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Share and Share Alike: Mendeley 1.0
Posted On August 15, 2011
After 3 years of public beta testing, sci-tech research management and collaboration software producer Mendeley has released version 1.0 of its desktop version, available for free on its website. For a company that has only just come out of the beta phase, Mendeley already has more than 1 million users and more than 100 million document uploads to its library.

Mendeley president and co-founder, Jan Reichelt, attributes the software’s rapid adoption to its ability to streamline the scientific research workflow and to also provide scientists with a social media platform where they can find and join groups of researchers conducting similar research. Currently more than 95,000 groups have been created by Mendeley members to share and collaborate on research efforts and interests. Reichelt continues, “The traditional scientific research process was always cumbersome and labor intensive. As researchers ourselves, we wanted to provide a service to other researchers to help them better manage the entire research process, from organizing related papers to finding and working with colleagues in similar fields.”

Continuing to describe the grassroots effort contributing to Mendeley’s adoption rate and growth, Reichelt adds, “Because in many academic institutions, students, post-docs, and faculty members were already using Mendeley, librarians at these institutions started to support and recommend the Mendeley tools to their constituencies and even to their colleagues in other academic libraries.” To better serve these librarians’ training efforts, Mendeley created a “Train the Trainer” program complete with handouts, training materials and other supporting documentation for the library patrons and librarians.

Users may also become Mendeley Advisors. Power users of Mendeley, they become the official representative for Mendeley at their institutions. Essentially serving as Mendeley’s ambassadors and support representatives, they conduct training, demos, and presentations as well as providing feedback from the academic community back to the Mendeley developers.

Can’t find that paper or that bibliography? Mendeley provides an environment for scientists where Mendeley facilitates the electronic tagging and storage process for researchers. Because Mendeley also applies its metadata to imported articles, thereby normalizing tags and facilitating better search results, it also increases the ability of scientists to share their research with others doing similar research and to identify others in their field working on similar problems. This in itself is a boon to any scientific discipline and research effort.

Version 1.0 contains three of the top five requested features from the Mendeley user community: duplicate detection, nested folders, and an improved Word plug-in. Later releases will include a citation style editor, better metadata extraction, better management of journal abbreviations, and advanced search. Advanced search will not only operate internally on the website, but also across external databases beginning with PubMed. Additional content providers and publication databases will be added in the future.

The current version also allows users to search for articles both internally in the Mendeley crowd-sourced Library, in their own libraries, or on the internet. A “Web Importer” feature allows users to easily import articles from the web or a web search into their libraries. A plug-in for Microsoft Word and Open Office lets users instantly create bibliographies. Materials may then be posted in the user’s Library and shared with others. The user maintains control over what is shared and, more importantly, complies with the use permissions for the material as designated by the publisher.

The ability to store materials online is provided by Mendeley Web with fees charged based on the size of the user’s storage space. The free service provides Mendeley users with one GB of web space, comprised of a 500 MB Personal and a 500 MB Shared Space, and five Private Groups with up to 10 users per Group. Packages are also available for a monthly fee that feature web space of 5 GB or 7 GB plus additional user groups and expanded user groups. Custom programs, e.g., for companies, are also available.

Mendeley does not change the way scientific research is done so much as it provides a more sophisticated toolset and sharing platform for scientists to better manage the research process: conduct their research, organize, tag, and store their materials, and to find and communicate with colleagues working on similar problems. Reichelt adds, “Users of Mendeley find that not only the transparency and accessibility of academic research is increased, but that this does, in fact, lead to a change of scientific research as it is ‘going online’ and becoming much more social and interactive. Consider that before scientists were forced to rely on conferences and real-life contacts only and organized papers and created bibliographies manually.” Collaboration has always been a component of any scientific effort, often constituting an “invisible college” of experts relied on by researchers to discuss and solidify their theories. With Mendeley, this “college” ceases to be invisible, enabling easy identification and location of like-minded researchers via its network of scientific users

Collecting, generating, and analyzing large amounts of disparate data are the essence of scientific research work. Marrying research and reference management tools to a social network application may not seem at first to suggest wedded bliss, but to the many users of Mendeley’s collaborative research tool, this combination is exactly what scientific researchers have been doing without the benefit of computers or the internet, since well before Newton was conversing with Hook about the Laws of Motion and Gravity or Descartes contributed to the mathematical ideas of Leibniz and Newton resulting in the development of calculus.

Currently academic institutions comprise the primary Mendeley market space with the top four disciplines ranked as follows: 1 -- hard sciences, chemistry, biology, life sciences, medicine, 2 – computer science and information technology, 3- engineering, and 4 – social sciences. Other growing non-academic areas include pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, as well as other corporate entities where corporate research services are managing research within the company.

Mendeley currently supports formats other than PDF. This is particularly important for journalism where often blogs, wire services, and newspaper articles constitute a large portion of the research materials being perused. Mendeley has already begun to address a journalism market, offering “Mendeley for Journalists” workshops to potential users.

Expect the social aspect of Mendeley to continue to grow. Users may now sign up to have Mendeley deliver Tweets on their behalf when they add a publication to “My Publications” or comment or liking something in a public group Newsfeed. Use Statistics, available online now to highlight the “Most Read Authors” across all disciplines, then by specific subject area, with similar data supplied for the “Most Read Articles.” Personalized recommendations (based on a user’s existing library) are currently available only for Premium account holders. Mendeley hopes to roll out this feature to more users in the future.

As Reichelt states, “It is imperative that we continue to solidify our position as the leading social collaboration tool and remain focused on the social aspect of Mendeley. If one follows the trends influencing the phenomenal growth of the Internet, social and sharing are two of the main factors that have driven usage and value for consumers. There is a lot of potential to improve the social and collaborative aspects of Mendeley.”

For academics and soon other researchers, connecting the dots, and especially connecting to the right dots, is being made much easier, transformed by, and enhanced by tools like Mendeley. Is Mendeley changing the face of science? Reichelt thinks so, referencing a 2009 quote by Dr. Werner Vogels, CTO of and a former research scientist at Cornell University. Either way, scientific or other researchers will certainly benefit as Mendeley continues to make the research and reference management process even simpler in the months and years to come.

Corilee Christou is president of C2 Consulting, a firm that specializes in leveraging and licensing digital content of all types to traditional and internet-based companies using new and innovative business models.

Email Corilee Christou

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