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The Business Model Of ResearchGate

If you are a scientist, researcher or just someone interested in scientific knowledge, chances are, you have visited this scientific website. If you are aware of this website, maybe you are wondering if maybe you could set up your own similar website. You may be also wondering: “Is it profitable?”


What Is ResearchGate?

But what is exactly ResearchGate? Many would like to describe it as a social media for scientists and researchers. While it is true that it has many features that strongly resemble the same features as other social media sites such as forums, it is more than this.

For one, it features complete scientific articles containing the scientific research of many scientific people. It contains both successful and failed scientific experiments for example. Why is this feature important?

The successful experiments enables many other people with a scientific bent to learn and perhaps use the scientific knowledge to progress their own studies and experiments. This enables people to save time and money doing duplicate scientific research and experiments.


The Importance Of Failures

By also featuring failed experiments or failed scientific outcomes, those with a scientific bent also learn not what to do when conducting their own similar research or experiments. This also enables them to save on money and time.


Premium Users and Clients

I can see these kinds of websites attracting people from the academic fields. Generally, products marketed to the academics like books, conferences and other knowledge based products tend to have a high premium.

With these websites being able to create a list of academics in the millions, there is a high probability of monetization. For example, high-end microscopes can’t just be marketed to anyone. Marketing such products to anyone is a waste of money.

But a websites like ResearchGate makes better use of advertising money because they are able to specifically target people in the scientific and academic field who will more than likely consider buying a high-end microscope.


How Do They Earn Revenues?

At the moment, ResearchGate earns revenue through advertisement and by acting as a job recruitment site for its members who are mostly scientists and researchers. This two monetization methods are standard for many websites.


Advertising

There is a difference of course. If you notice the ads being shown to you on ResearchGate, you would notice that the ads being shown are for more high ticket items. If I am correct, ResearchGate earns more per advertiser than other websites.

The reason maybe is that the advertisers perceive that the viewers visiting the ResearchGate website are more educated. More education is statistically equated to higher disposable income. So advertisers pay more to be featured in ResearchGate and similar websites.


Recruitment

ResearchGate also earns money through recruitment. Many career based websites also follow this model. For example, the site ProBlogger has a job board for writers and bloggers. The website itself is centered on the subject of blogging as a career.

Nature, another science based website and a related competitor of ResearchGate also has a recruitment feature in its website. Unlike ResearchGate, their recruitment feature or job board is more prominently featured.

I suggest you give the Nature website a quick visit to see how they feature nature based research, jobs and other research based materials to give a more condensed idea of how such websites operate.


Company Stats

The company has been financed by venture companies and by individual investors such as billionaire Bill Gates who invested $28 million in July 2013. As of 2017, they have raised $100 million in funding.

The company was founded by Ijad Madisch, Soren Hofmayer and Horst Fickenscher on 2008 in Germany. Ijad still remains as the company’s CEO and the two other cofounders hold important positions within the company.


Competitors

If there is money to be made or if an idea seems to be profitable, you can be sure that enterprising people will try it. The same is true for scientific publications. ResearchGate has many competitors. However, two companies stand out:


Academia

This company has more content than ResearchGate but many rate the quality of the content in the website as of lower quality than ResearchGate. There is also the issue where some of the contributors of the website threatened action against it.

This is because there are some contributors in the website who complained that they received e-mails from the company. They were being offered by the company to be given preferred treatment in terms of publication if they pay the company money.

This website also monetizes the same way as ResearchGate. This is via advertisements as well as a job board.


Google Scholar

This is of course a company owned by Google, hence the name. There are indications from the ResearchGate Wikipedia article that Google Scholar is more visited than ResearchGate. This may be true considering the sheer amount of information that Google has.

At the moment, Google Scholar has not shown any monetization strategies. But we must remember that Google is still a business and must make money. Perhaps in the future they would monetize.


Is ResearchGate Profitable?

There are a few websites and articles online that give an estimate of the income of the company. The latest estimate I got was from Craft.co. They company made nearly $6 million in 2015 which is a 135% increase from the previous period.

The company as of 2015 has 120 employees. This equates to about $50,000 salary for each employee. As of 2018, they already have 300 employees. This is not a clear indication that the company is profitable, but it does give a clear indication that the company is growing.

Also, the company’s CEO and also cofounder is a millionaire. He has a reported worth of about five to six million dollars.


Additional Monetization Methods

Besides advertisements and recruitment, there is talk that that company might expand its products and services. For example, there is talk of going into the publication business. Some of the contents of the website would be published together with other science based documents.

The company has acted as a middleman or a facilitator between companies and their published academics. They help both parties in sorting out how the scientific knowledge in the website can be best monetized.


The Benefit To Scientists And Research Experts

Besides companies like ResearchGate, the scientists and the research experts benefit as well. The greatest benefit they get is exposure. They are exposed to the greater public which allows them to be known not only in scientific or academic circles, but also with the common people.

If you are a scientist or a research expert yourself, having your research in these websites might just be the push you need to have your research given a research grant or a business capital.


Can’t You Do The Same With Your Own Website?

If you are talking about if you will get the same exposure if you presented your own research on your own website, then the answer is no. These websites could do a lot of help for you in terms of exposure.

It’s like comparing it to Facebook. You can start your own social media website, but in current circumstances, you cannot get the same exposure as when you have an account in Facebook. The same is true for these science websites, they have been there long enough that they can give you the exposure you need as compared to your own website.

This not discounting that there are no downsides to putting your research results in these websites. If you ever find people willing to financially back up your research, there would be a few of them who would prohibit you from posting your research results from such websites.


Can’t You Setup A Similar Website?

It has been previously explained that these websites do make money. Perhaps you are now interested in making money by setting up a similar website. Your question would be: “Can I setup a similar website under the current conditions?”

The answer is a resounding yes. The founders of ResearchGate were all scientists or academics. This means that you could do it too. But you would say: “But they were all scientists and academics, they understand the product or business. I am just a common person, not an academic.”


A Mechanic Science Website

I have looked online and so far I have not found a website that is similar to ResearchGate when it comes to cars. It is ironic since you can find people selling repair manuals and car engine reference manuals online.

So what is the relation of online car engine repair manuals to ResearchGate? The answer is this: You need to be technically knowledgeable to understand what is written in both ResearchGate and the car engine manual.

The car engine manual is not in the realm of scientists or academics. ResearchGate is arguably not in the realm of knowledge for those who tinker with car engines. Both groups however require technical knowledge to their respective field of expertise.

So a car engine website that would pattern itself after ResearchGate can also offer research articles about car engine repair, customization and experiments. They can monetize themselves via car ads and car engine customization services for example.

Imagine if the ResearchGate model was applied to food, farm agriculture and so on. The main beneficiary of the research articles would not be scientists or academics, but cooks and farmers primarily.

Going back to the car engine website, any mechanic can set up one similar to ResearchGate. All they need to do is to start posting their own knowledge and experiments and invite other mechanics to do so.

Just like ResearchGate, the mechanic could persuade other mechanics to post their own research with the promise of exposure to people who could be car owners, businesses involved with cars, or car mechanic students.


A Note Of Warning About Some Of These Websites

There are now many websites that are similar to ResearchGate that promise exposure to people by featuring their research results or knowledge. These services are normally free, but some websites do offer premium services.

There are websites that offer to greatly “enhance” the profile of their clients. For example, they could only show all the positive comments on a client’s research article and remove the negative. They could charge a premium amount for such service.

This is a big danger for both the people who publish research articles and the people who read them. It means that the outcome of the result of the research article is being tampered with. This means that the readers for example are not getting the true information on the research.


Conclusion

It has been established that the ResearchGate model is a viable commercialization model for academic and research information. Many such websites are monetizing via advertisements and recruitment.

They could however branch off to products and services such as print publishing, client-customer intermediation and so on. The revenue potential for selling information could be tremendous since it is like a digital product with low costs and high probability of repeated sales.

Even people who cannot be called scientists and academics can stand to greatly benefit from such a business model. There are always research and experiments being done in almost all facets of life. These people can use their own expertise and build their own research related website.




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