Mendeley API Version 1 is Out!

Mendeley Dev Portal 1

 

It has been a long 12-month journey, and the path wasn’t always lined with rose petals and unicorns, but last week we did allow ourselves a small celebration as version 1 of the Mendeley API was released.

API Celebrations

The API team designed this from the ground up, working alongside other Mendeley and Elsevier teams as well as key external partners, who all helped to test it out and provided crucial feedback to bring it into shape.

Mendeley users have already seen some of the results of this work, with better, seamless integration with Scopus and Science Direct in features such as the Web Importer and Readership Stats. This is something that Elsevier is really supportive of, as it provides an open platform to improve and optimise the research workflow at every step. The API is a key piece of that puzzle and we’re excited to see the new innovative applications it will lead to. If you’re a developer, be sure to check out the Mendeley Dev Portal and give the new API a whirl!

You can read more about this in our dedicated Mendeley Dev blog, and about API’s in general in this Huffington Post Article. As always, don’t be shy of letting us know what you think in the comments, Twitter or just email api@mendeley.com

Getting Grant Funding for Your Startup

Jan Reichelt

Jan Reichelt, Co-founder and President of Mendeley, talks about his experience of using grants from funding bodies such as EUREKA and the Technology Strategy Board to help grow the company.

Ellie

By: Elitsa Dermendzhiyska, Co-founder of Grant Central

Is there such a thing as a free lunch when it comes to startup funding? That’s the question hanging in the air as I sit down with Jan Reichelt, co-founder of Mendeley, a research collaboration platform boasting over 3 million users and touted as one of the startups most likey to change the world for the better. If anyone had the answer, that would be Jan: on top of a Series A funding and acquisition by Reed Elsevier, over the past 6 years Mendeley has won a slew of national and EU grants whose precise number Jan seems to have lost track of.

Equity-free money in the form of grants holds a special allure for bootstrapped, cash-starved startup founders – an allure Jan is quick to dispel. Grants are like a sweetener, he says. They are nice to have, but startups shouldn’t count on them. Even if you get one, the money can be slow to come in, so you need to have other funding sources ready at hand.

Back in 2008, when Mendeley applied for the EUREKA Eurostars grant scheme, the startup had already secured seed funding and was eyeing VC investment to develop its research collaboration platform. The grant wouldn’t make or break Jan’s vision; rather, it just turned out to be the right fit at the right time.

Jan wouldn’t recommend the grant route for most startups, invoking the somewhat laborious process of obtaining and managing the funds. The amount of time you have to dedicate to writing the application through to forming a partnership to reporting and monitoring the project is only justified if you can find the right fit between your goals and the purpose of the grant, he says.

Grants such as the ones offered by Eurostars exist for two main reasons: to encourage research or to facilitate collaboration between academia and businesses. Mendeley fit both requirements, as the startup was looking to engage with academic experts in crowdsourcing and modern semantic technologies in order to provide real-time impact analysis for its platform users.

With the grant, the startup was able to create a win-win consortium by partnering with the Estonian Technology Competence Centre in Electronics-, Info- and Communication Technologies (ELIKO) and Austria’s Competence Centre for Knowledge Management (Know-Center).

Besides fit, another consideration businesses need to keep in mind is the rigidity of most EU grant schemes vis-a-vis VC funding. Grant applications often call for specific development plans and growth projections over 2 to 4 years down the line – something almost unthinkable for startups used to changing direction (or “pivoting”) on the go. A grant entails pre-committing to a certain course of action and any later changes, while possible, require reasonable justification and official permission from the government funders. A helpful strategy, Jan offers, is to make up a story and define your roadmap broadly enough to leave room for flexibility.

Grants require founders to maintain constant communication, as rules call for regular financial and technical reports to keep the funding authorities apprised of any progress, delays and changes to the project. Consortium agreements and allocation of responsibilities among partners also come with their own set of communication challenges. One example is deciding who would own the IP developed, – an issue that can become tricky if there are two or more commercial partners involved. Further still, aligning academic and business needs may require careful treading – or what Jan aptly describes as “hand holding” – in order to keep the theoretically appealing in line with the practical commercial realities.

Grant funding can appear rather rigorous to founders tied in the day-to-day running of business, and Jan, who tackled the initial Eurostars application by himself, concedes that the initial learning curve can be steep. Apart from hammering out a comprehensive application, he needed to then setup solid management and reporting processes in the post-grant period. And yet grants, while no free lunch, offer an opportunity for startups to grow on their own terms if they can muster the management skill, clear vision and R&D potential.

Have you had any experience of applying for similar grants? Share them with us in the comments!

A look at Mendeley Readership Statistics

stats

By See Wah Cheng, Product Manager at Mendeley

We live in an age where knowledge dissemination happens at an incredible speed, researchers are always looking for ways to evaluate new discovery. Mendeley’s vision has always been to accelerate research, and by crowdsourcing readership statistics, we provide a new way for you to look at the impact of research articles.

What is Mendeley Readership?

Mendeley Readership is one measure of how researchers engage with research on Mendeley. Simply put, it is the number of Mendeley users who have added a particular article into their personal library. You can see this number on the article pages on our Research Catalog. Furthermore, based on our anonymised aggregated statistics, we can provide demographic insights such as geographical info, discipline and academic status of readers.

How does it compare with traditional metrics?

Mendeley Readership is a measure which complements traditional bibliometrics such as citation counts by showing an early indicator of the impact a work has, both on other authors within the same field as the work’s author as well as non-authors such as clinicians, policymakers, funders, and interested members of the public. Additionally, some early research into the relationship of Mendeley readership with traditional citations has found evidence supporting that Mendeley readership counts correlate moderately with future citations. If you are interested in digging deeper into the existing research on the meaning of Mendeley readership, we suggest starting with “Do altmetrics work? Twitter and ten other social web services” (Thelwall, Haustein, Larivière, & Sugimoto, 2013), and also looking at a more recent research study (Zahedi, Costas, & Wouters, 2014) from CWTS, Leiden University. A more comprehensive listing of research related to Mendeley readership statistics can also be found in the altmetrics group on Mendeley. Scholarly Activity, including Mendeley Activity, has recently been endorsed by the Snowball Metrics initiative as part of their global standards for institutional benchmarking.

Our API

Mendeley believes in open data. Via our API, researchers and developers around the world can gain access to Mendeley Activity, including Readership Statistics. Scopus, the world’s largest citation database, has recently added Mendeley Activity to their article pages, and our data is used by all of the leading altmetrics services, including ImpactStory, Plum Analytics, and Altmetric.com. Visit our Developer Portal for more info.

We are constantly improving our service. For example, we have made all demographic insights available (instead of just the top 3 disciplines as was previously the case), in addition to data on countries and academic statuses. Future work will further refine the data we make available to include more detail on how researchers are engaging with research on Mendeley.

Join the Conversation 

Finally, if you are interested in the topic of altmetrics, why not go along to 1am:London 2014, taking place on the 25th and the 26th of September 2014? We might see you there!

Cambridge Union Society Debates Right to be Forgotten

Cambridge Union Society

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruling saw Google and other search engines receiving thousands of requests to remove links to certain content deemed damaging to individuals. Sir Jimmy Wales from the Wikimedia Foundation is amongst those that have spoken out at length against the ruling. In the company’s first transparency report, it posted Google’s Removal Notices, something that Wales describes as akin to “removing the index from a book”.

As things stand, in Europe people have the right to request such removals if content relating to them is inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive in the light of elapsed time. However, apart from serious concerns raised with regards to self-censorship, it is argued that the Right to be Forgotten is actually a false promise, since the information itself is not corrected, but links to it are “silently deleted,” prompting outcries against lack of transparency and breach of public interest.

This is clearly a very complex issue, which impacts all areas of modern society, including academic research. One example would be if only the latest version of research papers were made available because certain information contained within them was deemed “inadequate” or “irrelevant”. This could potentially leave researchers unable to place current research into broader context, and different, less proven theories and perspectives within scientific debates could be excluded, leading to narrowed perspectives and possibly damaging the integrity of studies conducted within those filtered conditions.

It is, however, crucial to safeguard privacy and individual rights, but what is the best way of providing those mechanisms without causing broader infringements upon collective rights to information? The Cambridge Union Society, which is celebrating its 200th year of tradition in debating difficult topics, is now stepping up to tackle this thorny issue head on.

Mendeley is sponsoring this debate on the 23rd October 2014, which hopefully will spark some lively discussion and offer useful insights. Jan Reichelt, Co-founder and president of Mendeley will be opening up proceedings by addressing the assembly and Gabriel Hughes, who has a long tradition of working with Big Data and Analytics in companies like Google, Elsevier, and now Mendeley will give his personal perspective on some possible solutions. He will be joining other prominent speakers who will argue both sides of the issue.

The full line-up will be announced shortly and the event will also be live streamed. To be kept up-to-date with the latest and join the discussion make sure to join the Mendeley Right to be Forgotten group, and follow @mendeley_com @gabehughes or @alicebonasio on Twitter.

Crowdfunding brings clubfoot treatment to children in the developing world

 

miraclefeet-baby

This Mendeley guest post talks about how a crowdfunding campaign is bringing an innovative research design from Stanford University to children in developing countries struggling with clubfoot.

By Janeen B. Gingrich, MSW, Associate Director of Philanthropy, miraclefeet

When I first heard about miraclefeet and clubfoot, I felt compelled to get involved. I had done a lot of work towards ending social problems in the US, many of which felt unsolvable, and I had seen untreated clubfoot growing up in Thailand. But now that I was a new mom, this issue really resonated with me even more. Why? Because untreated clubfoot is a problem that can be solved. Once you start talking to more people about it, you wouldn’t believe how common it is. Clubfoot affects one out of every 750 children worldwide, making it one of the most common birth defects in the world. Yet it is one most people might not even be aware of.  In the US, Europe and the UK, it is usually detected in utero and treated without surgery shortly after birth, allowing the child to live a healthy, active lifestyle. In fact, Mia Hamm, Kristi Yamaguchi, Steven Gerrard and Troy Aikman – all very successful athletes – were born with clubfoot and received proper treatment.

alan before after

In contrast, 80% of children born with clubfoot in the rest of the world have no access to treatment. A treatment that, from start to finish, costs an average of $250 total.

Unfortunately, children, and then of course, adults, living with untreated clubfoot face incredible hurdles their whole lives. Often they are shunned from society – left alone and hidden away as youngsters because the family is ashamed. Because walking is so difficult, they are usually unable to attend school. These children are subject to higher risk of neglect, poverty, physical and sexual abuse.  They might end up begging or working unsafe jobs and facing a life of discrimination and pain. Below is a photo of a young father in India who lives with untreated clubfoot (on left) and his son Pradeep, who was also born with clubfoot, but is being treated in a miraclefeet-supported clinic.

walking with pradeep

The miraclefeet brace is a low-cost ($20) foot abduction brace developed at the Stanford d.school through the Design for Extreme Affordability course, in collaboration with miraclefeet, Clarks Shoes and Suncast, to treat clubfoot using the non-surgical Ponseti method. Brace compliance is the most important variable in achieving a good treatment outcome: corrected feet and the ability to walk, run and play as any child should be able to.

The lightweight, child-friendly design includes easy-on, easy-off accessibility through detachable shoes and built-in stability for standing and walking.

Bracing has been one of the biggest hurdles in scaling up Ponseti treatment globally.  Having an off-the-shelf, inexpensive foot abduction brace keeps the cost of treatment low. Over a ten-year period, this brace could enable as many as 1.6 million children to live active  and productive lives for a relatively small investment. 

You can check out and support the miraclefeet campaign here If you have any experience of using crowdfunding for research or are interested in the subject, make sure to join the discussion in our Mendeley Crowdfunding Group

New Android Kit Released for Mendeley API

Android SDK

We have been very busy at Mendeley looking at how to improve the Developer Experience for the community that builds cool stuff on the Mendeley API.

For those who don’t know, API stands for Application Programming Interface and it’s what allows your product to talk to other products, opening up your data and functionality to outside developers.

Altmetric

So far we have well over 100 active clients developing with the Mendeley API, which is not too shabby. These include Android and Kindle clients like Scholarley and KinSync, Altmetric, which tracks what people are saying about papers online, and Labfolder, an app that helps researchers organise their protocols and data.

Labfolder

We want developers to make A LOT more apps for Mendeley though, so we listened to feedback and put together a new and much improved API and sleek Developer Portal, where we’re now collating a whole bunch of tools and resources to support our developer community.

Dev Portal

We also have a growing API Team at Mendeley including Joyce Stack, who’s dedicated to Developer Outreach. If you’re wondering what exactly that is, here’s some first-hand insight on what her job is like. Just don’t call her an Evangelist, she hates that…

The latest step in this journey was to release an SDK (That’s Software Development Kit to you and me) to make things simpler for Android developers wanting to work with Mendeley. An early public access version is now available on GitHub which provides model objects and packages and takes care of authentication.

We’ll of course be looking to improve the API  because, as any good geek knows, no code is ever finished and we know there’s a long way to go! With that in mind please send us your feedback. You can email api@mendeley.com and reach out to @mendeleyAPI on Twitter.

For  all the latest news on the API and Developer Tools, also be sure to follow the Mendeley API Blog

Finding Better Ways of Mining Scientific Publications

TDM Workshop

Mendeley is supporting the 3rd edition of the International Workshop on Mining Scientific Publications, which will take place on the 12th September 2014 in London. The event will bring together researchers and practitioners from across industry, government, digital libraries and academia to address the latest challenges in the field of mining data from scientific publications.

Kris Jack, Chief Data Scientist at Mendeley, is part of the organizing Committee, which also includes The Open University and The European Library. Following a very successful call for papers, he is now looking forward to a very busy and productive day of presentations and discussions:

“We’ve had a record number of high-quality submissions this year, so were really spoiled for choice in putting together the agenda, which combines long papers, short papers, demonstrations and various presentations. We also worked with Elsevier to engage directly with the research community, which is really fantastic.”

As part of that ongoing outreach, Gemma Hersh, Policy Director at Elsevier, will be giving a brief presentation and answering questions from the participants regarding the company’s recently updated Text and Data Mining policy, and how it can best support the evolving needs of the research community.

As in previous years, this workshop is run in conjunction with the Digital Libraries conference – DL 2014 – and participants can register on the City University London website to attend the entire conference or just the workshops/tutorials.

See the full programme below, and for the latest updates be sure to follow @WOSP2014  or send any questions to @_krisjack or @alicebonasio on Twitter

 

PROGRAM

09:00-09:10

Introduction

09:10-09:45

Keynote talk

Information Extraction and Data Mining for Scholarly Big Data

Dr. C. Lee Giles

09:45-10:10

Long paper

A Comparison of two Unsupervised Table Recognition Methods from Digital Scientific Articles

Stefan Klampfl, Kris Jack and Roman Kern

10:10-10:30

Short paper

A Keyquery-Based Classification System for CORE

Michael Völske, Tim Gollub, Matthias Hagen and Benno Stein

10:30-10:50

Short paper

Discovering and visualizing interdisciplinary content classes in scientific publications

Theodoros Giannakopoulos, Ioannis Foufoulas, Eleftherios Stamatogiannakis, Harry Dimitropoulos, Natalia Manola and Yannis Ioannidis

10:50-11:10

Break

11:10-11:35

Long paper

Efficient blocking method for a large scale citation matching

Mateusz Fedoryszak and Łukasz Bolikowski

11:35-12:00

Long paper

Extracting Textual Descriptions of Mathematical Expressions in Scientific Papers

Giovanni Yoko Kristianto, Goran Topic and Akiko Aizawa

12:00-12:20

Short paper

Towards a Marketplace for the Scientific Community: Accessing Knowledge from the Computer Science Domain

Mark Kröll, Stefan Klampfl and Roman Kern

12:20-12:40

Short paper

Experiments on Rating Conferences with CORE and DBLP

Irvan Jahja, Suhendry Effendy and Roland Yap

12:40-13:00

Short paper

A new semantic similarity based measure for assessing research contribution

Petr Knoth and Drahomira Herrmannova

13:00-13:10

Presentation

Elsevier’s Text and Data Mining Policy

Gemma Hersh

13:10-14:00

Lunch

14:00-14:35

Keynote talk

Developing benchmark datasets of scholarly documents and investigating the use of anchor text physics retrieval

Birger Larsen

14:35-14:50

Demo paper

AMI-diagram: Mining Facts from Images

Peter Murray-Rust, Richard Smith-Unna and Ross Mounce

14:50-15:05

Demo paper

Annota: Towards Enriching Scientific Publications with Semantics and User Annotations

Michal Holub, Róbert Móro, Jakub Ševcech, Martin Lipták and Maria Bielikova

15:05-15:20

Demo paper

The ContentMine scraping stack: literature-scale content mining with community maintained collections of declarative scrapers

Richard Smith-Unna and Peter Murray-Rust

15:20-15:35

Break

15:35-16:00

Long paper

GROTOAP2 – The methodology of creating a large ground truth dataset of scientific articles

Dominika Tkaczyk, Pawel Szostek and Lukasz Bolikowski

16:00-16:25

Long paper

The Architecture and Datasets of Docear’s Research Paper Recommender System

Joeran Beel, Stefan Langer, Bela Gipp, and Andreas Nürnberger

16:25-16:50

Long paper

Social, Political and Legal Aspects of Text and Data Mining

Michelle Brook, Peter Murray-Rust and Charles Oppenheim

16:50-17:00

Closing

Improving Long-term Healthcare with Crowdfunded Community Partnership

 

Kristen and Susan

Collaboration and community are at the heart of bringing research to life in ways that make a real difference to people’s lives, specially when it comes to advances in healthcare. So this time we give a shout out to an interesting crowdfunding project that was launched yesterday to try and do just that:

By Chaitenya Razdan, Co-Founder and CEO, Care + Wear

Everyone has had a close friend or family member undergo some type of medical treatment and witnessed just how taxing it is; lives are completely altered for both the patient and their caretakers. Having experienced it first hand, Susan, Caroline and I combined our backgrounds to create a functional and fashionable treatment accessory that provides protection while increasing comfort during treatment.  We began with a simple concept for patients with PICC lines – the Band.

Through the development of the Band, Care + Wear was born.

PICC lines (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters) are used to administer long-term intravenous medications like chemotherapy, IV antibiotics, and TPN nutrition. Today, over 6 million are inserted annually and this number is growing quickly.

We knew that if we were going to reach as many patients as possible we would need to inspire a community effort.   First, we put together an experienced advisory board consisting of doctors, nurses, strategic growth and marketing professionals and successful entrepreneurs who have each dedicated countless hours to helping build Care + Wear. Then, we reached out to the industry’s leading foundations and now proudly call the American Cancer Society, F Cancer and the Tyler Robinson Foundation partners.

We have made significant progress since the Band was developed this Spring thanks to our advisors, partner foundations and most importantly the patients.  We’ve heard countless stories of how the Band would have, and could improve a patient’s journey through long-term medical care.  We are more inspired to bring our dream to life every day.

But in order to bring the Band to life, we needed a platform to reach more patients around the country, their friends and family, caretakers, nurses, doctors and colleagues and to spread the word. We not only want people to know that there is a product out there but also want to raise awareness for the community as a whole.

Crowdfunding gives Care + Wear an avenue to spread awareness to those living with PICC lines and their own communities. We have been overwhelmed with the excitement around the Band and are looking forward to making a difference.

Today we are proud to announce the official launch of Care + Wear. With cutting-edge designs and features, we hope to be able to help comfort, protect and inspire patients with fashionable medical accessories that also help support our foundation partners.

All the funds pledged will help us manufacture and distribute the first Bands to hospitals and patients, with a portion being donated to our foundation partners. Visit our Indiegogo campaign page to support us!

Receiving long-term medical treatments is an arduous process that often can be debilitating and leave you weak and without hope. It’s about time that we did something to help patients and their families. So join us, this is only the beginning.

If you’re interested in the subject, make sure to join our Crowdfunding Group on Mendeley and let us know what you think!

Crowdfunding Innovative Water Treatment Research

Community Water Project 2Mendeley is proud to help spread the word about how research makes a positive impact in people’s lives, which is why we were really happy to work more closely with Elsevier in Research4Life. At its core, research is about making the world a better place, and technology is a  key way of enabling this. As part of our series of guest blog posts highlighting interesting ways in which that happens, this time we bring you the story of Jay, Viv and Kirsten, 3 young researchers from the University of Southern California, who have used crowdfunding to take their life-saving solution to communities in Rwanda.

By Jay Todd Max, co-founder of the Community Water Project

Next month, my research team and I are flying to Rwanda to build innovative water treatment systems we have been designing for the past three years. While we were earning our Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering at the University of Southern California, Viv Pitter, Kirsten Rice and I were in the USC labs, researching into different innovative water treatment methods. The result is that we have created a new model of water treatment systems, tailored specifically to the needs and resources of rural communities in developing countries. This September we will make those designs a reality.

Having access to clean water is obviously a huge issue for millions of people around the world. The communities that we are targeting are ones who have access to dirty water, but no means of cleaning it. Typically these are rural communities that also do not have access to sophisticated water treatment technologies and typically do not have the technical know-how for maintaining complex water treatment systems. Our design is incredibly low-tech and uses only the natural resources found locally in these communities. It is essentially a large concrete chamber filled with gravel and sand. It traps the dirt and uses the naturally occurring micro-organisms to break down and remove all of the dangerous contaminants. Because the materials are local and there are no moving parts, the system is incredibly easy to maintain and operate.

 

Community Water Project 1

But there’s more. Many projects fail for social/cultural reasons rather than purely technical ones. Because of this, our implementation strategy diverges from usual aid models. Typically, when aid groups enter a community, they prescribe a specific technology that they have shipped from far away, install it without much community buy-in, and then leave, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, the majority of these projects fall out of use and into disrepair within the first 5 years. Our implementation strategy, however, avoids this fate in two main ways. Firstly, our primary focus is on community engagement and buy-in. After all, it is the people we are interested in helping. The village leaders of Bwana, Rwanda are already eager to help make their new water systems a reality. Secondly, the systems will be monetized. The village leaders are in the process of selecting individuals from within the community who will become the owner/operators of these systems. They will charge a small fee for each container of water that gets dispensed. This money will go toward the maintenance and repair of the system, and will also act as compensation for the owner’s work. Because the owners are getting paid for their work, there will always be someone in charge of keeping the systems in operating condition.

We believe that our design, combined with our implementation strategy, have the potential to dramatically improve the success and sustainability of water projects around the world. Our model will not be validated, however, unless we take the first step of building the first ones in Rwanda this September. That is why it has been so helpful these past few weeks when donations have come from all over to raise more than $15,000 of our $20,000 fundraising goal on IndieGoGo. All of the communities that have supported the IndieGoGo campaign by sharing the link and by donating are really enabling us to prove out our water treatment concept. They are making it possible to do so much good for the community in Rwanda and possibly for water projects around the world. It really is a case of whole communities coming together to help other whole communities. It’s all made possible by crowd-sourcing funds, and it’s all for the purpose of proving out research that will improve people’s lives. If you’d like to help support the campaign or receive updates on the project’s progress, be sure to visit our campaign page!

Do you have your own stories of using crowdfunding or other social media technologies and platforms to advance your research? Join the discussion on our Crowdfunding Group on Mendeley or leave a comment below!

 

 

 

"You Need Perseverance to realise your dreams" Meet Adriana Ocampo, Lead Program Executive at NASA’s New Frontier’s Program

Adriana Ocampo

Interview by Claire van den Broek

“I used to go to the roof of my house in Buenos Aires and dream about the stars,” recalls Adriana Ocampo. And as Science Program Manager at NASA, it’s probably fair to say that she’s one of those people who tends to turn their dreams into reality.

I tell students that they must have the courage to move forward with their dreams and believe in themselves. I have a mnemonic that I use, with the word STARS:

Smile, life is a great adventure

Transcend to triumph over the negative

Aspire to be the best

Resolve to be true to your heart

Success comes to those that never give up on their dreams

Born in Colombia and raised in Argentina, as a young girl she would sit with her dog on the roof of her house and spend hours wondering what those points of light actually were, and knew that science was her calling.

“Our parents always encouraged our imagination and dreaming big. I remember the moon landing. I was still in Argentina, a very young kid, July 20th, 1969, and here were humans walking in another world. I was completely fascinated by that, and NASA was the agency that enabled that. I thought: That’s where I can make my dreams come true! I would steal pots and pans from my mother’s kitchen, and my father was an electronics technician. I would make my own space models and draw lunar colonies. I even wrote to NASA, in Spanish. And somehow that letter got to somebody’s desk and they responded. That meant so much to me, that somebody actually took the time.”

When she emigrated to the United States with her family, as soon as she got off the plane in Los Angeles her first question was “Donde esta NASA? (which translates to where is NASA?”, since she did not know any English yet). And at her high school she joined the Space Exploration Post #509 who were sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s centre of excellence for exploration of the Solar System.

“As soon as I learned they were looking for volunteers, I immediately stood up and in my broken English said I wanted to do this. To me this was like Disneyland. Here where these people, engineers and scientists, that donated their time to provide guidance and to educate us about space exploration. At the JPL auditorium we worked with mentors who gave lectures, and eventually started doing hands-on projects. We constructed a telecommunication station to communicate with weather satellites. For the first time I experienced what it’s like to work together, and to lead a team. We had to do all these reports, and present them to the Director of JPL ,who was Dr W. Pickering at that time. It was a big responsibility. None of us had even graduated from high school yet!”

She stresses the huge importance of having mentors, such as the very bright JPL engineer Michael Kaiserman, who was the Lead Advisor for the Space Explorer Post. He gave generously his time to provide kids those opportunities and inspire them. Adriana fondly remembers the volunteer engineer and scientists who opened the doors of NASA space exploration to her.

“Thanks to the JPL mentors the Space Exploration Post was able to go on space science trips. We went to see the last Apollo launch, Apollo 17, together. We collected money by washing cars, selling cookies, etc. Those are the memories that mark you for life and I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have being given the opportunity to grow up in such an environment. I started working at JPL from the lowest possible position, as a kid in a summer program, and someone took me on and paid me to be his assistant after I graduated from high school. And when I started going to college JPL provided me with the opportunity to continue working part-time, which facilitated for me to pay for my own education.” 

But was it difficult to make it through the ranks as a woman, and did she ever feel out of place?

“Obviously there were not many girls, and on top of being a girl I spoke English with a “funny” accent, so I was kind of a double minority. But they were really open and gave me a chance. Through my experience at NASA, I’ve seen how they truly look for talent. If you bring a good idea to the table, they listen to it, and if it’s a good idea it moves forward. One of the good things I learned here is that mistakes are part of the process to mission success. When we have problems with a mission, it’s part of learning how to do it better. Blame is not part of NASA vocabulary, nor is problem, we use instead the word “challenge”. It’s about: “How can we learn to do it better next time?” That’s something that really helps build confidence, trust, and a team spirit.”

These days she spends as much time as possible helping to create the next generation of scientists and explorers, trying give young girls some of that same inspiration and support.

“It is truly important, having somebody who is a mentor, developing that relationship and seeing that a young women could see herself working in this team, having someone who believes in her. Just responding to those dreams, sometimes a thing as simple as taking the time to respond to a message, as someone once did for me, can make a tremendous difference.”

For example, she participated in a Shadow Program organised by the Society of Women Engineers, where young girls come and spend a day with people such as Adriana, to get a flavour of what life at NASA is like, and develop a relationship and dialogue which helps to guide and support them in their STEM career path. It is a well-acknowledged problem that a high number of women are lost as they make their way up the career ladder in those fields, something that Professor Athene Donald from the University of Cambridge defined as the “leaky pipeline”

“Right now we’re facing a generation of people who are retiring. We need more talent in science and engineering, so that’s one of our challenges. But for every space mission that NASA launches, one percentile of their budget is allocated to education and public outreach. Those programs help kids get involved, but they also help teachers. We need to inspire not only the students, but the teachers and the parents. Less than 1% of science teachers actually have a science degree, even at Bachelor’s level. So you need to incentivize, and educate them, so they can build that sense of “wonder” in students.”

This is not easy though, specially with women, and those, like her, who come from minority backgrounds. “I remember a case where we had a very talented young woman who had a full scholarship to Stanford, to become an engineer. Her parents wouldn’t let her go, because San Francisco was too far away. Many parents of girls from minority families don’t see becoming an astronomer, mathematician, or physicist as a career path. They think they won’t be able to support themselves.

“We need to change that paradox in society, science can be fun and is necessary for the future of the species.I strongly believe that everyone is a scientist. Anybody who is a good observer and uses her or his imagination is a scientist. We need to develop that excitement about science and space exploration into the parents, the family and society. During the International Year of Astronomy  I organized an event for 24,000 students and the whole theme was ‘space adventures’ and making science hands on and fun. At the end, we gave each student an oath, the essence of which was that science is to be used for the good of humanity. We all share the responsibility for science and technology to be use to benefit society.”

At Mendeley we’re very keen to support female researchers (nothing against the male ones of course!) in their pursuit of STEM careers, and are proud to have a number of fantastic women in our team. In fact, you can hear a few of their stories about how they got into technology on our YouTube channel. If you’re interested in the subject, or are working to help young girls get inspired to follow those careers, you might like to check out the Every Girl Digital community on Facebook and join our dedicated Mendeley Women in STEM group!