers with specific tools (like CiteULike) developed for that purpose“.
- Scribd.com: This site is described in Wikipedia as “a document-sharing website that allows users to post documents of various formats, and embed them into a web page using its iPaper format“.
Many researchers will probably be familiar with the first four services listed. The fifth service, scribd.com, is included in order to explore whether a general-purpose PDF repository service could have a role to play in supporting the sharing of research publications.
Findings for the Coverage of the Services
Google was used in order to provide an estimate of the coverage of the services, including the total number of resources which have been indexed by Google and the number of PDF files. The findings are given in the following table. Note that the figures were initially collected on 6 February 2013. In order to check the volatility of the findings the searches were repeated on 11 February.
|Search for||Search Term||Nos. of results||Date|
|Total number of resources||site:researchgate.net||55,300,000||6 Feb 2013|
|56,100,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:researchgate.net filetype:pdf||2,980,000||6 Feb 2013|
|2,910,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of resources||site:academia.edu||12,500,000||6 Feb 2013|
|12,400,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:academia.edu filetype:pdf||4,930||6 Feb 2013|
|4,740||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of resources||site:mendeley.com||3,310,000||6 Feb 2013|
|3,150,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:mendeley.com filetype:pdf||3,840||6 Feb 2013|
|4,020||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of resources||site:citeulike.org||35,600,000||6 Feb 2013|
|35,700,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:citeulike.org filetype:pdf||244||6 Feb 2013|
|30||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of resources||site:scribd.com||61,300,000||6 Feb 2013|
|166,000,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:scribd.com filetype:pdf||-||6 Feb 2013|
|371,000,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of resources||site:issuu.com||10,300,000||6 Feb 2013|
|26,100,000||11 Feb 2013|
|Total number of PDF files||site:issuu.com filetype:pdf||48,800||6 Feb 2013|
|48,800||11 Feb 2013|
It seems that Scribd hosts a very large number of resources (although a finding of 3 PDF resources originally found was discarded as the results seemed to be unreliable).
However since Scribd is a general purpose repository service, it was felt that ResearchGate provides a repository of a large number of PDFs resources which are more relevant for researchers. In light of this confirmation of the popularity of Researchgate an additional survey was carried out which reported on use of the service across Russell Group universities.
Findings for Institutional Use of Academic.edu and Researchgate
On 1 August 2012 a Survey of Use of Researcher Profiling Services Across the 24 Russell Group Universities was published on this blog. This survey has been repeated in order to detect changes in the use of ResearchGate. Since the original survey also provided an analysis of Academia.edu, this was also included in the current survey. The results are given in the following table. Note that the data is also available in Google Spreadsheets.
|Aug 2012||Feb 2013|
|Aug 2012||Feb 2013*||Members||Publications|
|1||University of Birmingham||1,210||1,562||782||19,515||1,439||22,068|
|2||University of Bristol||1,018||1,189||641||21,249|| 1,251
|3||University of Cambridge||3,020||3,439||972||39,713||1,699||42,419|
|6||University of Exeter||919||1,106||269||5,150||652||6,191|
|7||University of Edinburgh||2,079||2,479
|8||University of Glasgow||1,004
|10||King’s College London||1,420||1,748||1,406||18,264||2,241||23,391|
|11||University of Leeds||1,657||1,871||848||16,944||1,455
|12||University of Liverpool||866||989||582||16,475||1,146||18,749|
|13||London School of Economics||1,131||1,354||191||1,838||407||2,449|
|14||University of Manchester||2,279||2,590||1,113||25,139||2,188||29,675|
|16||University of Nottingham||1,299||1,529||970||20,513||1,559||20,145|
|17||University of Oxford||3,842||4,469||1,221||38,224||1,967||39,861|
|18||Queen Mary||715||849||228||5,232|| 898
|19||Queen’s University Belfast||689||774||479||10,750||864||11,699|
|20||University of Sheffield||1,082||1,235||823||18,127||1,659||20,149|
|21||University of Southampton||1,083||1,265||670||16,887||1,371||18,325|
|22||University College London||2,776||3,162||1,624||35,035||2,878||38,550|
|23||University of Warwick||1,143||1,349|| 448
|24||University of York||986||1,180||386||4,841|| 696
Note: * As described in the previous survey the numbers of Academia.edu members is obtained by entering the name of the institution in the search box.
As illustrated in the accompanying diagrams it seems that the numbers of researchers who have signed up for a ResearchGate account has grown significantly over the past six months, and now stands at over 33,000 users, a growth of 82.7%. The numbers of papers which have been deposited by researchers at Russell Group universities has also grown to a total of over 477, 000 items. However since this represents a growth of 11.9% over six months it suggests that new members are providing metadata records only and not depositing the full text.
I therefore conclude that the conclusions I reached in my post which explained Why I’m Evaluating ResearchGate were correct and ResearchGate is a service which I should use not only to provide a presence about my research activities but also to host my research papers. I do wonder, though, whether the large numbers of items which have been deposited in ResearchGate is due to promotion of the service with the Russell Group universities or represents a bottom-up approach, in which researchers have recognised the benefits of the service and recommended it to their peers?