Expanding access to research – exploring the ResearchGate and Springer Nature partnership

By: Diana Petrowicz, Sun Dec 13 2020

An interview with Sebastian Bock, Product Manager

Diana Petrowicz

Author: Diana Petrowicz

With an ever increasing volume of scientific output, easy access to research content is becoming more important. This is why Springer Nature and ResearchGate decided to partner up with the goal to explore new ways for researchers to share content. The aim is to deliver a better experience for the communities served by both organisations by combining Springer Nature’s expertise in publishing high-quality research and ResearchGate’s online platform used by millions of scientists.

Sebastian Bock © Springer Nature

Sebastian Bock, Product Manager at Springer Nature, is responsible for managing the partnership. He talked to us about the background, what content will be shared and the positive impact on institutions.

What is ResearchGate and how does the partnership work?

ResearchGate is a professional network for scientists and researchers counting over 19 million users worldwide. Based in Berlin, the platform was founded in 2008 by two physicians and a computer scientist. It’s similar to Facebook, but for researchers, a place where researchers can discuss their work with other researchers and present their projects to the community for feedback.

The collaboration started back in March 2019 with a pilot phase during which Springer Nature provided ResearchGate with full-text articles published in Nature journals starting from November 2017. The pilot phase was then evaluated in an author survey of nearly 700 researchers. Following the second pilot phase, we conducted in-depth interviews with librarians from North America, Europe and Asia and analysed usage data of content from Springer Nature that was syndicated to ResearchGate. In addition, we compared authentication data from ResearchGate with that of Springer Nature. The evaluation showed that the partnership brings numerous benefits to librarians, researchers, and authors, and also allowed us to identify areas for development. The findings were published in the white paper “Researchers at the centre: discoverability, visibility, and access”.

Based on the successful trial period we decided to enter into a long-term partnership with ResearchGate that started on 15 September 2020.

What content will be shared on ResearchGate?

We started with 41 journals on ResearchGate, which includes articles of the past three years of Nature journals and past five years of Springer journals and the scope of journals offered was then doubled to 82 journals. In the meantime, we have made all journals that are fully owned-by us (not including society journals) amounting to about 1.4 million articles, made accessible on ResearchGate.

The partnership is enabling content delivery of the version-of-record (VoR) articles directly to ResearchGate publication pages. If the researcher or student is an entitled user, which means they have access to the content through their institution’s subscription, they will be able to read and download Springer Nature content on ResearchGate. New articles will be made available on a daily basis as they are published. Non-entitled users will be able to access an enhanced abstract of the article on ResearchGate, which includes metadata, abstract, figures and captions and the full first page.

What are the key benefits to customers from the partnership?

The librarians’ patrons can now also access Springer Nature content through ResearchGate without additional login, which allows uninterrupted access with minimal authentication steps. This means institutional subscriptions can be accessed through ResearchGate, which is the main benefit for librarians. Another benefit is that we are increasing the reach of the licence by offering access from a different platform which has a wide range of research, so you don’t have to switch platforms and have a seamless research experience. The way it works is that when a user is logged onto ResearchGate, it checks if the article they would like to access is part of their institution’s subscription or not. Thus the reach of the institution subscriptions is increased and the library is providing wider access to the licensed content through its subscription. The articles accessed through ResearchGate include a disclaimer, stating that the article is being accessed through the subscription of the respective institution.

If an article is not part of your institution’s subscription, you will be treated as a non-entitled user and can’t access the full text article. This is now different to the pilot where the user always had access to the full article but only online, without a download option. Now you have access to an enhanced abstract which includes abstract, images and other metadata.

How does the authentication process work and how do we ensure data security?

The access is IP based. ResearchGate has developed an algorithm that works with signals that have a threshold that needs to be passed to see that the user is part of an institution. This means our business partner data is sent to ResearchGate with IP ranges and ResearchGate has the email addresses of users which include the domain of the institution. That way ResearchGate can check if the email address is part of the institution and then we check if this user has accessed an IP that is part of the institution in recent weeks and if it was accessed through one of these IPs. This information together with a few more factors determines a score and depending on the score it is decided if the user can reliable be identified as being part of the institution or not and if access is granted.

There is a data exchange between us and ResearchGate but we don’t share any personal data, the only data shared for accessing our content on ResearchGate is institutional holdings information and institutional IP ranges which we need for the access control. ResearchGate only shares processed user data which doesn’t include any data which could be used to identify a person.

For further information, check out our white paper “Researchers at the centre: discoverability, visibility, and access” and find out more about our partnership’s goals and benefits for researchers, authors and librarians.

Diana Petrowicz

Author: Diana Petrowicz

Diana Petrowicz is a Marketing Manager in the Sales Enablement team, based in the London office. Supporting the Sales and Account Development teams, she is enthusiastic about finding innovate ways to communicate with the library community and specialises in producing and writing case studies across the portfolio.