Meet our January Advisor of the Month!

Congratulations and thank you to Sjúrður Hammer!

Sjúrður is a PhD Student at the University of Glasgow. Originally from the Faroe Islands, he did his undergraduate degree in Aberdeen and studies the great skua  (Stercorarius skua), a “bad-ass predatory seabird,” he said.

An early adopter all around, he started using Mendeley in 2008, and became Advisor in 2009.

Sjúrður is an active participant in our Mendeley Advisor Group. He starts interesting discussions, raises needed issues, and contributes to the “community spirit of Mendeley,” a phrase he coined during a recent discussion.

(Photo: Sjúrðor and a bad-ass sea bird,)

How and why he went into research

I have always wanted to get into Biology for as long as I remember. From growing up, I remember I was fascinated with the links that some animals had with other animals and organisms – namely the stomach. So I guess I’ve been a closet ecologist long before I knew that it would involve working with either poo or vomit for the rest of my life!

My project involves fieldwork, based around a colony on a small island (which is appropriately named Skúvoy – “skua island”) in the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands, for those of you that don’t know it, is a tiny archipelago island group in between Scotland, Iceland and Norway, and also where I was born and raised.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time visiting various natural history museums, to measure eggshells. Many of the documents and eggs that I search through are several centuries old, so I sometimes feel quite like Indiana Jones in these massive archives. They don’t allow me to bring a whip though.

How Mendeley influences his research

I would probably say that my greatest use of Mendeley is in networking, and collaborating with others within open and closed groups. We have several closed groups within our department, and they allow people to share and retrieve articles of interest, also while they’re in the field.

I quite like to try and fill a curating role on some groups, for example on “Biology Classics” and in collecting all zoological references regarding the Faroes. In the case of the latter I would hope that it would both raise the academic profile of our area, but also make research more accessible for people that maybe don’t have the same access as most full-time academics in Britain.

Why Sjúrðor decided to be an Advisor

When Mendeley advertised for advisors I thought I should try and see if I would accepted. There are obvious perks, but I’ve also wanted to be on the right side of history as the technology is changing how scientific research is done and its impact measured.

What book he is currently reading

I pretty much only read non-fiction these days. On top of the pile there is “A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth” by Holmes Rolston III.

One thing I’ve always missed from the natural sciences pursuit has been a deeper understanding of the value questions such as – “why is a species extinction bad, why is it wrong to capture and engage large whales or why is it worth to conserve some wetland areas.” The best argument we scientists seem to be able to provide is “it will help humans in the long run” or “think of the information and potential cures for cancer we are destroying.” I think from myself at least, that this is just a very shallow and unrealistic approach to the world, and in recognising that natural science probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to deal with “the why questions,” I have developed an increased interest in that topic. It is still pretty much just a hobby interest.

How Sjúrðor helps spread the word

Everybody in the office laughed about my declaration that I was advisor of the month, because they’ve come to know me as a total Mendeley evangelist! I prefer generally to tell people about Mendeley individually, and then help them get started on it.

A fun fact you may be surprised to know about Sjúrðor

In 2002, I set the Faroese record for most pizza deliveries in a day. I think it was 74, and as far as I know, I’m still holding the record. I think this (after becoming Advisor of the Month) might be the greatest achievement of my life.

The best part about being a researcher

You are constantly learning new things, and it’s a good friendly environment where everyone is generously centred around the appreciation of knowledge in its broadest sense.

And the worst

There are periodic feelings of isolation, as you are most likely the only person in the world that is working on the question you are working on. For most people, it is also quite hard work to secure funding for the research, and that this has to be done continuously.

The one thing Sjúrðor wants people to know about Mendeley

You get at least as much out of it as you put into it, and there is a lot of time saved if you use it while you’re literature searching. The friendly community of researchers is also an obvious bonus!

(answers have been edited for length and clarity)


Mendeley Supports the Open Source CSL Project

Rintze Zelle 2

As a Mendeley user, you might already be familiar with the Citation Style Language (CSL).

This open source project, created by Bruce D’Arcus from Miami University, and run by a small team of volunteers, has become quite popular in recent years. CSL is currently used by over 20 software products, and there are over 6750 freely available citation styles for thousands of scientific journals. And CSL has a long history at Mendeley: since our first release in 2008, Mendeley has been using CSL styles to format citations and bibliographies (from 2010 onward, we also have been using the open source citeproc-js CSL processor by Frank Bennett of Nagoya University).

Over the last few years, Mendeley has moved away from simply using CSL and become one of its biggest contributors. Our very own Magnificent Code Matador, Carles Pina, collaborates with Sebastian Karcher and Rintze Zelle at the CSL project to improve the central CSL style repository, and he helped create CSL styles for 1500 Elsevier journals. We also collaborated with Columbia University Libraries to create the Visual CSL Editor, which was funded by a Sloan Foundation Award and released in 2012.

Now we’re increasing our support by, together with Elsevier, making the first major financial contribution to the CSL project. We have made a $5000 donation, and we hope this helps ensure the long-term sustainability of this valuable project.

Sebastian Karcher and Rintze Zelle commented that Mendeley is one of the most popular products to use CSL, and that this level of involvement is crucial in helping them move CSL forward. They hope others will follow Mendeley’s lead, and look forward to continue improving CSL, with better support for multilingual citations, legal citations, and archival sources. The CSL project also continues to reach out to publishers to further increase the number of journals covered by CSL styles.

Here at Mendeley we’re really proud to support an initiative that helps the academic community with their research. We would also like to hear your experiences of using CSL and what improvements you’d like to see implemented. As usual, feel free to get in touch with Mendeley via the feedback forum, or leave a comment here.

There is definitely life after acquisition

Life After Acquisition


Last week Jan Reichelt, President and Co-Founder of Mendeley, got together with two other tech company founders to share their personal experiences of what the ride has been like so far.

The podcast was hosted by TechCityinsider and gave some candid insight into both the challenges and the advantages of being integrated into a large corporation. How did the acquisition come about, and once it happens, how do you keep the start-up culture and entrepreneurial spirit that made you successful in the first place?

We were talking to strategic players in the market about things like distribution,  co-development of products, and investments, and Elsevier was very interested. As a start-up you want to get out there and be noticed, and Elsevier has a huge reach to academic institutions and end users through their publications. Plus the strategic alignment was clearly there in what we wanted to build.

The reason we did the acquisition in the first place is because we felt we could accelerate what we’ve done in the past. Mendeley was acquired as a strategic asset for Elsevier, and they are going to invest in it. This year we’re hiring 30 people! As a founder that is what you want isn’t it? For this thing you started to flourish and have even more impact than before.

When asked why he stayed on board after the acquisition, Jan said the challenges that motivated him to start Mendeley are still there:

The difference is that you don’t have to worry so much about how do you fund the business, or about revenue streams. In our case the acquisition was not based on projected revenue streams, but rather to help Elsevier to build its digital product footprint. So from that perspective the motivation is still there, and nothing has changed. Why would I want to leave?

We made the decision to stay as a founding team, together with my other two Co-founders (Victor Henning and Paul Foeckler) and we committed to make this happen in a new environment, where you are not reporting to investors any more, but of course you’re then reporting to a larger organization, so the challenges are much the same, but with different stakeholders.

Obviously things changed, and the biggest change were the different cultures. In the start-up world you make a decision, move on and learn, and you’re working in a small group. Elsevier is of course a multi-faceted company with many different stakeholders, so your challenge is to find your way around but at the same time not lose traction with your own product and your own team, because that is what you care about.  Some things have slowed down and sometimes I feel that we could be doing things faster, but at the same time, we have to grow up as a start-up as well, and we would have faced some of those pains as a growing company anyway.

Tom Allason from Shutl (which was acquired by eBay in 2013) agreed that when you’re a big company with responsibility to public shareholders you kind of have to get it right the first time, but Moonfruit’s Wendy Tan White also believes there is a lot that big corporations can learn from the way that start-ups operate. Her goal is to transfer some of their entrepreneurial DNA to their parent company, and the same holds true for Mendeley:

We run a very agile software development process, and in our particular case that is one of the things that Elsevier is really keen to support, as they currently still have very big legacy systems and long release cycles. They want to incorporate some of this agile attitude to knowledge into their own systems, so they’re quite supportive of that.

The attitude that we now try to pursue is: Let’s continue to be entrepreneurial because that is ultimately what will make the difference to the market, to the customers and to both companies. Nobody knows better than you how your company ticks, so retain that positive attitude despite the additional challenges coming your way.

See in JoVE how nest building can indicate the well-being of lab mice


See in JoVE how nest building can indicate the well-being of lab mice
J. Vis. Exp. (82) e51012, doi:10.3791/51012 (2013)

We’re pleased to have another guest post by the team at JoVE (The Journal of Visualized Experiments). This month’s featured article explores how the way that lab mice build their nests can provide a useful indication of their welfare. The video format is a great way to convey all the subtle behavioural nuances that might be lost in the traditional print-only journal format and again illustrates the great potential of using multimedia content in academic research. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

By Kira M. Henderson, Ph.D.

Deputy Director of Journal Development Editor, JoVE

The JoVE video article, “Nest Building as an Indicator of Health and Welfare in Laboratory Mice,” offers an effective and simple solution for monitoring animal welfare of laboratory mice concurently with experimentation. Brianna N. Gaskill et al. document the two-part process of scoring nesting habits as representation of mouse behavior and overall health and wellbeing. The nesting and scoring process is fairly simple but includes numerous variables and subtle behavioral analysis. The method is presented with an additional layer of detail in a dynamic JoVE video article as opposed to a static text article.

Identifying pain is the first step in mitigating discomfort and addressing disease or injury. The field of pain management is highly coupled with pain identification through behavioral cues in laboratory animals, as animals cannot verbally describe when or where they have pain. Video articles allow researchers to precisely capture subtle differences in animal behavior as related to changes in wellbeing, which may be lost in standard methodology texts.

Advantages of the presented method over other pain and health monitoring techniques include the ease of use and ability to analyze results even if mice are inactive. The first part of the test examines and scores nest building according to the quality and complexity of the prepared nest. Considered variables include extent of material manipulation, size and shape of nest as well as height and depth of the overall nest dome. The second part of the test, “time to integrate to nest” or TINT, occurs after the mice complete their initial nest. The TINT test requires the addition of a single piece of new material into the mouse’s cage to determine if the mouse is actively integrating material into their nest. A cage where the mouse utilizes the new material is considered TINT positive, whereas a mouse that disregards the new material is TINT negative.

Proper nest building can signify mouse health and stability. High nest building scores and TINT positive outcomes suggest normal or healthy mouse behavior, while low nest building scores and TINT negative could be a sign of disease or behavioral defects requiring veterinary attention. Sick or wounded mice could compromise the results of a research study as well as cause general discomfort for the animal.

This publication in JoVE provides other researchers with a clear and visual demonstration of how to test nest building behavior in lab mice as an indicator of animal health. JoVE is further exploring the field of pain monitoring in an upcoming Special Issue titled, “Chronic Pain Modeling and Analysis”. This Special Issue is currently accepting abstracts for consideration at