Social media and research: an assessment of the coverage of South African universities in ResearchGate, Web of Science and the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities

Keywords: South Africa, altmetrics, webometrics, citation analysis, social media, research, universities, research impact


The emergence of social media, including social networking technologies, has had a profound impact on almost all human activities. Social media’s application in research is the most recent occurrence, as the technologies have gained prominence among researchers who regard social media as an avenue for not only strengthening their own networks, but also sharing their research. This article focuses on one of the social networking services for researchers, namely ResearchGate (RG), to assess the research visibility and impact of universities in South Africa. It also examines the correlation between the universities’ ResearchGate-based metrics and Web of Science (WoS) citation statistics on the one hand, and the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities’ (WRWU) ranking on the other. Results reveal that researchers in the top-ranking South African universities have quickly moved to embrace social media; there is a high correlation between RG and WoS in terms of their coverage of papers produced by universities in South Africa; there is also a high correlation between RG and WoS in terms of impact; and ranking of universities in RG, WoS and WRWU is similarly highly correlated. Further discussions, conclusions and recommendations are provided in the paper.

Author Biography

Omwoyo Bosire Onyancha, Chair of Department of Information Science, University of South Africa
Omwoyo Bosire Onyancha holds a PhD degree from the University of Zululand, South Africa. He works as a Professor and Chair of Department, of Information Science, University of South Africa (UNISA). Prior to joining UNISA, he worked as the deputy librarian at the University of Eastern Africa – Baraton, Kenya. He has published widely in the focus field of informetrics. His research interests include:Informetrics/Scientometrics/Bibliometrics/WebometricsInformation Resource Management (IRM)Management of Information ServicesKnowledge management and organizationInformation Searching and Retrieval (ISR)


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