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A Social Network Aims to Speed Up Progress in Science

Ijad Madisch's profile on ResearchGate, the social networking website for scientists, which he created
Ijad Madisch's profile on ResearchGate, the social networking website for scientists, which he created

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A few years ago, a university researcher was having problems with an experiment that involved medical imaging. His adviser and his friends had no solutions. The researcher was Ijad Madisch at Harvard in Massachusetts.

IJAD MADISCH: "I was so frustrated. I said, you know, there has to be something online where I go, where people can, you know, present themselves as a scientist, and where they put their information about their research and their publications and you can search for it."

The solution was to start a scientific network to connect researchers and share information. ResearchGate is similar to another social network developed at Harvard -- Facebook. But Mr. Madisch says the purpose of his site is to make scientists more productive.

IJAD MADISCH: "My goal: to win the Nobel Prize. And I really believe in that. Like, if we think that ResearchGate will accelerate research in all the different fields, it will change the speed of science significantly in the future. So i definitely do believe that ResearchGate could win the Nobel Prize for that one day."

Investors liked the idea, including a former Facebook executive and the same investment group that put money into Twitter. So far, nine hundred thousand people have signed up as members of ResearchGate.


One of those users is Caroline Moore-Kochlacs at Boston University. Her profile page shows her picture and her specialty -- neuroscience. It also lists her doctoral adviser and the work she has published. She can follow other researchers and click onto group pages that discuss different subjects.

CAROLINE MOORE-KOCHLACS: "Let’s see what’s going on in the computational neuroscience group today."

She also uses Facebook but says people almost never discuss science there. She says on ResearchGate she can ask questions and learn about what other researchers are working on before they publish their results. She can also learn about recently published science.

CAROLINE MOORE-KOCHLACS: "The scientific literature is so huge at this point, that it’s really impossible to get through everything in your topic area. People really rely on hearing it from other people."

ResearchGate developer Ijad Madisch says he knows his site will only prove valuable if scientists use it to help each other. But not every user is pleased with it.

Kim Bertrand at the Harvard School of Public Health is an epidemiologist -- someone who studies the spread and control of diseases. Ms. Bertrand says she finds more value in her own offline network of researchers and advisers than in this online network.

KIM BERTRAND: "Sometimes I get these e-mails that are like: 'Dear Sirs: I’m writing a dissertation on public health. Any suggestions? Please advise.' I don’t need that."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. Do you use a social network for work or just for fun? Post your comments on the VOA Learning English page on Facebook or at There, you can also download program transcripts and MP3s and get podcasts. I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Curt Nickisch