The COVID-19 research community page: a new approach for ResearchGate

By Mareike Voget

As the COVID-19 crisis took hold, we witnessed a shift in how researchers working in related areas share information on ResearchGate: they are sharing information, data, and ideas at a much earlier stage in the research cycle. They are no longer waiting until they have complete and validated information. The urgency and scale of this crisis made them a lot more open with what they have, at whatever stage it was in.

At the same time, society at large is wholly focused on the issue. When will there be a vaccine? What can we do? How does this virus work? These questions have dominated news cycles for weeks. These two factors -- researcher behavior and a sustained interest from society on one specific topic -- have driven us to re-examine our role: what can ResearchGate do to advance COVID-19 research? This is the question we set ourselves on March 16th. It’s much more focused than our general mission of advancing science, and it has taken us in new directions.

Last week, we released a new community solution to support researchers working on the COVID-19 crisis. It is built on a lot of user research and insight from surveys, analytics, and interviews (see Dave Hora’s blog post explaining what we understand about the problem space), as well as, of course, over a decade of working in the problem space of connecting researchers and helping them to be more efficient. The new community space helps researchers keep track of new research, get help, support others, and contribute to the knowledge base being utilized to tackle COVID-19. We also repurposed our candidate search tool we offer as part of our recruitment solutions to provide a targeted expert finder which can identify potential collaborators from among our 16 million registered researchers.

ResearchGate COVID-19 research community

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of COVID-19 research — which includes epidemiology, immunology, virology, and many more fields when you include the societal impacts of the crisis — researchers are facing a big challenge to keep up with the latest research. The urgency and scale of this crisis also call for a faster response than the traditional cycle of science can provide, with its in-built methods of rigor such as peer review.?

In order to provide rapid access to early research, we are trialing curation for the first time on ResearchGate. This will help keep the quality of this resource high and make sure that every time a researcher comes back to the page they will find the latest information — without needing to wade through duplicate or low-quality data or information. To help with this, we are going to trial working with a volunteer panel of researchers who are subject matter experts. Our initial call for moderators received an incredible response — I would like to say thank you to everyone who volunteered to give their time. It was inspirational to see researchers from all fields, career levels, and locations willing to devote significant amounts of their valuable time to this process.

The research community's energy and willingness to help is mirrored by my colleagues within ResearchGate. I’m proud and inspired to see how much time, energy, and care our team have put into making this resource for COVID-19 researchers the best it can be.?

Watch this space to see how we'll continue to refine the page to make sure it’s doing what it’s designed to do: support researchers in the fight against COVID-19.