5 steps to disrupt AND save academia. Hint: use startup investors

Let’s play the blame game. Government and universities have failed researchers.

I have written before that there are too many PhDs being produced every year. That’s our most viewed post with twice the traffic of the third most viewed post. I think that says something. The result of too many PhDs has meant a surplus of academics doing multiple post-doc tours of duty, lower wages, and a waste of tax payer money. All would be fine if there were enough jobs outside of academia to support those researchers in industry and government, but there are not. Let’s clarify that, there are not enough jobs willing to pay PhDs what they are really worth. And guess what that gets you? Sure, some really smart and passionate lovers of science/research who stick with it, but many of the smart people move on to careers outside of traditional academic jobs where there is money. You lose your talent.

Today is not about arguing this claim at greater length though. Today is about alternatives to this problem by asking where are all of the venture capitalists and startup angel investors?

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Academic SEO – Market (And Publish) or Perish

We held another Mendeley Open Office on Friday, November 26, 2010. Trying something new, we are now doing talks. And as promised, here is the talk I gave on increasing the visibility of your research. I’ve added speech bubbles to the slides to give some of them more context in case you were not here to listen to it live. I also added a little more information that wasn’t on a few of the slides on the actual evening. This was a Friday evening talk, with dozens of people happily enjoying beverages and mingling, so needed to be kept short.

One thing that is important to point out is that improving your career means marketing it, just like you would take a grant writing course to improve your odds of funding. Some people might look down on this; they’ll be the first to be left behind in a world where finding the needle in a haystack of millions of research articles is more and more dependent upon academic search engines such as Mendeley, Google Scholar, or PubMed. This is becoming known as ‘Academic SEO’ and is a variant of SEO or Search Engine Optimization. And just like regular SEO, there are expected methods you should be doing to get your content indexed. There are of course things that you shouldn’t do, and that’s where we need to start drawing the line and is a discussion for another time.

If you are having trouble reading some of the text, then click on the menu and ‘View Fullscreen’ option.

Jason Hoyt is Chief Scientist & VP of R&D at Mendeley. Where, among other projects, he oversees the indexing of content and the search/recommendation engines. Follow him on twitter @jasonHoyt

Another researcher index? ReaderMeter looks to answer with Mendeley

Editor’s note: This is a guest crosspost from Dario Taraborelli who created the ReaderMeter application on top of the Mendeley API. Dario also blogs at Academic Productivity. He asked if he could talk a bit about citation metrics. Over to Dario….

Readers of this blog are not new to my ramblings on soft peer review, social metrics and post-publication impact measures:

  • how can we measure the impact of scientific research based on usage data from collaborative annotation systems, social bookmarking services and social media?
  • should we expect major discrepancies between citation-based and readership-based impact measures?
  • are online reference management systems more robust a data source to study scholarly readership than traditional usage factors (e.g. downloads, clickthrough rates etc.)?

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Dear researcher, which side of history will you be on?

Recently I was sitting at café Tryst in Washington D.C. along with Mendeley’s co-founders and a coffee house full of hipsters, Georgetown students, tourists, and a few politicos. In retrospect, perhaps this was the only setting possible to be discussing the future of research and our small part in it. We were surrounded by the common citizens who depend on the outputs of science, but had little to no power in changing its course for their benefit. More pointedly, they had no clue that science is being held back by the very people who are supposed to be advancing it.

We came to the conclusion that technology is finally at a point that if we don’t use it now, then we are holding back the progress of science. And what exactly are we to use technology on? Open science/data/access.

By our own hands

To understand how we (“we” meaning the research community) got here, we have to first briefly remember how the dissemination of science came to be the way it is. Read More »

Mendeley API – now public, now sexy?

Today we announce that the API is now open to anyone wishing to create fantastic tools with data that can change the world.

This past April we released a beta version of the Mendeley API and invited a few developers to start building applications on top of all of the rich data found here. (See NYTimes). Since then, we’ve been bulking up our data center, extending the API methods, and listening to the great feedback from the early developers.

We have also been working on a way to make working with such data more enticing, i.e. make it sexy enough for developers who have never ventured into building applications with science data.

With that in mind, the new developer portal was born out of lots of blood, sweat, and tears. Actually, we all loved working on this, because science has never been so cool and arguably never this accessible to the masses. It would have been impossible without the incredible work of Rosario García de Zúñiga, Steve Dennis and many others.

That said, happy coding and check out the Mendeley Developers Portal. And if you want your app showcased, let us know!

Jason Hoyt, PhD
Chief Scientist and VP of R&D
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Introducing the Mendeley catalog search engine

Last Fall, we wrote about finding what is relevant to your research. We have a long way to go until we reach even half of our goals in helping you discover great content, but we are one tiny step closer as of today.

Today we launched a catalog search engine on the Mendeley Website. Moreover, we already have an advanced search that will be released in two weeks building on top of what you can use starting today. You can start using the basic search by going to the Research papers page.

What is different about Mendeley search compared to other literature search engines?
Two things standout: 1) Diversity of the literature and 2) ReaderRank

Diversity of the literature
Because Mendeley encompasses a broad range of academic disciplines, we have enormous diversity in our data set to draw results from. This is great, but also a challenge. The challenge comes from delivering results that are relevant to you and avoiding ambiguity with other disciplines. This WILL improve as we make tweaks and personalize the search experience. What’s great about this diversity though, is that inter-disciplinary content will surface if it is relevant.

ReaderRank
Relevant content is the strongest factor in the results you receive, but we wanted to take advantage of the knowledge of the crowds as well. With that in mind, we have developed an algorithm called ‘ReaderRank’ that will adjust results based on the level of readership for an article. This doesn’t mean the most read articles will always appear at the top, only that it is an additional measure in ranking your results. We have also taken care to prevent artificial enhancement of the results, i.e. gaming the readership. Over time, we hope to refine this algorithm by taking into account other measures of quality such as the reputation of who you trust and follow on Mendeley.

Once again, we will release an advanced search in two weeks that will let you refine search queries. We also want to encourage feedback. So, if you have any thoughts about the quality of results or what you might like to see in terms of search features, please let us know by going to our feedback forum.

Jason Hoyt, PhD | Research Director

Follow Jason and Mendeley on twitter for more announcements

Announcing the Mendeley Open API – Call for proposals

It’s almost here, the Mendeley Open API that third-party developers can use to create their own mashups. The API won’t be immediately available to everyone quite yet, but we would like to invite any developers interested in early access to submit a proposal of what you envision building.

The call for proposals is open until Friday, May 14th. Selected developers will be notified between now and May 21st.

For more information on how to submit your proposal please see the Open API page.

For more information about the API methods please see the API methods page.

If you take a look at our feedback page you will quickly see how many feature requests we are getting on a daily basis. We would love to implement all of them, but unfortunately that isn’t possible. Additionally, many researchers require niche-specific tools that are not suitable for inclusion in a general purpose tool such as Mendeley. The obvious solution to both of these problems is to open up the data and let creative developers and inspired academics create what they need on top of that data.

With the Open API, you will have access to both aggregated statistics and your own library. Developers can create applications to improve your research experience (for privacy reasons, you will need to authenticate yourself before third-party applications can access your data). Libraries and publishers can build simple Web apps to pull in article-level metrics to enhance what you see when visiting their websites.

We are extremely excited to see what the community and developers, who for years have not had access to this type of data, can create with the API tools. For far too long, this type of data has been siloed away from the general developer community; even worse, the end-user researchers. The richness of academic knowledge is finally in an accessible and open form, so that “Silicon Valley” and other creative developers around the world have a practical means to participate in scientific research. The world is now connected to academia.

Jason Hoyt, PhD | Research Director

Follow Jason and Mendeley on twitter for more announcements

2collab users can now import their libraries into Mendeley

Some may have already heard the news that 2collab, a product of Elsevier, is no longer accepting new users and will be shutting down in due time (updated). 2collab and Scopus Product Manager, Michael Habib, announced this on January 16th at the Science Online conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Seeking to provide a reading list alternative for their 2collab users, it was also announced at Science Online that Mendeley was chosen to enable the opt-in transfer of any 2collab public library folders.

How it works:

1) If you are a 2collab user and do not have a Mendeley account you will first need to sign up here for free.
2) Once registered or for those already registered on Mendeley, go to the ‘Accounts’ link located at the top of the Dashboard page after signing into Mendeley.com.
3) At the bottom of the accounts page you will see a form for entering your 2collab username details.
4) Your public folders will be imported and the next time you open or sync the Mendeley desktop software those folders will be visible. They will also be available on the Web at Mendeley.com and can be viewed by proceeding to the ‘Library’ page.
5) Within the Mendeley desktop, you will then have the option to turn those folders into ‘public collections’ so that others can continue to stay up to date with what you are reading via RSS and other means. For example, here is a feed on Norovirus.

Please contact 2collab if you need any help specific to 2collab.

We wish the 2collab team the best and know that they are already working on some great stuff at Scopus and elsewhere.

Jason Hoyt, PhD
Research Director | Mendeley

Follow Jason & Mendeley on twitter

Just a geek who landed the hot girl – a short story on joining a startup

That's not me, it's Chris, but you get the idea.

Childhood Mathematica
There was an early experience in first grade when the makings of a geek made an appearance. Somehow, I had managed to perfect the art of making papier-mâché frogs faster (and at higher quality) than anyone else in the class, including the teacher. The teacher then had me demonstrating for the entire class how to make this particular craftwork.

How I perfected the art shall remain my trade secret, but what’s important is little did I know that the path I had set out upon because of that single activity would take me to where I am at today. From that incident, I learned that I was capable of doing things no one else could, or in cases such as papier-mâché frogs, what no one else sanely wanted to do.

By second grade I was still determined to be the best at whatever ridiculous class activity was occurring. Only this time I got duped into doing math. By first semester’s end I had plowed through not only the second grade textbook, but the third grade as well and was just cracking the fourth grade textbook. I then decided to become a mathematician. Read More »

What’s relevant to me….right now?

Total knowledge
Above is an image from a talk that I gave earlier this year. As you can see, if I lived decades ago, I could somewhat keep up with all new research that pertained to me. Today though? Forget about it. There is just way too much going on. Even if I consider myself to be in a niche research field, I should still be keeping up with cross-disciplinary material that is relevant to my research. There is just no way to keep up with all of that information. It is information overload.

Ask yourself how you find out what is relevant to you in your research field. Got it? OK, we’ll get back to that, but before we do, ask yourself what percentage of all relevant information are you actually consuming? Let’s look at that figure above in the form of a pie chart to help us answer that question. Read More »