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ResearchGate’s Role in Open Access and Open Science Promotion Leads to Cooperation Deals with Publishers

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OpenTechSummit Berlin 2015, Berlin, Germany, May 14, 2015 © Courtesy of OpenTech Summit/Flickr.

As digital portals become increasingly central to the communication and sharing of scientific findings, some global publishers recognize that their presence on the corresponding platforms, such as ResearchGate, involves both risks and opportunities.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


According to a press release published on April 19, 2018, ResearchGate has entered into an agreement with Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press and Thieme providing a framework for their collaboration in relation to its article sharing practices. Previously, multiple journal and book publishers, such as Elsevier, Wiley, Brill and Wolters Kluwer, had sought legal action against ResearchGate, were issuing it article takedown notices and expressed their concerns about its reportedly illegal sharing of copyrighted material. However, this development, as some large publishers, such as Springer, have consented to work with, rather than against, the ResearchGate platform indicates that article sharing between scholars and researchers is not necessarily entirely antithetical to the protection of intellectual property rights of publishers and authors.

While this agreement also demonstrates that this platform’s users may need to be educated about the handling of copyright-protected content, its another implication is that publishers are likely to be interested in content usage information that ResearchGate accumulates. The complicated legal situation in which ResearchGate finds itself vis-à-vis publishes that primarily rely on conventional, closed-access business models, also shows their lacking compatibility with the principles of Open Science, as the agreement that this platform has concluded is also aimed at facilitating the removal of proprietary content, whereas Open Access to corresponding articles remains elusive. Moreover, given the partial nature of this agreement, no wide consensus among concerned publishers about the accessing and sharing of closed-access publications exists, even though content visibility and discoverability can boost journal- and article-level impact performance.

By contrast, journals and articles based on Open Access are compatible with Open Science from the outset. Given its 15-million-strong user base, ResearchGate also demonstrates the grassroots-level demand for the unfettered sharing of scholarly articles, to which some publishers begin to increasingly attend. Globally-operating portals and platforms for scientific collaboration and communication, such as Open Access repositories, archives and publishing platforms, however, only begin to develop. Additionally, they may be unsuited for handling proprietary content, especially since the measures ResearchGate has been implementing to comply with copyright regulations, e.g., per-request take-downs and post-upload screenings of closed-access articles from its platform, are likely to fall short of upholding the original licensing terms of all publications currently uploaded by the scholars using this portal, as Elsevier argues.

In other words, short of a wide-spread transition to Open Access by scientific communities around the world, the workaround solutions that ResearchGate can be expected to implement, to respect the copyright clauses of closed-access publications, may not necessarily lay to rest the concerns of all publishers, while maintaining its status as a platform dedicated to Open Science.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: OpenTechSummit Berlin 2015, Berlin, Germany, May 14, 2015 | © Courtesy of OpenTech Summit/Flickr.

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