ResearchGate Spam

Update Dec 2012: ResearchGate still keeps on sending me their spam. Most of the colleagues I had that tried out RG now deleted their account there, apparently, so the invitation mails become fewer.

Please do not try to push this link on Wikipedia just because you are also annoyed by their emails. My blog is not a "reliable source" by Wikipedia standards. It solely reflects my personal view of that web site, not journalistic or scientific research.

The reason why I call ResearchGate spam is the weasel words they use to trick authors into sending the invitation spam. Here's the text coming with the checkbox you need to uncheck (from the ResearchGate "blog")

Add my co-authors that are already using ResearchGate as contacts and invite those who are not yet members.
See how it is worded so it sounds much more like "link my colleagues that are already on researchgate" instead of "send invitation emails to my colleagues"? It deliberately avoids the mentioning of "email", too. And according to the researchgate news post, this is hidden in "Edit Settings", too (I never bothered to try it -- I do not see any benefit to me in their offers, so why should I?).

Original post below:

If you are in science, you probably already received a couple of copies of the ResearchGate spam. They are trying to build a "Facebook for scienctists", and so far, their main strategy seems to be aggressive inivitation spam.

So far, I've received around 5 of their "inivitations", which essentially sound like "Claim your papers now!" (without actually getting any benefit). When I asked my colleagues about these invitations none actually meant to invite me! This is why I consider this behaviour of ResearchGate to be spam. Plus, at least one of these messages was a reminder, not triggered by user interaction.

Right now, they claim to have 1.9 million users. They also claim "20% interact at least once a month". However, they have around 4000 Twitter followers and Facebook fans, and their top topics on their network are at like 10000-50000 users. That is probably a much more real user count estimation: 4k-40k. And these "20%" that interact, might just be those 20% the site grew in this timeframe and that happened to click on the sign up link. For a "social networking" site, these numbers are pointless anyway. That is probably even less than MySpace.

Because I do not see any benefit in their offers! Before going on an extremely aggressive marketing campaign like this, they really should consider to actually have something to offer...

And the science community is a lot about not wasting their time. It is a dangerous game that ResearchGate is playing here. It may appeal to their techies and investors to artificially inflate their user numbers in the millions. But if you pay for the user numbers with your reputation, that is a bad deal! Once you have the reputation as being a spammer (and mind it, every scientist I've talked to so far complained about the spam and "I clicked on it only to make it stop sending me emails") it's hard to be taken serious again. The scientific community is a lot about reputation, and ResearchGate is screwing up badly on this.

In particular, according to researchgate founder on quora, the invitations are opt-out on "claiming" a paper. Sorry, this is wrong. Don't make users annoy other users by sending them unwanted invitations to a worthless service!

And after all, there are alternatives such as Academia and Mendeley that do offer much more benefit. (I do not use these either, though. In my opinion, they also do not offer enough benefit to bother going to their website. I've mentioned the inaccuracy of Mendeleys data - and the lack of an option to get them corrected - before in an earlier blog post. Don't rely on Mendeley as citation manager! Their citation data is unreviewed.

I'm considering to send ResearchGate (they're Berlin based, but there maybe also is a US office you could direct this to) a cease and desist letter, denying them to store personal information on me, and to use my name on their websites to promote their "services". They may have visions of a more connected and more collaborative science, but they actually don't have new solutions. You can't solve everything by creating yet another web forum and "web2.0izing" everything. Although many of the web 2.0 bubble boys don't want to hear it: you won't solve world hunger and AIDS by doing another website. And there is a life outside the web.

2012-08-20 20:20 — Categories: English Research WebPermaLinkComments