"These type of initiatives already exist on a small scale, but they are mainly focused on document management, whereas we focus on collaboration among people," a ResearchGATE representative told Euractiv.
ResearchGATE is an online social network for scientists provided by the German company ResearchGATE GmbH. It was founded and developed by a group of natural and computer scientists as well as economists from Hannover and Harvard Medical Schools and the University of Leeds.
Launched on 23 May 2008, it gives registered users a free-of-charge platform where they "can present their research work in a personal profile, exchange messages and build individual groups for peer-to-peer discussions". The online service is equipped with search engines that allow access to specific topics and conversations and identification of "researchers from around the world with similar interests".
This international networking technology will allow cross-sectoral linking of researchers and scientists, helping, for example, a biologist to find a statistician for high-class data analysis, as well as "instant peer reviewing" of the research process, according to ResearchGATE.
The first special application on collaborative documenting will be launched this week and four more on other issues are under development. A blog featuring press releases and news to keep interested members updated has also been launched and additional applications, such as an integrated voiceover IP system enabling virtual conferencing, are planned.
"We hold many more ideas in store and though the idea is young there has been overwhelming support by research institutions and high-class researchers that share our vision," state ResearchGATE founders.
The European Science Foundation (ESF) is already committed to spreading the idea of the 'Facebook' among its scientists and programmes and is set to post job advertisements for researchers on it.
The social network service for researchers will be presented at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF 2008), where it hopes to gain further visibility. Eventually, the organisers hope to discuss the prospect of Community funding for the network with the European Commission.
One of the aims of the recently relaunched European Research Area (ERA) intiative is to promote cross-sectoral research collaboration processes to further stimulate innovation.