Sayre’s Law holds that academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form there is, because the stakes are so low. But it may now be a moot point, as when it comes to academic networking sites, it seems the stakes are getting higher: Berlin-based ResearchGate has revealed it has acquired Scholarz, a similar service, for an undisclosed sum.
In the last few years the popularity of such platforms has grown, as they provide the academic community with a much better way to communicate and share research. ResearchGate alone boasts over 2.2 million users, and now seems to be consolidating its position as one of the market leaders.
Scholarz was founded by economist Dr. Daniel Koch and media technologist Marc Willwacher in 2007 at the Universität Würzburg following an interdisciplinary research project entitled Scientific Work in the Web. ResearchGate, meanwhile, was established in 2008 by physicians Dr. Ijad Madisch and Dr. Sören Hofmayer along with computer specialist Horst Fickenscher. The bulk of the platform’s users and papers on there are science-related, though the humanities also have a strong showing.
Ijad told Silicon Allee what those on Scholarz can expect: “The main difference for Scholarz users will be the far greater possibilities to collaborate with the worldwide research community on ResearchGate. We’ve recently reached two million members. Scholarz has a significantly smaller community. There are also differences in the platforms’ functionalities. Scholarz focused on knowledge and resource management, while ResearchGate is community driven.”
Yet the competition is intense for what is a relatively small target group with the likes of Academia and Scientist Solutions, although all these platforms face similar problems, such as persuading a generation of academics to change the way they talk to each other.
But the benefits are clear. For example, one of the most important facets of ResearchGate is that it enables results from research or experiments that failed to be disseminated much more widely. And there is also the increased collaboration made possible – such as the story of graduate student Rick Arneil Aracon from the Philippines and Rafael Luque, professor of organic chemistry at the University in Cordoba, who met in a forum on ResearchGate. The pair discovered that the leftovers of corncobs make highly effective and eco-friendly catalysts for bio-fuel made from old cooking oil and published a paper on the technique.
ResearchGate has certainly proved popular amongst investors. The company has closed two rounds of financing, raising an undisclosed sum, led by Founders Fund partner Luke Nosek, co-founder of PayPal, and Matt Cohler of Benchmark Capital, co-founder of LinkedIn and an early employee of Facebook.
Such A-list Silicon Valley backing is impressive for a German startup. To come good on the investment, ResearchGate plans to charge companies and universities for using the site to advertise jobs, as well as to run a marketplace for laboratory materials.
Scholarz will be discontinuing its services on January 10, 2013, and the platform’s users are requested to back-up all files they have stored before opening a new account at ResearchGate, to which they can export their materials.