Research Social Networking Applications

Long Title: New requirements for future uses and users of research social networking applications
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana
Domain: VO
Status: finished
Start Date: 01.03.2012
End Date: 31.12.2012
Project Leader: S. Cangiano
Deputy Project Leader: D. Fornari

This project has performed an analysis of existing Research Social Networking Applications and provides a requirement document for a future RSNA that covers the specific needs of Swiss research communities.


Component Description
RSNA website Research Social Networking Applications website with full documentation
RSNA final report Final report including results of the benchmarking analysis, the survey and the requirements

The project deliverables are:

  1. a benchmarking study of existing social networks. It supports groups of researchers or academic institutions that aims to adopt a social media based tools for carrying out research activities.
  2. an original survey of users' needs. It is a reference for other groups of researchers that are carrying out research projects concerning the use of social media based tools within the academia.
  3. a detailed requirement document of a research social networking application. It can be of interest to groups of researchers, academic institutions or groups managing RSNAs projects that aims to work on innovative solutions development within the field of the use of social media applications. It is a support for the Open Science community that is working on the development of Open Science enabling web platforms.

The requirement document is a conceptual and technical description about the features of a new research social networking application addressed to the Swiss research community that supports Open Science practices and includes different research stakeholders (universities, funding institutions, third parties).

The documentation will be disseminated and used also for the research of partners addressed to a further development of the application prototype.
Future activities will be addressed to the refinement of the requirements document for the assessment of the technological solutions.

Initial Situation

A Research Social Networking Application (RSNA) is a web application that proposes new and effective modalities for connecting researchers, communicating and disseminating research results, sharing resources and news.
Current RSNAs are,,, or niche platforms as
RSNAs are emerging web applications within the field of ICT. Nevertheless, the use of research social networks for research communication and dissemination and for fund raising activities is not yet widespread within research communities, particularly in Switzerland, due to several weaknesses of RSNAs, such as the following:

  • they offer limited functionalities and services to fulfill specific needs related to academic research activities;
  • they usually do not support communication and networking within all stakeholders of academic research (funding institutions, universities, private partners such as companies and non profit organizations);
  • they are often developed through proprietary software engines and therefore they cannot be customised or expanded by the community of users;
  • Swiss research communities usually use English as a common language, but many calls for fundings are not yet fully available in all national languages or in English as an additional language.


This project will gather all necessary information for designing a RSNA that is tailored to Swiss research communities and that supports the inclusion of research stakeholders (public institutions, private companies, associations etc.).
The project group will:

  • map and evaluate existing RSNAs (as-is analysis);
  • define requirements for developing a RSNA that integrates tools and functionalities according to users' needs (concerning researchers of Swiss Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences), by applying a user centered design approach, in order to support mixed groups of real and virtual organisations.

The analysis affects communities and RSNAs by providing a review of the current functionalities and the description of improvements that must be implemented to enhance the use of RSNAs within academia. Furthermore, the analysis helps to understand the use of RSNA within Swiss research communities and the features that must be implemented in order to support activities of networking, dissemination and communication at Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences in Switzerland.
The analysis produces a comparison of features in order to provide research communities with guidance about the use of RSNAs according to their needs.


The practical innovation is the definition of requirements for an English-based platform for Swiss researchers and for foreign researchers who want to collaborate with Swiss Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences.
The project results will:

  • support research communities in understanding the features and benefits of RSNAs' tools for their activities through a report of comparison of functionalities among existing RSNAs;
  • help to identify further developments and improvements of RSNAs through a survey aimed at defining specific users' needs;
  • increase the competences at the Laboratory of visual culture about the use of social media tools for research purposes and supporting networking activities with potential stakeholders, Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences;
  • support the further implementation of a new RSNA, by developing a structured document (requirements document) including an advanced draft of an application for a follow-up project (to be funded with specific financing instruments such as SNF financing tools).


The following activities are foreseen:

  • a benchmarking study of the existing research social networking applications and services in order to create a map of available functionalities and tools;
  • a survey of users needs (both researchers and research stakeholders, e.g. private companies) in order to recognize specific needs that are not yet fulfilled by existing RSNAs;
  • the definition of a requirements document describing functional and non functional elements that an efficient research social network application must feature. The requirements document includes a cost and benefit analysis and an advanced draft of a new RSNA solution.

The requirements document points at highlighting:

  1. already existing tools, functionalities and contents that can be integrated in a social network platform;
  2. not yet existing tools, functionalities and contents that must be implemented in order to fulfill specific needs of the research community
    • in Switzerland and
    • at an international level.

The results are disseminated in English under Creative Commons licences. The review of existing RSNAs' features, the survey results and report of the requirements definition are disseminated through digital reports and presentations slides published on a specific website.
The dissemination activities are also the base for a further request for funding for the implementation of results into a new RSNA.