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Social networking for scientists: an analysis on how and why academics use ResearchGate

Nicole Muscanell (Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University York, York, Pennsylvania, USA)
Sonja Utz (Leibniz-Institut fur Wissensmedien, Tuebingen, Germany and University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 11 September 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the usage and utility of ResearchGate (RG), which is a social networking site where scientists disseminate their work and build their reputations. In a sample consisting largely of American and European academics, the authors analyzed the ways they use the site, what they thought about the site’s utility, and the effects of usage on career outcomes.


The authors employed an online survey approach to target scientists who have an active RG account. Scientists who were not users were also recruited in order to get a better idea of the reasons for their nonuse.


Most academics who have an RG account did not use it very heavily. Users did not perceive many benefits from using the site, and RG use was not related to career satisfaction or informational benefits, but was related to productivity and stress.

Research limitations/implications

Systematic research is needed to explore positive and negative consequences of using professional social media in academia, especially productivity and stress. Findings also suggest that RG needs to increase user engagement.


This study is one of the first to closely examine how and why people in academia use professional social media sites and whether usage leads to perceived benefits and effects on more general career outcomes.



Muscanell, N. and Utz, S. (2017), "Social networking for scientists: an analysis on how and why academics use ResearchGate", Online Information Review, Vol. 41 No. 5, pp. 744-759.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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