Dear Mendeley Community,
Wow, it’s now already one year after Mendeley was acquired by Elsevier, and as it’s probably common, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months, and tell you a little bit about the insights and how I think about Mendeley and Elsevier one year into the acquisition and what we’ve achieved so far.
The main reason why Elsevier and Mendeley came together was that the teams on both sides wanted to build something much bigger and much more useful for researchers and scientists, the end-users of digital products and digital content. In essence, how I like to describe it, the acquisition of Mendeley by Elsevier was “Mendeley’s biggest funding round ever”. Not only would working with Elsevier give us access to resources ($$$), but also to assets (digital products and great content) and knowledge (incl. publishing and customer relationships). Our joint vision is aligned around building a “global research collaboration platform”, with a very researcher-centric view. We felt and saw a serious commitment from the teams to work on a plan how this could realistically be implemented, given both companies’ quite different backgrounds, and using both companies’ resources, assets, and know-how. And as every start-up founder knows, “complementarity of the team”, assuming we can get alignment around the same strategy and we see commitment from everyone involved, is really what you are looking for…
Coming back to our joint plans and commitment from both Elsevier and Mendeley, in 2013 alone we hired about 15 more people, and this year we will hire at least another 20 staff. This allowed us to bring out a new Mendeley iOS version (and we’ve recently started to build our Android team – it’s one of the most requested features on http://feedback.mendeley.com, so yes – we continue to listen!), to continuously iterate on new Mendeley Desktop versions (with cutting-edge features), and also to support the Open Source CSL Project. We’ve also started work on a new web library, will improve our institutional offering MIE (Mendeley Institutional Edition, which institutions like MIT have adopted), and are currently completely revamping our APIs including the open API for third-party developers, with Mendeley Desktop also moving to these new APIs. Of course, on the back-end, the Mendeley engineering teams are also busy ramping up Mendeley’s scalability and security, to keep up with our growth! We integrated with existing Elsevier products, such as ScienceDirect and Scopus, which let millions of researchers use these products jointly much more efficiently (a seemingly small feature, but if you look at usage and how much time we save people, it’s quite impressive!), and Scopus has integrated Mendeley readership statistics, bringing more visibility to “alternative impact metrics”, or “altmetrics”, a movement which Mendeley helped to kickstart after all. … Wow! Quite a long list!
But we don’t stop there – Mendeley has also continued to support all kinds of open science efforts publicly, and just generally we continue to try to make positive contributions, and foster a challenging, high-tech, and vibrant company culture (with some pretty cool stuff coming out of our monthly hack days!), something that Elsevier was really interested in learning about and is actively trying to absorb. We push for openness, engage with our users and Advisors as much as before, and in many ways remain a leader in different types of discussions in the academic community. Our joint teams have also participated in and positively influenced company-internal policy discussions, around what a publisher like Elsevier should allow regarding academic social networking sites, etc. And right after the acquisition, we’ve increased the storage limits, and through the Elsevier sales team we’ve brought much more free Mendeley to many more end-users than we could have done on our own – and yes, Mendeley’s freemium model will remain.
The thing that keeps us going, most of all, is the feedback we get from our users, saying that Mendeley actually made a positive difference to their work and to their lives. And while I still think that Greg Laden calling Mendeley “the most fun you can have with your pants on” is hard to beat, here are a few more recent ones:
- “I am quite passionate about Mendeley, specifically because of how much it helped me within my own research as I completed my MLIS degree as well as my MA in history (especially while working on my thesis). I just recently started working as a full-time librarian. The library I work in uses and promotes EndNote extensively. I have recently made suggestions to the organization that it could be a good idea to start promoting Mendeley as an alternative to EndNote and they seemed a bit hesitant to move forward. I am hoping that if I am able to become a Mendeley Advisor, it will inspire the rest of the staff to get on board with promoting Mendeley.” Katherine, Librarian at Texas A&M University
- “Before Mendeley I took approximately 10x more time to prepare a research article. And again if the article was not suitable for submitted journal–then again I’d have to arrange all the references with a different citation format. Sometime it took more than a week. But after Mendeley, I can do all this work within minutes. I am really so happy with this software. I recommended this software to my [post-graduate] students and staff members. They are learning this software under my guidance.” Samir, Assistant Professor at Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, India
- “I manage academic technologies for the university, teach Sociology, and am a grad student as well. I enjoy finding new technologies and teaching faculty and students how to use them to advance their academic careers. I enjoy Mendeley as it is a great tool that also allows for social collaboration.” Aaron, Graduate Student, Southern New Hampshire University
It’s of course not all sunshine and ice cream (especially not in London…). Some of the things that have consumed our energy without much visible impact are the more corporate structures that have come our way, for example “back-office integration”; or more meetings with and sign-offs by more people (Elsevier is very consensus-driven); or more systems and processes with more approval layers, which has slowed us down, etc. But I can proudly say that the Mendeley team, with support from within Elsevier (!), has so far bravely fought the start-up fight against corporate structures, and we’re still running on Google Apps for Business. All-in-all we’re actually doing pretty well (see above) and have a great team spirit between the teams, considering what many times happens when a big company buys a small company. It’s maybe also just being part of “Mendeley growing up”.
So what’s ahead? The Elsevier/Mendeley team is now building a complete and highly engaging collaboration platform for researchers and scientists. Researcher-centricity has always been at the heart of what Mendeley stood for. And Elsevier has filled crucial “blind spots” in the product portfolio – we can now bring value to scientists along the whole workflow, from excellent high-quality content, to search and (social) discovery, evaluation, reading, storing, sharing, and annotating articles, submitting manuscripts, and networking with colleagues. By pulling together the different products and assets, we can leverage more data to deliver and drive more and better content (incl. third-party publisher content – Mendeley has always been publisher-neutral) to the right users, increase researcher productivity, and make it an awesome experience! The next steps on this journey are further product integration between Elsevier and Mendeley, working with additional publishers, and bringing Mendeley to more institutions around the world.
Concluding, I’m still impressed by the user love we get weekly, if not daily, from our team, our Advisors, and our users who I ask to continue to support us, challenge us, and to keep us on our toes, as that gives us as the Elsevier/Mendeley team leverage within the wider context of the much bigger company we’re part of now. Mendeley is a great company to work for and it’s a great team deserving this support. I really believe that all our efforts, before but also now jointly to some extend with Elsevier, have made science more open, collaborative, and accessible, in addition to making our users just simply more productive. I’m proud of everyone who has helped to create Mendeley, who has built bridges between Elsevier and Mendeley, who has helped us and challenged us on this journey – the academic world without Mendeley would certainly look different.
PS: If you are interested in more background information, I’ve participated in a podcast a few weeks back about “Life after the acquisition” – you can listen here for more and BBC Radio 4 also broadcast a very interesting documentary today where I explain some of those points in more detail.