ResearchGate is not alone in its ambitions to upturn the stuffy and defensive world of scientific publishing
With 2m members, science startup ResearchGate isn’t just talking big when it says it wants to start a revolution: it’s actually changing the way scientists work. Co-founder Ijad Madisch explains his vision — and how he’d like to change Germany’s clone-heavy culture along the way.
Ijad Madisch, the CEO and co-founder of Berlin startup ResearchGate, likes to work with hard evidence.
Perhaps it’s no surprise for the Harvard-trained virologist, who traded in a promising medical research career to launch the social network for scientists. But still, in a world where the impact of social networks is usually measured by how many news headlines they can generate, he prefers success stories that have a more direct impact.
Take the example of Rafael Luque, a chemistry professor at the University of Cordoba in Spain. Luque found a collaborator on ResearchGate that he’d have never come across in the real world: a post-graduate student in the Philippines called Rick Arneil Aracon. After using the site to connect and discuss some ideas, together they discovered a novel new method of helping to make biofuels from the leftovers of corn cobs.
The technology is still in development, but it’s evidence of real impact for the site — and a hint at the substantial change that’s happening in the way scientists can work online.
“When we started, people told me you have to get all of the big professors on board,” says Madisch, as we sit in the company’s Berlin headquarters.
His answer was precisely the opposite.
“No,” he says. “If you get all the people who will be professors then it will succeed. We have people who joined four years ago who now say they use ResearchGate for communication in their lab: that’s what I want.”
It’s been a big few weeks for the network, which recently announced that it had broken the two million user barrier. That marks a serious milestone, even if it seems small in comparison to the billion citizens of the United States of Facebook.
It may be dwarfed by Zuckerberg’s empire, but Madisch and his team — including former Facebooker Matt Cohler, who sits on the company’s board — think that they can punch way above their weight with a much smaller community. Why? Because their couple million users are all professional scientists and academics who are all trying to change the world.
So what’s next?
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