Thursday, 13 June 2013

ResearchGate: 'Add full-texts to them to create exposure for your research'

In the last few months I’ve had a few queries from academics about uploading their full text articles to ResearchGate often prompted by them receiving an email saying 'Add full-texts to them to create exposure for your research'. The purpose behind this is of course increasing access to the research itself but there are a few issues with this in ResearchGate

However first I must say that ResearchGate is a great site and service, it brings together researchers from all areas of science, ignoring institutional affiliations in the way that researchers and science does. It links up researchers in other areas, provides with a good ‘home page’ , suggests other research they may be interested in, shows who else they are working with and has ‘forums’ for discussion. It identifies your papers for you and asks you just to confirm that and then for you to upload your papers. At present it has 521 LSHTM staff registered on it (although how many are active is another thing) and each day I get notificaton of new members and more papers being added.

What can you upload to ResearchGate? Well remember that in the majority of cases the copyright will have been transferred from the authors to the publisher and as such only with specific permission can you redistribute that research online. But there are many different versions of research papers and different licenses, which allow different things.

Publisher pdf version of record: If you have published with Elsevier, Wiley, Cambridge, Oxford, Springer, Lippincott or most other traditional publishers you cannot upload this.

Author accepted manuscript (post-print): Many publishers (though not Wiley) do allow this to be redistributed/hosted after an embargo but only on your own institutional site and not for commercial use. ResearchGate is a commercial site.

Paid Open Access articles with PLoS and BioMed Central: all these articles can be uploaded to ResearchGate and this is due to the fact that they also will have a CC-BY license which allows commercial reuse.

Paid Open Access articles with other publishers: This will depend on what license has been applied, if you chose CC-BY then yes you can upload this.

WellcomeTrust funded articles: All Wellcome Trust funded articles are now required to have a CC-BY license so these can be uploaded.

RCUKfunded articles: RCUK indicate that where a article processing charge is paid it needs to be released under a CC-BY license which would allow you to upload

How do you check this? Well we use the wonderful site SherpaRomeo for information on publisher permissions and SherpaFact on whether individual journals are compliant with funder requirements

So you can see it can be quite complicated to work out and in fact restrictive and maybe this is why ResearchGate prefers just to say ‘upload your full text’. Yet publishers have been pretty diligent in telling institutional repositories such as ours what we can and cannot host or distribute and we at LSHTM Research Online are very careful in ensuring we don’t breach copyright. But sites such as ResearchGate and Mendeley have taken a much more hands off approach to copyright and publishers have not really questioned them. 

Why is this? Well maybe publishers view such sites as future/potential businesses. Recently Elsevier bought Mendeley and Bill Gates also invested $35min ResearchGate itself. The value in both of these sites are the researchers themselves, they voluntarily provide huge amounts of data about themselves, their research and associations. ResearchGate has been described as the ‘Facebook’ for scientists and Facebook’s value is all in the data that they have gathered. So maybe publishers allows such sites to gather research papers without questioning their ‘loose’ monitoring of copyright breaches since there is another value and if the site gets enough academics and scientists registering then buying them out is worth much more than stopping copyright breaches. Whereas institutional repositories offer publishers nothing at all, all we try and do in our own small way is to manage and control the research that our academics and institutions produce and that is more of a threat than a social media company that can eventually be bought.

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