ResearchGate is Hiding Open Access Articles

Last year I wrote a post comparing ResearchGate with our institutional repository for generating downloads of openly shared manuscripts. In short, the repository beat ResearchGate by 84% in download counts for the works that I have shared on both sites. If I want people to find and read my articles, I’m not wasting my time with ResearchGate.

Now, facing legal pressure from several publishers, it looks like ResearchGate is starting to abandon its role as a tool for circumventing paywalls. As many of the deposits on ResearchGate clearly violate the terms of the publishers’ policies, it’s not too surprising that the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), Elsevier, American Chemical Society (ACS), and others are looking for ways to take articles down. However, as Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe describes, it is unsettling that ResearchGate (RG) has been so quiet. Given that RG sends me at least an email a day, one would think that they’d send some kind of heads up to their users about their plans. Instead, RG and Springer Nature have offered a press release hinting at a collaboration to find “solutions to sharing scientific journal articles online, while at the same time protecting intellectual property rights.” If you ask me, that doesn’t sound like ResearchGate thinks it can continue to let authors choose how to provide open access to their work.

A couple of weeks ago I started to notice that RG results in Google Scholar were redirecting to pages with no link to a freely accessible PDF. Works that used to be open access were missing. What happened? Did RG preemptively take them down? Did the authors take them down? Not seeing any news from RG (maybe I deleted it from the bazillion emails they send me), I decided to check my RG documents. And, yes, one of my articles published in an open access journal, Clinical and Translational Science, is now hidden. An article that was once openly and legally available for download on RG, is now “privately shared.”

Private full-texts are only visible to you ....So, RG hid my article and didn’t ask to see if I had the rights to share it … and (as far as I know) didn’t even send me a notification to say that it’d be hidden from now on.

To restate what I wrote last year … if you want readers, don’t use ResearchGate. My open access article on RG will not be downloaded much at all now. Fortunately, readers can find a free copy in my institutional repository or they can get the OA version directly from the publisher. ResearchGate has no real respect for the autonomy of scholarly authors. RG isn’t interested in my work and isn’t interested in increasing my readership. RG needs my data and is looking for someone to buy it. Instead of RG, use your library-supported, non-profit, institutional repository. RG owns you and takes down your work and sells your data as it sees fit; in contrast, as member of your campus, you own a piece of the institutional repository and you own your work. Don’t waste your time with RG; ask your librarian about your institutional repository … it’s a better deal in so many ways.

Jere Odell - Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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Updated Oct 10, 2017 by Scholarly Communications Librarian