Summary:

The money should help Berlin-based ResearchGate beef up its sales team, as it starts trying to monetize its 2.7 million-strong community of researchers. It remains unclear, though, who stumped up the cash.

ResearchGate

The academic collaboration startup ResearchGate has picked up $20 million in equity-based funding, an SEC filing from last week shows. The news was first reported by the German startup blog Gruenderszene.

ResearchGate, based out of Berlin and Cambridge, Mass., is one of a handful of large academic social networks that is trying to help researchers around the world connect and collaborate. Another example is Mendeley, which got got bought by Elsevier (see disclosure) a month ago, to the consternation of many users.

ResearchGate has previously had A and B funding rounds, where we knew who was involved (Benchmark Capital and Accel Partners typically feature) but didn’t know the amount. This time, we know the amount but not who bought the equity.

Apart from connecting people, ResearchGate also lets researchers treat their profiles as personal webpages for the purposes of republishing papers they have written. This effectively provides a way around the copyright restrictions that frequently irk academics (after all, most of this research is publicly funded), allowing ResearchGate to act as an open access repository for published papers. Users can also share experiment-derived raw data with one another.

ResearchGate recently started trying to make money, offering the eyeballs of its 2.7 million users to recruiters and conference promoters. It’s a safe bet that the money raised in the last week or two will at least partly go towards boosting the company’s sales force.

UPDATE (8am PT): This article has been updated to remove the suggestion that ResearchGate acts as an open access repository for published papers while Mendeley does not. In fact, Mendeley does offer similar functionality.

Disclosure: Reed Elsevier, the parent company of science publisher Elsevier, is an investor in GigaOmniMedia, the company that publishes GigaOM.

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