Tim Berners-Lee created the web as a better way of sharing academic research. But it soon morphed into something much, well, larger.
The irony, says Ijad Madisch, is that while reinventing so many other aspects of our life, the web never really overturned the world of academic publishing. More than 30 years on, we’re still relying on old-fashioned peer-reviewed academic journals to share research among the world’s leading thinkers.
But Madisch wants to change that. In 2008, the former medical student and virology Ph.D. candidate founded a web service called ResearchGate, which seeks to replace peer-reviewed journals with a kind of Facebook for scientists.
It’s a way of bringing academics together online, but it’s also a means of instantly publishing research. Yes, there are other sites that let you self-publish academic work — most notably Cornell University’s arXiv and the Public Library of Science — but ResearchGate goes further. Part of the aim is to share research even before it’s packaged into a formal paper — including “negative data” that may show that a particular thesis isn’t worth following.
“There has to be a way for scientists to share negative data, so that we’re not just making the same mistakes again and again,” Madisch says. “We spend so much time and money on experiments that we already know don’t work.”