Monday, November 09, 2015

Another new social networking platform for scientists: Loop

Logo of Loop Network website.

A recent issue of Nature magazine ran an advertisement feature for “Loop,” a new networking platform to “maximize the impact of researchers and their discoveries.” It’s an initiative by Frontiers, an open access publisher. Of course I went and got an account to see what it does and I’m here to report back.

In the Nature advert, the CEO of Frontiers interviews herself and answers the question “What makes Loop unique?” with “Loop is changing research networking on two levels. Firstly, researchers should not have to go to a network; it should come to them. Secondly, researchers should not have to fill in dozens of profiles on different websites.”

So excuse me when I was awaiting a one-click registration that made use of one of my dozens of other profiles. Instead I had to fill in a lengthy registration form that, besides name and email, didn’t only ask for my affiliation and country of residence and job description and field of occupation, domain, and speciality, but also for my birthdate, before I had to confirm my email address.

Since that network was so good at “coming to me” it wasn’t possible after registration to import my profile from any other site, Google Scholar, ORCID, Linkedin, ResearchGate, or whathaveyou, facebook, G+, twitter if you must. Instead, I had to fill in my profile yet another time. Neither, for all I can tell, can you actually link your other accounts to the Loop account.

If you scroll down the information pages, it turns out what the integration refers to is “Your Loop profile is discoverable via the articles you have authored on and in the Frontiers journals.” Somewhat underwhelming.

Then you have to assemble a publication list. I am lucky to have a name that, for all I know, isn’t shared by anybody else on the planet, so it isn’t so difficult to scan the web for my publications. The Loop platform came up with 86 suggested finds. These appeared in separate pop-up windows. If you have ever done this process before you can immediately see the problem: Typically in these lists there are many duplicate entries. So going through the entries one by one without seeing what is already approved means you have to memorize all previous items. Now I challenge you to recall whether item number 86 had appeared before on the list.

Finally done with this, what do you have there? A website that shows a statistic for how many people have looked at your profile (on this site, presumably), how many people have downloaded your papers (from this site, presumably) and a number of citations which shows zero for me and for a lot of other profiles I looked at. A few people have a number there from the Scopus database. I conclude that Loop doesn’t have its own citation metric, and neither uses the one from Google Scholar or Spires.

As to the networking, you get suggestions for people you might know. I don’t know any of the suggested people, which isn’t surprising because we already noticed they’re not importing information, so how are they supposed to know who I know? I’m not sure what I would like to follow any of these people for, why that would be any better than following them elsewhere, or not at all. I followed some random person just because. If that person actually did something (which he doesn’t, much like everybody else whose profile I looked at), presumably it would appear in my feed. From that angle, it looks much like any other networking website. There is also a box that asks me to share something with my network of one.

In summary, for all I can tell this website is as useless as it gets. I don’t have the faintest clue what they think it’s good for. Even if it’s good for something it does a miserable job at telling me what that something is. So save your time.


  1. "maximize the impact of researchers and their discoveries" Testable non-classical gravitation, standard model mass absent SUSY, dark matter absent Wesley Crusher particles. Impact! Newton plus proper values of c, h, k_B gives GR, QM, stat mech. Weak founding postulates cannot be identified within contingent derivations.

    Management enforces rules, counts things, and minimizes risk (projected cost versus projected gain). Productivity (real cost versus real gain) is labor's failure. "this website is as useless as it gets" Add government subsidy, mandatory participation, annual maintenance fee, privileged minorities, and HR use. "8^>)


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