Meet our February Advisor of the Month!

Congratulations and thank you to Jacques Raubenheimer

Jacques RaubenheimerJacques is a statistician at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, but he got his research start in psychology with a PhD in Research Psychology and doing Masters studies in Theology.

Before his current position, he did some other consultation work, and started working at the department of Biostatistics of the UFS in 2008—”a strange jump from research psychology, but statistics is statistics,” he said.

Jacques is also a published author…and what is the subject of one of his books? Mendeley!

We are honored Jacques has chosen to write about us, so we wanted to honor him with Advisor of the Month! Look to the Mendeley Blog for more on Jacques’ book sometime this month.

A bit about his research History

In many ways, I am just a run-of-the-mill academic. My whole academic career has been pursued at chiefly one University, and I hold degrees from only two universities, both South African. So I would not be what you might call an academic rock star (whatever that might be).

The nature of my job means that I don’t get to specialise, so my research role is supportive (statistics) in a wide variety of medical and allied disciplines.

How long have you been on Mendeley?

Just more than a year.

What were you using prior to Mendeley?

ProCite. I also toyed with EndNote.

How does Mendeley influence your research?

I can’t imagine anyone seriously considering doing research and not using software for their referencing. But what I love about Mendeley is that I now have an integrated electronic work environment where I can store my annotations (I still did my PhD in the previous millennium off of entirely paper-based reading), organise my sources, and also a means of finding literature relevant to my needs.

Why did you decide to become an Advisor?

I needed a new RMS package (see above) and so I started looking at alternatives, and pretty much settled on Mendeley. At the same time, because I am something of a resident IT specialist, people around here asked me if I would do training for them in Mendeley, and I saw that the Advisor programme would give me the support I needed to do that—and it has!

How have you been spreading the word about Mendeley?

My book!  =)

I also am using opportunities to present Mendeley training here on my local campus, because if people can see what the program can do, they will be more likely to start using it and will also start telling other people about it.

I also enjoy helping other advisors on the Advisors forum, so I have that bookmarked as a start page on my browser.

What book are you reading at the moment and why?

Apart from always having to look up things in statistical reference works, I just finished Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business (you’ll be amazed at how many books there are with “The Power of Habit” in their titles). It was fascinating, and I am trying to focus on eliminating bad habits that are messing with my productivity.

Any fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?

Researchers have non-academic lives too! I enjoy rock climbing, although at a mediocre level—I don’t get as much time to go out climbing now as when I was a student, and I have just (barely) survived my first marathon.

What is the best part about being a researcher?

I love the discovery and the variation. Each study is something new, something stimulating. Every job has its mundane tasks, but research gives me the chance to escape the drudgery.

And the worst?

I must mention two things. First, not getting enough time for my research! Second, when a submitted article is rejected. But both of those are part and parcel of the job, so one has to learn how to deal with them, instead of trying to wish them away. At least the time Mendeley saves helps with point number one!

What is the one thing you want people to know about Mendeley?

It’s more than just a piece of Reference Management Software! I went to great pains in my book to show that even though Mendeley is currently not (in my opinion, sorry to have to say this), the best RMS program out there (although it is very good), there are more compelling reasons to use Mendeley that more than compensate for its small deficiencies in that area. Mendeley is really living up to its motto of changing the way we do research, by using researchers’ libraries to crowd-source research data. Mendeley provides a new (and I think better) way to discover and evaluate sources. And Mendeley really gets the socially-connected, multi-device milieu of the 21st Century researcher.

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)

 

Meet our December Advisor of the Month!

Congratulations and thank you to Andy Tattersall!

Andy TattersallAndy is an Information Specialist at The University of Sheffield and has a background in journalism and Information Management. He started using Mendeley in 2009 and became an Advisor in June 2010.

He created a series of videos called Minute Mendeley (it “sadly breaks trades descriptions as the videos are all about two minutes long,” he said) which are available on the University of Sheffield’s  iTunesU  profile.

How Mendeley influences his research

How it affected me was more about how I saw technology was changing, it was one of those tools that sold itself really easily. I loved the organic approach of it all from how it developed to react to user’s needs.

How Andy helps spread the word

In lots of ways, firstly about 4 years ago teaching clinicians research skills and then through formal teaching in various faculties, my own department at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), in the iSchool and our English Department. I’ve run several workshops for colleagues as well. Over the last 4 years I would say myself and my colleagues have taught well in excess of a 1000 students and staff and it has always been well-received.

I’ve written about it in blogs and also as an article for the MmIT journal titled: References, Collections, Corrections and Mendeley back in 2011.

How did you get into research?

I never really see myself as a researcher to be honest, I do research but it’s not really core to what I do. The research I am interested in is looking at information science and literacy and how technologies and people work together. I’m very interested in the Web and Social Media and how academics and students share and manage information as part of their own work. My degrees were both at the University of Sheffield, a BA in Journalism and an MSc in Information Management – I really think they dovetail together really nicely.

How long have you been on Mendeley?

I’ve been using Mendeley since early 2009 I think, I blogged about it here in October of that year.

What were you using prior to Mendeley?

What little reference management I did do was with Reference Manager, something all of our students used. I realised that Mendeley serviced their needs far better, and the needs of some of my colleagues.

How does Mendeley influence your research?

How it affected me was more about how I saw technology was changing, it was one of those tools that sold itself really easily. I loved the organic approach of it all from how it developed to react to user’s needs.

Why did you decide to become an Advisor?

Because I saw it had real potential and that I wanted to be at the cusp of this technology change as I could it would benefit myself and the people I support – I wasn’t wrong.

What book are you reading at the moment and why?

Strangely I always read two books at a time – one for bed and one on my commute. The current ones are both quite depressing, my train one is, ‘Everything Now: Communication, Persuasion and Control: How the instant society is shaping what we think’ by Steve McKevitt and the bedside one is pretty grim, titled ‘One Soldier’s War in Chechnya’ by Arkady Babchenko. I know, cheery.

Any fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?

I spent six years as a pirate radio DJ.

What is the best part about being a researcher?

When I’m doing it, being able to explore and test ideas and in turn hopefully improve my own and others’ ways of working.

And the worse?

Just not having the time to do the above.

What is the one thing you want people to know about Mendeley?

That it will not only help you discover research but help others discover yours.

Research Taps Into the Crowd

Photograph by FlyingPete at Morguefile

There’s no denying that securing funding is a vital part of a researcher’s job. But although it has never been exactly easy to apply for and get money for scientific research, the on-going global economic crisis made things even more difficult, especially for early career researchers. Faced with cuts, universities and funding bodies have less money to distribute, and might opt for safer bets in established scientists and less experimental approaches and projects.

Maybe this is why we have seen a rise in the trend of crowdfunding research, where scientists – both in and around traditional institutions – have appealed to the wisdom (and pockets) of the crowd. And the crowd, it seems, is really eager to take a more active role in research, not only funding it but also participating through citizen science projects.

Microryza, a crowdfunding website launched in 2012, raised over $200,000 for about 80 projects (they operate an all-or-nothing model where backers only get charged if the campaign goal is reached). Those projects include creating an open synthetic biology lab in the cloud, Tracking Magellanic Penguins, an investigation into why jokes are funny, and research into whether nanobots can be used to detect and target cancer cells.

Indiegogo, the largest crowdfunding platform on the web, hosted some very successful projects such as uBiome (a citizen science project that aims to better understand the dozens of health conditions related to the bacteria in your body) and iCancer (a campaign that raised over £2 million to fund research into a potential treatment for neuroendocrine cancer)

At Mendeley, we thought that our community of nearly 2.5 million researchers would be interested in the new possibilities this type of funding could bring, so we started a Crowdfunding group and asked Indiegogo to advise any researchers who wanted to start their own campaigns into what they should do to maximise their chances of success. This is why on Tuesday the 27th August Alice Atkinson-Bonasio from Mendeley will join the experts at Indiegogo for one of their weekly sessions, which will be streamed live on YouTube.

This is where we’ll be talking about some of the most common questions researchers have around crowdfunding, such as what opportunities, there are, what successful campaigns have done, what research has been funded and what best practice is for reaching your target.

If you have any questions or comments about crowdfunding research, please join the Mendeley group, send a tweet to @alicebonasio using the hashtag #MendeleyCrowdfunding or post it on the comments here. You can also find us on both the Indiegogo and Mendeley Facebook pages.

Mendeley Investor Sponsors Annual Science Academy Prizes

Blatnavik_2013_Web_640
Image: http://www.nyas.org

Leonard Blavatnik – the Ukrainian-born billionaire from Access Industries who was one of the biggest investors in Mendeley before the acquisition by Elsevier in April – is continuing the trend of investing in research by backing the New York Academy of Sciences’ annual prizes for young scientists.

Tamar Lewin reported in a recent New York Times article that the scheme is building on the success of a smaller program that was piloted in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut over the past seven years. It will now award three prizes of $250,000 each in the areas of Physical Sciences & Engineering, Chemistry and Life Sciences.

It might not seem such a large amount when compared with the Nobel prize (which is currently around $1 million) or the whopping $3 Million that each winner of the newly established Breakthrough Prizes received, yet these awards are targeted towards younger up-and-coming researchers (there is an age limit of 42) rather than those that are already leaders in their field.

The idea, according to Blavatnik is to make the prizes big enough to be interesting but not so large as to be scary. While there are many rewards and incentives for established and prominent scientists, there are fewer initiatives to encourage and support young researchers in a sustained and more systematic way. The aim is to use this incentive to help spur the next generation of scientific innovators. Mr Blavatnik is a philanthropist with a keen interest in scientific research, having funded  the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford to the tune of $114 million and also recently donating $50 million to Harvard and $10 million to Yale.

Past finalists and winners of the regional Blavatnik Awards talk about how they were pivotal for their careers: Elisa Oricchio, a Research Fellow of the Cancer Biology & Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center says that the prize is a wonderful stimulus and confidence booster for young scientists and “identifies emerging scientific thought leaders and highlights their work to the broader scientific community.”

Nominations for the prize will come from around 300 leading medical centres and research universities and an advisory council of past winners, Nobel laureates and prominent scientists. The judging panel – made up of 60 distinguished scientists – will then select winners based on the impact, quality and novelty of their research. The first nominations will be accepted from September through December 2013, with winners being announced in September 2014.

“The long-term goal of the awards is to create a pipeline of scientific support in which established scientists choose the most outstanding young faculty-rank scientists, who then go on to mentor the next generation of would-be scientists and award winners,” said the president of the New York Academy of Sciences Ellis Rubinstein.

Do you think these prizes make a real difference towards advancing science and supporting researchers and their work? Mendeley and Elsevier are also looking at some interesting initiatives and awards to support early career researchers, so watch this space, and in the meantime let us know what you think!

 

Worldwide Research Collaboration Mapped Out

Collaboration Map UK

Academia has a reputation for being a bit of a closed world, a walled garden of knowledge where secrets are jealously guarded. But the truth is that collaboration is at the very heart of research and scientific discovery, and that for science to advance, researchers need to get together, compare notes, disagree, and have their ideas challenged and built upon by others. Often this happens naturally – like in the cafeteria where PhD students will chat about their projects – but in such a hyper-specialized environment, chances are that people who share your particular research interests cannot be found in the same institution or even the same country. What then?

In the same way that social media has revolutionised personal and professional communication and created dynamic global conversations, platforms like Mendeley now bring academics together in groups formed around those research interests, and the implications of that are tremendous for making science more open and accelerating the pace of discovery.This is why the team here at Mendeley is particularly interested in gaining genuine, real-time insight into research collaboration.

Mendeley is involved in several research projects. Particularly fruitful has been an on-going exchange of researchers and Mendeley staff between our London HQ and the Know-Center at Graz University of Technology in Austria. All projects aim to contribute to the improved use of the wealth of Mendeley data for the benefit of our users and the scientific community in general.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, this recent investigation of research collaboration started as a Hack Day project between Mendeley staff and a visiting researcher from the Know-Center/TU Graz in the context of the TEAM project (http://team-project.tugraz.at) which is coordinated by the Knowledge Management Institute of the TU Graz. Sebastian Pöhlmann (Insights and Analytics Manager) and Piotr Drozd (Community and Business Intelligence Analyst) teamed up with Peter Kraker (PhD student, Know-Center/TU Graz) to visualise cross-country collaboration on the Mendeley platform.

An interactive map has been created that aims to shed some light into the intensity of international research collaboration across different countries. Considering that using Mendeley groups is optional for our users, we are excited to have data on 113 countries. For each of those we show the continent, the rank by user count, the number of connected countries and the proportion of foreign (= international) connections.

By browsing the map or making a selection from the list, you can visualise the connections between researchers for any given country. A connection between two countries is established if at least one of each country’s researchers are members of the same Mendeley group. Of the over 200,000 research groups on Mendeley, we’ve selected private groups with at least two members, as that tends to be the most collaborative group type. Our staff is also very active on the platform so we’ve further excluded groups owned by Mendeley staff  and connections where Mendeley staff are involved. We have further excluded countries with less than 10 total connections.

Browsing the map and the data has produced some interesting insights:

  • Among BRICS countries, China, India and Russia have a high proportion of international connections whereas Brazil and South Africa seem somewhat more internally focused
  • Generally speaking, North America, Europe, and Australia are very well connected, whereas Asia and South America are somewhat lagging behind.
  • There are a few small countries that are very internationalized: Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, and Denmark. Interestingly, these countries are also at the top of the KOF Index of Globalization: http://globalization.kof.ethz.ch/static/pdf/rankings_2012.pdf

This is early days, but we hope that by learning more about how our users collaborate with each other, we can continue to develop the best tools to help them work even more efficiently. And by sharing some of the insights on Mendeley Labs we want to contribute our part of the picture to the general knowledge of how research works.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What does collaboration mean to you and how would you go about measuring and visualizing it?

 

Science Show-and-tell

source: jove.com

Back in 2006, Moshe Pritsker thought to use video technology to capture and transmit the intricacies of life science research, facilitating both the understanding and reproduction of experiments and techniques. This idea of “letting scientists look over each other’s shoulders” led to the launch of JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which is peer reviewed and PubMed-indexed. As a scientific journal, it has an editorial board and hierarchical structure, and ensures consistent quality of its video content by maintaining a network of professional videographers spread across major science centres. Scientists from leading institutions participate by submitting video articles that visualize their experiments.

As science advances, processes and tools also become more complex. Procedures and techniques such as growing stem cells are tremendously complicated and difficult to accurately follow with just a set of written instructions, and visiting labs in person can be a very expensive alternative beyond the resources of many researchers. This challenge of poor experiment reproducibility is what JoVE tries to address, claiming that traditional written and static picture-based print journals are no longer sufficient to accurately convey the intricacies of modern research. Translating findings from the bench to clinical therapies rely on the rapid transfer of knowledge within the research community.

This month’s issue features an article by Connors et al of Massachusetts Eye & Ear and Harvard Medical School, who have developed an audio-based virtual environment simulator that uses audio cues and a video game context to build cognitive maps of three-dimensional spaces and help blind people improve their navigation skills. Other videos include a new non-invasive method being developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for measuring brain metabolism in new-born babies, and a demonstration of how a biopolymer gel derived from polysaccharides found in brown algae can help patients with heart failure.

There are also other companies operating in the scientific video space, but what they offer is a looser user-generated environment. One of the most successful of those is SciVee, which is backed by the Public Library of Science and features videos that sit alongside traditional journal papers.

So is this the new frontier? Are we actually looking at a situation where most researchers will feel comfortable communicating with their peers using video? Has the scientific community truly given its blessing to such new approaches to science communication? We’d love to hear your thoughts.