Millions of researchers all around the world have profiles on academic social network sites, such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu, or Mendeley. Still these channels are hardly used for impact assessment. While scientific impact has traditionally been measured with bibliometrics, social media provide new avenues for influence measurement (Altmetrics). We focus on one specific type of social media, namely academic social network sites. How can such platforms provide insights into scientific impact and add to Altmetrics? To answer this question, we rely on a social network analysis of a research community on ResarchGate. The underlying data was provided by the platform provider. It contains detailed interaction and publication information of 55 faculty members of a Swiss public university. We apply a structural perspective and use centrality measures as core indicators of influence within the network.
Our analysis proceeds in three steps: First, we describe the network structure in terms of classical SNA metrics. Second, we analyze whether researchers’ network centrality is associated with other metrics of influence, namely: (a) activity on the platform (b) traditional metrics of scholarly influence (i.e. mainly bibliographic criteria), and (c) academic position. Third, we compare the network structure with that of participants' co-authorship pattern.
Our findings show that activity on the platform is the best predictor of impact within the network, while publication success and academic play less of a role. Implications for research and practice are provided.