ResearchGATE, a social network for scientists aimed to facilitate their collaboration on research, has raised an unspecified amount of money in its first institutional round of funding. The round is notable in part because it was led by Matt Cohler of Benchmark Capital, the early Facebook and LinkedIn executive who’s only made a few venture capital investments so far. Berlin-based ResearchGATE was founded by a group of German scientists including Dr. Ijad Madisch, a medical doctor who is currently conducting research in radiology at Harvard. The site has amassed 500,000 members in the last two years, with strong contingents from biology and medicine, followed by computer science.
For a while there the consensus seemed to be it was a better idea to make every online product social or build on existing platforms rather than create a separate vertical social network. However, niche networks are back, from Apple’s Ping to little startups like The Fridge.
The promise of ResearchGATE is that it’s a social network that could help real work get done well. Madisch estimates that nearly 80 percent of research is unpublished, so it’s not shared with the broader scientific community. If the scientific process could be more open and shared, researchers could collaborate with each other, reduce redundancy, and improve their work. The site today contains 500,000 scientist profiles, along with 2,600 collaborative groups and an aggregated index of 35 million scientific articles. It’s already making money through a jobs board. Madisch said he doesn’t aim to disrupt the traditional research journal model, but rather to help scientists out in the formulation phase before they publish a study. He added that down the line he’d love for ResearchGATE to publish its own “journal of negative results” (which could actually be pretty awesome).
Participants in the Series A round, led by Benchmark, were Accel Partners and angels including Simon Levene, Michael Birch, Joachim Schoss and Martin Sinner. In a phone interview, Cohler said that he felt ResearchGATE was well-positioned because it was developed out of the needs of its founders. He called scientists a “large and very important market and not well served online” and said he thought improving collaboration tools has the potential to change how research is done.
Another great science-related social web tool is Scitable, but that’s more aimed at connecting teachers and students.