Laura Thomson, PhD, is Head of Reference Management at Mendeley. She has been with Elsevier since the start of 2015, and brings over 18 years’ experience with information products and research solutions to her role. Praised by her group for her clear vision and creative approach, she plays a key role in shaping how reference management is discussed and driven at Elsevier. With some exciting new developments happening with Mendeley’s reference management solutions, we met with her to find out more.
We recently heard from your colleague Gaby Appleton about the overall vision for Elsevier’s researcher solutions, especially Mendeley. How do Mendeley’s reference management solutions, specifically, fit within that vision?
As Gaby will have told you, the vision for Elsevier is to contribute to improving the information system supporting research. Our aim is to help researchers work even more efficiently so they can spend more time making discoveries.
That’s a statement that truly resonates with me. I started out as a biochemist and, as that career progressed, other tasks started to take over more of my time. In many ways, it stopped being fun because there was less time to do the real research.
The vision for Mendeley is to provide researchers with time-saving tools that help speed up and simplify their workflows. We want to take reference management off researchers’ minds by making all the tasks related to collecting, organizing, reading, annotating and citing as simple as possible – and key to this is the development of the new Mendeley Reference Manager.
With that guiding vision, communication with researchers must be very important to your team’s development plans.
Absolutely. The tools we offer must address challenges in researchers’ daily reality, so we are in constant communication with a range of researchers – those that use Mendeley, those that use other solutions, and those that don’t use any digital software at all to manage their references. These aren’t just casual conversations either. We have a robust user discovery program consisting of weekly sessions in which researchers test what we’re doing and give feedback.
This is an ongoing process, allowing us to provide researchers with a reference manager that not only addresses feedback gathered in the past, but also continues to develop over time with regular releases responding to feedback we continue to receive. Mendeley Reference Manager will evolve as researchers’ needs and the research landscape evolve.
In 2008, Mendeley was launched as a reference manager for researchers. Over the years, we’ve continued to develop Mendeley Desktop and the reference manager products.
More recently, though, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep developing the original Mendeley Desktop in the way we and our users need. A key element of this is how often we release a new version; with Mendeley Desktop we release four to five times a year, but with the new Mendeley Reference Manager we are releasing every two weeks. This means that we can respond faster to user feedback, and get new functionality and fixes out more regularly.
Can you give us some more details about Mendeley Cite, and any other changes people can expect with the new Mendeley Reference Manager package?
In terms of new functionality that’s already available, two tools I’m really excited about are Mendeley Cite, as mentioned, and Mendeley Notebook – we’re hoping both will really help simplify researchers’ workflows.
Mendeley Cite enables users to cite references and generate a bibliography, just as they could with our existing citation plugin, but as I mentioned, Mendeley Cite now works with Office 365. You also don’t have to be a Mendeley Desktop user to use Mendeley Cite – it works with your cloud library which is loaded into the add-in, so there is no need to switch between applications when citing, another feature that users were asking for a lot.
Mendeley Notebook is our brand-new note-taking tool. It’s a working space for keeping thoughts in one place, making it quick and easy to collect highlights from multiple PDFs and add you own comments. Researchers told us that they liked having highlights and annotations associated with the PDF, but that they were usually reading multiple PDFs at once and wanted their notes from all of these in one place. With Notebook they can do this.
We’ve also made the reference management experience generally more accessible and streamlined by making a lot of things just that bit better. A user’s library now automatically syncs to the cloud when they’re signed in; notifications about whether an action was successfully completed are a lot clearer; the look and feel has also been updated… And we’re continuing work on more features and functionality, which will release throughout 2019 – watch this space!
Gaby also talked about Elsevier’s commitment to source neutrality and maintenance of user control. How does the new Mendeley Reference Manager align with that?
Mendeley Reference Manager remains a place where researchers can gather papers and documents from any publisher or source. We do not give priority to Elsevier content; there’s no change there. Research support solutions of this type must remain source neutral. It’s essential for the researcher to remain unrestricted in that.
How do you feel now that the new version is out in the world?
I’m naturally excited to see the response to the new Mendeley Reference Manager. The development vision was very much informed by conversations with researchers about daily challenges. The post-release feedback on the new version is a key part of our development vision because it feeds our continuous iterative development. So, I’m excited and I know the development team are too.
And, lastly, where can people go to see all this for themselves?
The new Mendeley Reference Manager can be downloaded from www.mendeley.com/reference-management/reference-manager-beta. It’s currently in BETA, and doesn’t have all the functionality of the existing Mendeley Desktop just yet – but, as mentioned, we’ll be making releases to it every two weeks. The BETA works alongside Mendeley Desktop so you can try it out whilst still using your existing Desktop – just sign in using your Mendeley credentials and your library will sync.
You can get Mendeley Cite from Microsoft AppSource at www.mendeley.com/cite/word/install.
We’d love to get feedback on both of these to help inform future developments. So I encourage everyone to let us know their thoughts using the feedback links within Mendeley Reference Manager and Mendeley Cite. We really hope everyone enjoys using them!
Thank you very much for your time.
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