Mendeley and Elsevier – here’s more info

 

Victor science
Victor Henning, Mendeley Co-Founder, speaks at the ScienceBusiness Awards 2012 in Brussels (Photo by ScienceBusiness)

The news of Mendeley joining Elsevier made some waves last week.

On Twitter, with typical understatement, it was compared to the Rebel Alliance joining the Galactic Empire, to peasants posing as a human shield for Kim Jong-Un, and to Austin Powers teaming up with Dr Evil.

It’s true that, when I was 13, I played through X-Wingon my Amstrad 486 PC, then had fun playing an Empire pilot in the TIE Fighter sequel — and I’m also half Korean. So while my colleagues are busy mounting the frickin’ laser beams onto the heads of the sharks we brought in to replace our foosball table, I thought I would address some of the other concerns and questions that were raised.

What is the “real” reason for Elsevier acquiring Mendeley?

The question that emerged most frequently, sometimes in the tone of conspiratorial whispers, was about the “real” reason Elsevier acquired Mendeley. Surely there must be a man behind the curtain with a devious masterplan? Not quite. In my mind, it’s straightforward: Elsevier is in the business of providing scientific information to the academic community. In order to serve academics better, it acquired one of the best tools for managing and sharing scientific information. Elsevier can now provide its customers with solutions along the entire academic workflow: Content discovery & access, knowledge management & collaboration, and publication & dissemination. Mendeley provides the missing link in the middle, and brings Elsevier closer to its customers. This makes intuitive sense to me, and I hope you can see the rationale, too.

But what will Elsevier do with Mendeley’s data?

Some people voiced concerns that Elsevier wanted Mendeley’s data to clamp down on sharing or collaboration, sell the data on in a way that infringes our users’ privacy, or use it against them somehow. We will not do any of those things. Since the announcement, we have already upgraded our Mendeley Advisors to free Team Accounts, and are currently reviewing how we can make collaboration and sharing easier for everyone on Mendeley. Also, I want to be clear that we would never pass on our users’ personal data to third parties, or enable third parties to use our users’ data against them.

Of course, Mendeley’s data does have commercial value. Even before the Elsevier acquisition, Mendeley was “selling user data” — but in an aggregate, anonymized fashion – to university libraries: The Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) dashboard contains non-personal information about which journals are being read the most by an institution’s faculty and students. Librarians use this information to make better journal subscription decisions on behalf of their researchers, and more than 20 leading research institutions in North America, Europe, and Asia have signed up since its launch last summer.

Mendeley’s Open API also offers aggregate, anonymized usage data, though on a global rather than institutional basis. Mendeley gives this data away for free under a Creative Commons CC-BY license. It’s being used by tools like ImpactStory.org or Altmetrics.com, which are building business models around altmetrics data. Again, you could argue that Mendeley’s usage data is being “sold”, and even sold by third parties. However, as you can see, the general principle is that the data is used only for positive purposes, like analyzing research trends and scholarly impact, without violating the privacy of Mendeley users. That’s how we will keep it in the future, and this applies to any usage of the data by Elsevier or via our Open API.

So how will Elsevier make money off Mendeley?

The existing Mendeley offering will continue to be free, so that we can continue to grow our user base as we have in the past, and we will also integrate Mendeley into Elsevier’s existing offerings like ScienceDirect or Scopus to increase their value. This actually means that we’re now under less short term pressure to monetize Mendeley’s individual users. When we were an independent start-up, we had to think about charging for every new or additional feature, in order to get to break even. Now, we can think more about the long term again.

For example, this enabled us to double our users’ storage space for free immediately after the Elsevier announcement. We had previously also planned to make the sync of highlights & annotations in our forthcoming new iOS app a premium feature – today, we decided instead that it will be free for all users, and thus also free for all third-party app developers to implement. And, as mentioned above, we are currently reviewing our collaboration features to see if we can expand them for free, too.

Lastly, what does your new role in the strategy team at Elsevier mean in practice?

Along with the Elsevier news last week, it was announced that I would – in addition to my role at Mendeley – be joining the Elsevier strategy team as a VP of Strategy. A number of our users and Mendeley Advisors have asked what this will mean in practice, and how my input would be taken onboard.

I’ve been in Amsterdam this week to meet some of my new colleagues and exchange ideas — it’s been genuinely enjoyable and inspiring, so we’re off to a very promising start. I’ve been asked to support them in sharing not just Mendeley’s features, but also Mendeley’s experiences and user-centric values with the Elsevier organization, and to keep pushing the ideas that have made Mendeley successful. Conversely, I will also work on how to best bring Elsevier’s tools, data, and content onto the Mendeley development roadmap and into our users’ daily workflow.

We’re not short of amazing ideas, and you have shared some really exciting suggestions with us as well – the challenge will be to pick the best ones and actually get them done. As always, we will be listening closely to your feedback on how to improve our products and set our development roadmap. Watch this space!

 

Interview with eLife, a new tech-forward #openaccess journal

I recently caught up with the very busy eLife team to ask them a few questions, along the same lines as the PeerJ interview I did earlier this year. While there are many new open access journals launching every year, we think this one is special because they’re breaking the traditional mold in some significant ways: bringing transparency to reviews, implementing full open access as opposed to just free-to-read access, and redesigning the publication processes to implement modern technology. They’re also intending to be highly selective, somewhat breaking the newly popular megajournal mold from which PLOS ONE was cast and which most major traditional publishers have hastened to copy.Read More »

An interview with the founders of PeerJ, an innovative new academic publishing startup.

We’re very excited to announce today the launch of PeerJ, a fascinating new experiment to find an open access business model which improves upon accessibility, submission time, and the peer review mechanism. One reason we’re excited is that Mendeley and PeerJ share quite a bit of common history. Our former research director, Jason Hoyt, is one of the co-founders, and the other co-founder is Pete Binfield, the former publisher of one of our closest publishing allies, PLoS ONE. This development is also exciting in the context of the massive public support of open access and the other publishing startups in this space, such as eLife and F1000 Reports.Read More »

How-to series: How to keep references and documents unpublished (out of catalog) [part 7 of 12]

As you probably know that, whenever you add a document to your Mendeley library, the document details for that entry are aggregated into our Mendeley databases so as to allow you to easily synchronize your library across multiple platforms. These aggregated data are also used to generate our extensive and multidisciplinary research catalog that is continually growing, fueled by the ongoing uploading of references to your (and everyone else’) library.

This is all good and well but how about documents you don’t want to include in the catalog, or you don’t think are actually useful for others to have access via the research catalog? For those cases, we have a checkbox in the Document Details panel that allows you to keep that entry from being aggregated. It will still be synchronized across your multiple devices, but it will not have the Document Details aggregated to our research catalog.
There are plenty of situations where this can be useful. Notes from a class that you are storing and don’t believe are useful for others, manuscripts you are currently working on and therefore are still incomplete, etc.

In summary, if you’re adding a document and you don’t want the document details to be anonymously aggregated and made available for search in our research catalog, then go ahead and click on the “Unpublished work” checkbox in the Document Details panel on the right.

Unpublished Work Checkbox (in Mendeley Desktop)

There you go, simple stuff once again. In our next entry we’ll be touching on the topic of annotations.

Here are the previous six entries in our How-to series:

Why We Publish

It isn’t to obtain tenure. And it isn’t for money. Although to some, that is what publishing has become. The rationale for why we publish is (should be) to communicate results to as great an audience as possible and advance our understanding of the world around us. At Mendeley, we started to wonder how we could help communicate results and bring new models to the publication ecosystem. We think that Open Access content, where the full-text is readily accessible to all, will be the standard communication model in the future. And as such, we are rethinking how we shape our discovery algorithms. Read More »

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