ResearchGate Restricts Access to Nearly 2 Million Articles

The academic social network is bending to pressure from publishing giants that demand it removes copyrighted material from its site.

By Catherine Offord | November 9, 2017

ISTOCK, PERE_RUBIClarification (November 10): The 1.7 million figure cited in this article was first published on Twitter on November 1 by Nature's Richard Van Noorden following a phone conversation with CRS spokesman James Milne. This figure was also cited by Nature on November 8.

The academic social network ResearchGate has taken moves to restrict access to at least 1.7 million scholarly articles following threats of legal action by a coalition of publishers including Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS), Times Higher Education reports today (November 9). The change, which follows months of conflict between the organizations, means that papers once freely available to download now have to be requested directly from their authors.

“ResearchGate’s primary service is taking high-quality content written and published by others and making as many as 7 million copyrighted articles—40% of its total content—freely available via its for-profit platform,” the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, a collaboration formed between ACS, Brill, Elsevier, Wiley, and Wolters Kluwer, writes in a statement published on October 5. “Numerous attempts to agree with ResearchGate on amicable solutions . . . remained unsuccessful. Members of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing are therefore now resorting to formal means to alter ResearchGate’s damaging practices.”

See “American Chemical Society Wins Lawsuit Against Sci-Hub

On October 6, two of the Coalition’s members—Elsevier and ACS—filed a lawsuit in Germany to prevent the Berlin-based paper-sharing site from hosting copyrighted material in the future. Around the same time, an initial batch of “take-down notices” was sent to the network demanding the removal of around 100,000 articles. In the longer term, “the expectation is that ResearchGate will be told by the courts to cease certain behaviours,” Coalition spokesman James Milne told Nature at the time. “This could take months or years.”

ResearchGate’s decision to remove access to nearly 2 million articles is a “positive step,” Milne now tells Times Higher Education. However, he adds, the network has not gone far enough in preventing the papers being shared with people not closely related to the research itself. “If they were really [serious about our demands] they would identify which papers are under copyright and make sure that those only stay in private sharing networks.”

The dispute with ResearchGate is just the latest in a series of actions by academic publishers against websites and social networks that make copyrighted academic articles freely available to users. In 2013, Elsevier sent another paper-sharing site,, around 2,800 take-down notices in a single month. And earlier this week, a US judge issued an injunction that allows ACS to demand that Internet service providers block access to pirate site Sci-Hub, which hosts more than 60 million research articles.

See “Authors Peeved by APA’s Article Takedown Pilot” 

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: Salticidologist


Posts: 58

November 10, 2017

The publishers have money and power.  They need to be investigated, as they are "holding copyright" on many published articles from long ago that does not belong to them.  In many cases the authors are deceased and their descendents, who may still have legal control over these copyrights, are totally unware of this fact.  Any scientist who wants to communicate widely should never relegate ownership of their work to a private publisher who will not support open access.  This includes many so-called "prestigious" journals.

Avatar of: corinamd


Posts: 1

November 10, 2017

Yeees, a positive step....A huge victory against scientists from less fortunate countries who cannot pay good money for an interesting article.  Big big shame...

Avatar of: Christopher R. Lee

Christopher R. Lee

Posts: 17

November 12, 2017

It seems they don't want retired scientists to stay active. I'm trying to make myself useful by writing review articles, but need hundreds of references.

The scientific literature is World Patrimony if anything is. Is there any way of getting UNESCO to do anything? Unfortunately, I suppose big business interests are off limits for them.

Popular Now

  1. How to Separate the Science From the (Jerk) Scientist
  2. Could a Dose of Sunshine Make You Smarter?
  3. Prevalent Form of Childhood Leukemia May Be Preventable
  4. Opinion: Should Human-Animal Chimeras Be Granted “Personhood”?