Academic Internet networks:
a platform for scientific exchange or Instagramm for scientists? (The case of ResearchGate)
Cand. of Sci. (Philos.), Head of the Centre for Sociology of Science in S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg, Russia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof., Dr. Sci. (Econ.), Institute of Indistrial Management, Economics and Trade, Peter the Great Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University, Saint Petersburg, Russia. email@example.com
Junior researcher of Centre for Sociology of Science, S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, St. Petersburg Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg, Russia. firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper presents results of a study which aimed to investigate the connection between virtual network communication (ResearchGate, RG) and ‘real’ professional achievements. The goal of the paper is to identify the range of RG users’ communicative practices, to recreate the strategic landscape of the network, and to gain insight into how institutional factors and demographic characteristics influence users’ network activity. To achieve these objectives, empirical research was conducted. For data collection, the Web Scraping method, and the “web crawler” tool were applied. The sample comprised 4800 profiles with quotas of 200 profiles distributed in each of the 24 scientific disciplines. Cluster analysis revealed three clusters of RG users according to their communicative practices. Age and status did not prove to have any significant effect on network activity. However, ranking users’ institutional membership according to ARWU showed that institutional factors do influence network behaviour. This research generated the conclusion that network interactions are an element of a sophisticated system of scientific communications wherein intensiveness of network communication increases while other components (direct formal and informal communication) stop playing an essential role in fulfilling research tasks and in achieving professional growth. The verified results of this research contribute to understanding how a researcher can use network advantages in his/her professional life, and how network can be used to overcome institutional barriers hindering academic growth.
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