Disrupting Science Research With A Social Network


David Kirkpatrick opens with the question that is on everyone’s mind, "So what is Researchgate?”

It is a social network for scientists in which every scientist in the world can share and discover science information. This idea came about from Madisch's own personal experiences within research. Previous to starting Researchgate, he had studied in both Germany and the US and all the intentions of becoming a professor. But he noticed a few problems with the way in which scientific research is done today. He noticed in his own research that he was making mistakes that many researchers have done, simply because the only scientific findings that were being published were those with positive results.

So, he decided that he wanted to reinvent the way scientific research is shared and understood. And his ultimate goal? “I want to win the Nobel Prize.”

Madisch quit his research job, and called his professor from Harvard, and began to build Researchgate in Boston. For Madisch, “making money with Researchgate is not so hard, what is difficult is to get scientists to share in real time their scientific findings with the rest of the world.” Now, he has gone back to Berlin, where Researchgate is currently based, and the company has grown exponentially. Currently on the site he has over 7 million registered scientists who are professional researchers all on one platform. The last million was from the last three months. The data collection is also growing an an incredible rate. When they launched Researchgate it took all the scientists in the network to upload two million publications in the system in the first fifty months. Now, two million publications are uploaded every two months.

Madisch then discusses the fundamental issues with the current system of scientific research. The model is which is now 100 years old works a little something like this: you have an article and you only publish the positive results, which is about 2-5% of all scientific findings. Madisch counters this logic: "every result is a result, and if we put it in a bigger picture, we would have much more progress in diseases, but because we are just publishing positive results, we have a a huge problem in being able to make scientific breakthroughs." The next problem, is the reviews done for quality control. Usually it is two other scientists reviewing, and it takes a lot of time and going through a lot of politics to review anything.

But with Researchgate, everything is published in real time, and can get reviewed much faster from the entire network of scientists. They have created, “a much more iterative approach to science,” than simply having something peer reviewed by a few other scientists. you now have a world of researchers at your disposal. They even want to take the research a few steps further, "We have to change how we share data, distributed data, and make it understandable to the whole world: not just scientists.”

They are growing fast in users and data, and have a ton of scientific breakthroughs. For example, there was a Nigerian scientist who had a baby which died and he could not analyze the blood samples. Someone from Italy took them, collaborated with someone in the US, and they found a new type of yeast that in the past only affected plants, which mutated and affected human beings. This breakthrough would have been utterly impossible without the existence of such a platform.

Kirkpatrick, who noted that Researchgate has some very notable investors, asked Madisch why people like Bill Gates wished to put their funds into his project. He replied, "It was definitely not the Macbook that I brought to the presentation.” So what is the next step for Researchgate? Madisch envisions it as not just a social network for science, but create algorithms that would speed up the process of scientific work. It seems Madisch is not only on a mission to change scientific research, but to change rate of human progress in the world.

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