UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

Innovations in Reference Management Part 2

Posted by selinalock on 21 January, 2010

These talks focus more on tools for researchers:

Social Bookmarking for paper discovery, or why keeping your references openly on the web is good for academia (Kevin Emamy, CiteUlike)

Kevin gave an overview of how CiteUlike sees its role in helping researchers and how it works.

  • There is a huge amount of research information out there, so how do you find the good stuff?
  • CiteULike helps you save reference data as you search via a CiteULike browser button, or inputting hte URL into your CiteULike account. You can gather the references from a lot of well known science resources, add it to a CiteULike group and/or tag it for you and other people to find. Tags help subject collections grow.
  • Can have RSS feeds at tag, article, user or collection/library level.
  • Helps with social discovery by automatically making your collection of reference open for anyone else to see/search.
  • If you visit someone you find it interesting to browse their bookshelves – CiteULike allows people to do the same thing with your personal research bookshelf/library.
  • Allows you to find socially filtered information and follow users/groups/tags you like.
  • Can search the CiteULike database and also see what the post popular papers are via CiteGeist.
  • Can also get data out by downloading machine readable data sets/libraries etc and/or export to other tools such as Mendeley/EndNote/RefWorks.
  • Set-up recommendations (you might also like…) service to find tags/articles/people you might like.
  • No interest in providing cite’n’write type functionality as main function is the social discovery aspect.

I do wonder how biased this and other tools are towards the sciences? Are there other subjects using them, or do they tend to use other tools such as delicious?

 Mendeley: from reference management to real-time impact metrics (Victor Henning)

I’d been hearing a few things about Mendeley in the twitterverse, so I was interested to see it in action.

  • It is being produced by ex-researchers or recent postgrads (no librarians… they said this is a blessing and a curse!), and the main aim is to help researchers manage and discover knowledge.
  • Venture capitalist funded (some of the people behind Skype and Last.fam) and they have taken a lot of their ideas and model from music sites like
  • There is a Mendeley desktop app and a web account, which you can synch up.
  • The desktop app is designed to retrieve bibliographic data from PDF articles you have saved, and create a searchable database of your PDFs.
  • Can also read and annotate PDFs. helps you organise your research material and allows you to search within the fulltext a PDF and across all the PDFs you have saved.
  • Citation plugin (write’ncite type app) for Word and OpenOffice.
  • Can drag and drop references into Googledocs, emails and other apps.
  • Can create shared collections (up to 10 people) and synchronise your PDF libraries across everyone’s desktop app.
  • The desktop app synchronises with the web account and uploads/downloads your data and PDFs (but 500Mb limit on amount of data).
  • Social aspect: Mendeley automatically makes all your references private, but gives you the option to share with your Mendeley contacts if you wish using collaboration tools.
  • Getting data into Mendeley (other than via your saved PDFs): import from CiteULike or Zotero, bookmarklet fro extracting data from academic databases or web sites using COinS
  • Data goes into web account and then downloads to desktop app when synchronised.
  • Impact Data: can look into what is the most read document/author/tag on the desktop app. Also working on a recommendation engine based on user preferences and analysing keyword and fulltext of papers.
  • Can creat public collections: subscribe by email or RSS and embed collection in other websites.
  • Web app has user profiles where you can share info on your publications, appearances, teaching etc
  • More than 100k users and 11million fulltext research papers uploaded (217 million references) – at current rate of growth it could become the biggest research database within a year!
  • What could this mean for impact factors? – potential for Mendeley to measure the interaction with the actual documents: the audience for it, how long people spend reading it, repeat readings, peer-review via comments/ratings, data available in real-time once paper published. Data on type of reader, impact within discipline or regions of world.
  • Real-time Mendeley stats available via web app and will be releasing an API to make data freely available for people to study.
  • Future plans: sustainable funding by charging for premium accounts (where you can have more file space), for fine grained stats, for shared accounts with more than 10 people and an enterprise version for companies.
  • Future plans: collaboration tools for assigning tasks and for discussion, recommendation engine, search (but not download) fulltext), custom stats, integrate with library systems/openURL resolvers, free alternative to EndNote etc, free addition to Scopus/WoS.

As the event had quite a few Librarians in the room, one of the first questions was about the legality of sharing PDFs and copyright implications, as when you create a shared collection for up to 10 people the whole group gets access to all the PDFs everyone else in the group has uploaded. It wasn’t particularly clear to me from victor’s answer exactly what they are doing about copyright implications other than taking PDFs down when publishers notify them that they are unhappy (they mentioned Springer).

Their argument seems to be that there is a lot of research papers that are free to share, so there are legitimate uses for the software. Another is that researchers often email papers to each other and this offers a more efficient way to share them, and that staying within copyright law is the responsibility of the individual rather than the software. Not sure how the publishers will react to this over time…!

I’ve not had a chance to play with CiteULike or Mendeley yet so I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with them.

As a library service we need to discuss whether we teach/train people on these tools, as well as on the ones we already have available (EndNote/RefWorks), and the support implications. I’m leaning towards doing sessions to make people aware of these free services but making it clear that we cannot provide technical support for them. What do others think? Anyone else already teaching them? (I know AJCann was looking at using CiteULike in a Biological Science course.)

7 Responses to “Innovations in Reference Management Part 2”

  1. jobadge said

    Some mac users may already have ‘Papers’ – the forerunner of the mendeley desktop program. This is a paid-for application.

  2. AJ Cann said

    We are using CiteULike in a 2nd year Biological Sciences course (with your colleagues 😉
    I like CiteULike and use it a lot:
    I’m sure mendeley has it’s good points, but somehow, I just can’t seem to make it work for me. It may be personal, or I may need a good old library training course!
    the thing to remember about both of these tools is that they are not just personal repositories, the power lies in the social aspects (and that’s what I struggle with with Mendeley).

  3. Victor said

    Hi Selina,

    thanks for great write-up of my talk! To add to your notes regarding the sharing issue: Most of the sharing takes place within labs where everybody has access to the same papers anyway. Moreover, most major universities have subscribed to the same journals, so Nature (for example) isn’t going to lose any revenues when a Harvard and a Stanford researcher share a Nature paper during the course of their collaboration. Also, let’s not forget the fair use/fair dealing exception which allows some level of sharing of copyrighted material for non-profit research purposes. Lastly, we are DMCA compliant and will, as you point out, take down material when a publisher reports infringement.

    As for technical support: We do have our own dedicated support team and are happy to respond to user support requests. We’ll also be adding more “how-to” videos and tutorials to our website shortly.

    AJ: Thanks for trying, though 🙂 What was it in particular that you were struggling with? And did you try it recently, or longer ago (we usually have a new release out every 6-8 weeks while still in beta)? We are aware of a number of usability issues that will be fixed with the upcoming 1.0 release (or shortly thereafter), but of course, user feedback is the most valuable source of ideas for improvements. Especially the website will see major upgrades in the coming weeks, allowing for more social interaction and FriendFeed-like update feeds, commenting on research papers, collaboration spaces, and social discovery based on tags and recommendations.

    • AJ Cann said

      @Victor I haven’t got back to it since Christmas, or tried the latest client, but somehow I feel I’m missing something fundamental which just seems to work for me with CiteULike. I’m sure this is my problem.
      Maybe we need a UoL training session? – Librarians????

    • selinalock said

      Thanks for commenting Victor, your reply was very useful for us.

  4. Readers may also be interested in WizFolio. is a Web 2.0 journal reference manager but does a lot more than simply managing references. As a web based application, it does not require installation and you can access all your files anywhere and anytime with Internet connection. It has the look and feel of a desktop application. WizAdd can import bibliographic data from the top 200 scientific publishers’ website. This web importer allows you to select which folder you want to import to. WizCite is a powerful and easy to use citation engine with on the fly customization and instant preview. Sharing your bibliographic data is as easy as a drag and drop.
    Disclosure: I am the CEO and Chief Architect of WizFolio

  5. AJ Cann said

    Further thoughts:

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