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Sharing platforms offer effective ways of connecting with researchers and create fertile ground for serendipity, writes Claire Webber

The academic publishing market is becoming increasingly complex, challenging and competitive. Researchers have an enormous variety of options as to where to publish their research, from well-established journals through to the hundreds of new journals launched every year, plus, open publishing platforms and preprint servers have now become common use too. With seven million new papers being published every year, this makes staying on top of the latest and most relevant research a challenging task.  

Researchers first 

To help navigate these complexities we take a researcher-centric approach to publishing. This means that our contribution to open physics is developed in dialogue and collaboration with members of the scientific community. Listening to our researchers we know that knowledge exchange is an intrinsic element of academic life. Easy access to academic content is vital for them to thrive. Since the pandemic prohibits most in-person conferences, it is now more important than ever to find ways to create serendipity, a place where people stumble across unexpected and unsearched-for literature, meeting others who prove to be significant for both research and their future development and careers, and finding project-related artefacts which expand projects and thinking.  

Creating chances  

Supporting researchers in finding fertile ground for serendipity, we have partnered with ResearchGate, a scholarly social networking site on which more than 20 million scientists and researchers share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators.  Our partnership will see more than 36,000 of our full text articles uploaded onto the ResearchGate platform, making it easier for researchers to share their papers within a network where specialist communities connect.  

Accessing these full-texts on ResearchGate adds some unique social elements to the discovery process: ResearchGate members are served with relevant research recommendations through a home feed on the ResearchGate website. This may help them to find journals and authors they weren’t familiar with before. This has some clear benefits for both authors and publishers and offers an environment where serendipity gets a chance. 

Even though many of the papers published with us are open access — which means that full-texts are easily discoverable online — making research shareable on a platform where scientific communities collaborate already will improve discoverability and reach. 

Enhancing diversity and inclusion 

Social media platforms, such as ResearchGate, also make research more inclusive and help to close the science gap between developed and developing countries. These platforms offer a powerful link in promoting innovation by connecting scientists from industrialised countries with their peers in developing nations . Peer-to-peer connections not only strengthen knowledge exchange but also enable researchers to source or request full-text papers of articles at no extra cost. Such sharing of scholarly content expands the reach of science beyond the borders of the scientific community inspiring various types of people and institutions.  

There’s a perceived dichotomy between the interests of authors and publishers. But when it comes to sharing knowledge, we find that authors and publishers want many of the same things: to increase the reach of their articles, to better understand the impact their published research has, and to forge deeper connections with researchers in their fields.  

We’re confident that by bringing our expertise in publishing high-quality research together with ResearchGate’s online platform and networks of millions of scientists, we will deliver significant benefits for the communities served by both organisations. 

As the first physics publisher to disseminate papers on ResearchGate’s platform, we will review the partnership after 12 months to see how often our content has been discovered and gather feedback from users about their experience. It’s hard to put a measure of success on serendipity but we will continue to learn how social networks are contributing to future ways of knowledge exchange. 

Claire Webber is head of content and engagement marketing at IOP Publishing