Academic networking wars heat up as ResearchGate absorbs ScholarZ

It seems there’s some consolidation going on in the German academic collaboration software space: ResearchGate, which rivals UK-based Mendeley for the leading position in this market, has just bought smaller player ScholarZ.

Details are scarce for now, but ResearchGate and Scholarz have both blogged on the takeover.

ScholarZ’s post is the more substantive, explaining why the service will shut down its own servers on 10 January:

“We’ve come a long way, developing into a powerful tool for everyday academic work. Thousands of researchers have used it over the past few years to increase the speed and quality of their work. Thanks to all of you who helped make this happen.

But what’s the best for the future? How can we continue offering the best service possible to our users? We believe the way to go is to join forces and to affiliate ourselves with a network we trust. This ensures that you will continue to receive outstanding service, including constant development and a vibrant research community.”

As the post points out, ResearchGate has 2.2 million researchers or – from the perspective of ScholarZ’s users – potential collaborators. It also offers access to more than 50 million publications.

So what’s in it for ResearchGate? I’m waiting to hear back from them with a from-the-horse’s-mouth explanation, but at first glance it looks like a play for ScholarZ’s literature management capabilities.

Mendeley, which has almost as many users as ResearchGate, has come more from the research-paper management side, developing a social network of sorts on top of its desktop toolset. ResearchGate comes more from the social networking side, and it could be that ScholarZ’s software will give it a fuller arsenal for taking on its rival.

ScholarZ’s KnowledgeWorkz software engine also comes in a business edition for companies that want to set up intranets – it’s not yet clear whether ResearchGate will keep this side of the business going.

UPDATE: Nope, ResearchGate tells me it won’t be using ScholarZ’s technology, nor will it be maintaining the business edition. In addition, the company says ScholarZ came to it, looking for a new home for its users as the proprietors felt they had gone as far with the platform as they could manage – particularly given ResearchGate’s own growth.

“What comes with this take-over is a certain market consolidation, which we believe will be beneficial for the scientific community in the long run,” a ResearchGate spokesperson told me.