With social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter becoming increasing important for job hunting, social networks have slowly matured from being primarily a medium for posting embarrassing party photos to a legitimate professional development resource.
Still, I was surprised to learn that the social media model had spawned so many websites available to help connect academic researchers from universities around the world.
Sites such as ResearchGate and Scispace connect researchers by making use of social network features such as profiles, comment walls and blogs, but with a focus on sharing files and research tips rather than vacation updates. ResearchGATE also allows users to browse conferences and other events related to their field, as well as job listings and over 35 million documents.
I also stumbled upon academia.edu while researching professors at graduate programs I’m considering applying to. The site allows users to follow research from pretty much any field, look up professors from various institutions and view their work and follow the progress of research projects in development.
Another interesting find is the lab management software Quartzy, which allows life science researchers to organize their lab inventories while sharing reagent and equipment details. The site recently won Business Insider’s Startup 2011 award, which comes with $100,000 in cash and services.
And even though I hadn’t heard of them until now, these networks are quickly gaining popularity. ResearchGate has now gained over 1 million users; academic.edu counts Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking as fans.