I’m going to stop ignoring ResearchGate


LinkedIn, Facebook, ORCID, Twitter, Instagram, Klout, Mendeley, ResearchGate.

I’m signed up for all of these things. Some are useful, some can be annoying, some I just ignore.

Some vague time ago, a friend in my department mentioned that I should sign up for ResearchGate. I said something like, “It’s just another one of those social networks, yadda yadda so what.” But I signed up anyway*.

At the time I signed up, I halfheartedly connected some of my papers, and since then I’ve ignored it. Jump to last week, when one of their emails was creative enough to find its way through my spam filter:

rgateclipI was like, huh? I chose to click over to my profile on ResearchGate.

Continue reading

When K-12 teachers assign students to contact experts


I’m super-enthusiastic about K-12 science education, and working with K-12 teachers and students*. When a student wants to talk science with me, I’m over the moon. That doesn’t mean I’m as drunk as a cat on catnip whenever a K-12 student emails me a question. Continue reading

Accessing the articles you need (or not)


We’re on the dawn of a new age with open publishing in science, yadda yadda, hubledydoo.

In the meantime, I just need that damn reprint.

If people at large research universities are having trouble getting their articles from certain journals, then how do you think it feels at Southern Northeastern Podunk State?

I got used to not having Web of Science when that was a necessary tool. Every year, it was on my wishlist for the library. We regularly argued for it. Two leap years passed. Then, they got Web of Science. The year I was leaving.

My current campus doesn’t get Web of Science, nor Nature or Science. I’m not concerned about that, as long as Google Scholar still exists and is free (and who knows how long that will last. I imagine once ISI loses its customer base, then Google will close up shop on Scholar or start charging big bucks. It’s funny that Google’s initial corporate sales pitch was “Don’t be evil.” Once they conquered RSS they killed Reader because the entire medium wasn’t profitable enough. Once they conquer scientific publishing databases, will they do the same?)

There are massive sweeps and suites of journals that we’re missing. We don’t get much from Elsevier, I think, but we do okay with Blackwell. (Or is it the other way around?). We get about 50% of the journals I want to access. That’s mighty horrible. I’d feel more horrible, though, if we squandered our limited resources by paying extortion to the publishers.

How to get everything we don’t get through the university? The majority of the papers get from the site of one of the authors, which is usually discovered promptly by Google Scholar. Sometimes it’s there but not indexed in Google Scholar. If it’s a new paper, I email the corresponding author, and I usually get the pdf within hours. I try to not do that, though I don’t mind the requests when I receive them.

That does leave holes. There theoretically is an interlibrary loan that could be used, but I don’t use it.

I have an research associate/adjunct appointment another university in my area, connected to my collaborations and I work there on occasion. Their library has decent access, but with lots of holes as well. By magical coincidence, the holes of the two institutions I use are entirely complementary, and I can access almost everything. This pretty much rocks, and I realize that I’m the lucky beneficiary of this arrangement.

I recognize that few people have this kind of opportunity, as most institutions have their library access locked down really tightly, so that various institutional hangers-on can’t get article access without physically being in the library.

This is a dilemma to which I don’t have an easy solution. Usually interlibrary loan requests are cumbersome, but if your institution allows it, that’s better than nothing. (That still beats what I did in grad school – pull if off the shelves of Norlin Library and photocopy it. Uphill. Both ways.) If you can’t do that, then I guess you’ll just have to contact the authors. I just feel bad being a part of the weight of another person’s email. Among the the administrative weight of email tasks, sending out reprints isn’t the worst thing, though. If your correspondent doesn’t want to deal with digital reprint requests, they should post them until they get a DMCA takedown notice from their publisher.

One of the best pieces of advice about literature research I got from my ‘intro to grad school and academic life’ class was, “Don’t mistake having a copy of an article for having read and understood it.”

You could do what most people probably do when they can’t get an article. Read the abstract and pretend that you read the entire paper.

If you have any tricks of the trade to get articles of which I’m unaware, please leave a comment.

One thing I’ve thought about doing is opening a dropbox file to colleagues with similar research interests, and we can all share there. I do with students in my lab, but I could open it up more broadly.

The “future” will solve these article access problems one way or another, I suspect, based on the hard work of academics pushing to change the industry. In the meantime, I’m tired of workarounds.