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Mendeley Institutional Edition Adds Altmetric Feature for Librarian Users
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Posted On August 13, 2012


Mendeley is widely used in academe to help scholars organize, share, and discover new research. It combines desktop software and web-based bibliographic database management and storage with social networking. At present, it has more than 1.8 million users who have contributed some 270 million documents and document citations. Dr. Victor Henning, CEO and co-founder of Mendeley, indicated that the disciplines contributing to Mendeley’s collection are biological, life sciences, and medicine, social sciences (including law, philosophy, art, etc.), engineering (including computer and information sciences), and the hard sciences (physics, math, earth sciences, etc.). Any user can track usage statistics by the Mendeley community for individual documents.

In January this year, Mendeley announced it would be releasing an Institutional Edition, in cooperation with the Dutch serial subscription agency Swets, to supply university and college campuses with a package of services. The Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) premiered in May. The latest announcement indicates that it has eight campuses signed up. The announcement also notes that Mendeley is offering a new data dashboard to provide real-time altmetrics (“alternative metrics”) usage data drawing on the Mendeley community’s experience. This dashboard is available only to librarians and administrators and should help acquisition librarians—at least those not tied hand and foot to “big deal” publisher licensing contracts—with evaluating the worth and lack of worth of individual journals to individual patron bases.

Based in London, U.K., the Mendeley service launched in 2009. It provides its services based on the classic web model combining free services that accelerate the capture of eyeballs with enhanced premium pay services that pay the rent. (Corilee Christou covered the original launch of Mendeley for Infotoday.com NewsBreaks back on Aug. 15, 2011.)

The application automatically extracts metadata, full-text, and cited references to build personal research libraries. Sophisticated searching, tagging, and filtering functionality, such as deduplication, are also offered. Data from Mendeley Desktop is exchanged with Mendeley Web, the online research network where users can back up and access their library databases, discover the most widely read papers in their academic discipline, and connect to like-minded scientists and researchers. The Mendeley API currently offers more than 200 third-party applications.

The MIE uses Mendeley content and programming with Swets providing much of the marketing and sales support. It lets librarians and administrators connect licensed collections and catalogs, e.g., by loading A to Z title lists, build local collaboration groups, set up course packs, create the library’s own citation style, provide premium version Mendeley service across campus, which means more storage space, more Private and Public Groups for collaboration, the User Recommendation Engine, etc., and analytics, including the tracking of catalog and collection usage.

The eight universities and research institutions that have subscribed—at a price probably ranging from $10,000 to $50,000—are the University of Pittsburgh (also a subscriber to the Plum Analytics altmetric tool), the University of Western Ontario, the University of Nevada, Reno, Stanford University, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council Japan.

The Altmetrics Dashboard

Although sales of the Institutional Edition may not have taken off explosively, Mendeley has received wide support from academic librarians. It has even instituted a “Train the Trainer” program with support documentation for librarians and library patrons. In tapping the usage of the Mendeley community, MIE analytics draws on the full community as well as institutional information, but the general Mendeley community is primarily academic. Henning assured us that the Mendeley readership offers a valuable base for assessing research impact. He cited three recent peer-reviewed articles:

Here are the three altmetrics studies that investigate Mendeley’s coverage and correlation with the Impact Factor/Web of Science citations:

  • Bar-Ilan, J. (2012). JASIST@mendeley. ACM Web Science Conference 2012 Workshop. Available at: http://altmetrics.org/altmetrics12/bar-ilan/
  • Li, X. & Thelwall, M. (2012). F1000, Mendeley and Traditional Bibliometric Indicators. 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators.
  • Li, X., Thelwall, M., & Giustini, D. (2011). Validating online reference managers for scholarly impact measurement. Scientometrics.

The dashboard analyzes research activity and impact on the global research community in real time—down from the 3 to 5 year time lag of the “Impact Factor” as calculated by Thomson Reuters’ Institute for Scientific Information, according to Henning. He explained the difference by his own experience with a scholarly publication. “The last paper I published as an academic, I submitted 3 1/2 years and accepted for publication next December, another year added. After publication, ISI will wait to track it for 2 years. Compare that to a Mendeley paper accepted already on the Mendeley site and added to our Library as a preprint. It already has readership statistics and when it appears after December, MIE users could see the number of readers in their institution.”

The Impact Factor, a measure of the number of citations an academic journal receives, is a pivotal metric of science: Academics have to publish in high-Impact Factor journals to receive promotions, tenure, or grant funding, and universities allocate their million-dollar library budgets to those same high-Impact Factor journals. The MIE data dashboard allows research institutions to see detailed analytics of the journals their academics are reading, the journals they are publishing in, and how many readers those publications have.

Mendeley also supplies data to other altmetrics efforts. Henning listed some of these sites:

To look at the MIE service, go to Mendeley Institutional Edition screenshots.


Barbara Quint is contributing editor for NewsBreaks, senior editor of Online Searcher, and a columnist for Information Today.

Email Barbara Quint
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