In a distant past – two, three decades ago – researchers relied on publishers to market their publications and on university libraries to make sure colleagues and interested laymen would be able to find them. In a sense then, publishers and libraries worked together to establish scholars’ personae.
Publishers and libraries still provide those services, of course. Increasingly, however, these are complemented by websites offering self service facilities to help researchers draw attention to their work, to follow the work of their colleagues, to participate in collegial networks and, in the process, to build a reputation.
So, with your publications on offer at the journal’s website, with Open Access copies deposited in RePub, and with your Researcher ID registered with ORCID, your next step may well be to set up an account with one (or more) of the social networking sites specifically targeting academic researchers. These sites – of which ResearchGate and Academia.edu are probably the best known examples – do offer the possibility to upload or link to the full text files of your publications. You are also invited to provide information about yourself: about your expertise, your career history, your achievements, and also about your professional interests. Colleagues that share the same affiliation can also present themselves as a group. Naturally these sites advocate Open Access, because they cannot host full text documents that are subject to copyright restrictions. However, the availability of publications, although an important feature, is not what distinguishes them from repositories, journal or publisher websites, or Google Scholar.
Networking for academics
What sets them apart is that their fabric is woven by the interaction between their registered members. Sharing your work, following the work of others, being kept up-to-date about their publications, discussing new research ideas, or simply exchanging collegial advice, are only a few of the available functionalities. As these sites evolve, it is not always easy to fathom the actual depth of the information available or the extent of the involvement of their members. Inevitably some participants are much more active than others. In addition, new sites will come along, inspired or challenged by the existing ones. Attractive and successful features will also find their way into the websites of major publishers like Elsevier, Thomson-Reuters, and Springer.
In other words: there is a real chance that in a few years time researchers will no longer be able to see the wood for the trees, wondering where to manage all their profiles and publication lists. Paradoxically then, it could well be that a good local Research Information System (RIS) combined with a good local repository of publications will turn out to be the best place to start building an international reputation.
These University Library services, already existing or under development, could then act as a hub to distribute information to networks of colleagues and peers.
Hm, there’s a thought …
Author: Hans Brandhorst