Benchmark, Others Back 500,000-Strong Social ‘Nerdwork’

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to interact on any of the tons of social networking websites available.

But at ResearchGATE, it sort of helps if you are a rocket scientist, or at least an academic or a medical researcher. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which has more than 500,000 registered users worldwide, operates a social networking site for scientists and researchers to interact with their brainiac peers.

Today, ResearchGATE today announced it has raised an undisclosed Series A round of funding, led by Benchmark Capital. Other investors include Accel Partners; Simon Levene (a U.K.-based angel investor and a former partner at Accel Partners); Michael Birch (co-founder of Bebo) and a host of individual investors from Germany, where ResearchGATE has another office, including Joachim Schoss (an angel investor and founder of Scout24); Martin Sinner (co-founder of idealo.com); Ulrich Essmann (co-founder of sedo.com); Christian Vollmann (angel investor and founder of MyVideo.de); and Rolf Christof Dienst (general partner at Wellington Venture Capital).

Levene and Matt Cohler, one of the early employees at Facebook and a Benchmark general partner, will join the company’s board as a result of the funding.

Last week, Ijad Madisch, co-founder and CEO of ResearchGATE, quit his job as a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital to focus on building up the site.

Madisch, a medical doctor who also has a Ph.D. in molecular virology, told me that he launched the site in 2008 to help his fellow scientists connect with others who want to share information and further their own research. The site offers collaboration tools and helps users find experts or colleagues. The top three categories of users at ResearchGATE are biology, medicine and computer science.

The users can use the site to search articles related to their focus and browse an international job board. Madisch says the site monitors user behavior and verifies emails to insure that those on the site are actual researchers and scientists. He noted that some researchers on the site, who have agreed to help others, were given co-authorship on research projects.

“Some scientists are concerned about sharing too much information about their projects, but they can do it on ResearchGATE in a way that doesn’t reveal too many details,” he says. “The site is a place for just scientists to interact with others in a professional way.”

He estimates that the number of researchers worldwide who could benefit from his site number between 5 million and 12 million.