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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2010
DOI: 10.5062/F4S46PVC

Electronic Resources Reviews and Reports

Mendeley

Eugene Barsky
Science and Engineering Librarian
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
eugene.barsky@ubc.ca

Copyright 2010, Eugene Barsky. Used with permission.

Imagine the all-familiar scenario. A graduate student comes to you and says that she has a load of articles in PDF format forwarded by her supervisor and lab co-workers. She asks whether she can use RefWorks or EndNote to load all of these articles at once. If your institution subscribes to RefWorks or EndNote, your answer is usually: "No, I am sorry, you have to re-find each of these citations and upload them to the bibliographic software." Well, not anymore. Meet Mendeley, a new web service that allows academics to organize their research free-of-charge online (for now, at least) and store documents in PDF format.

With a name sounding like the great Russian chemist -- Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev who is credited as being the creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements (Gordin 2004) or maybe Mendele Mocher Sforim (Mendele the book peddler), one of my favorite authors and one of the founders of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature (Steinberg 1977), Mendeley can extract metadata, full text and cited references from the actual papers in PDF format, so it is an ultimate answer for a student with a pack of electronic PDF articles handed to her by her supervisor.

Mendeley was born in 2008, with an idea of helping researchers organize their work locally on a freely-downloaded client that is easy to use (Mendeley 2010). Mendeley also intends to facilitate social networking, collaboration and sharing information within research networks (Giustini 2010; Reiswig 2010). The information can be synchronized with your account on the Mendeley web site, allowing access to your library from anywhere.

Documents that you choose to download could be tagged, and organized into collections; PDFs can be annotated in a very easy way, easier than any other citation products I am familiar with. Mendeley can also monitor a given folder on your computer and automatically import any new PDFs saved in that location. Plug-ins for MS Word and OpenOffice allow users to insert and format in a variety of citation styles. A plug in for Open Office is a unique feature, and is still a bit buggy as I couldn't get it to work with my netbook. Collections can be shared in two ways: 1) Free shared collections can include citations as well as PDFs and can be shared with up to ten individuals (copyright issues alert!); 2) Public collections are reading lists and do not contain full-text files, resembling RefWorks shared folders. Documentation for the software is very good and includes a "getting started guide," a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, and a support forum where new features are proposed and discussed (Reiswig 2010).

Since most of us are familiar with the way bibliographic software functions, rather that describing how Mendeley works, I summarize the major differences between Mendeley, RefWorks, Zotero and EndNote in the table below:

Name RefWorks Mendeley Zotero EndNote *

Who is behind it

RefWorks is a business unit of ProQuest - http://www.proquest.com/

Private company - http://www.mendeley.com/

Center for History and New Media of George Mason University - http://www.zotero.org/

Thomson Reuters - http://www.endnoteweb.com/

Cost

Negotiated with ProQuest, more than $20,000 for a large university

Free for basic version.

Free – with Firefox plug-in

$249.95 for a private copy

Word processing integration

Write-n-Cite for MS Word

MS Word and Open Office

MS Word and Open Office

MS Word

Metadata extraction

No

Yes

No

No

Citing from the Web

Yes, with a plug-in – RefGrab-It

Yes, with a plug-in - Web Importer

Yes

No

Sharing

Yes, no full text

Yes, some full text

No

No

Storage

3GB

500MB for basic account

100MB

Storage on your computer

Duplicates elimination

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Direct export from databases

Yes, for most

Yes, for most

Yes, for most

Yes

Interoperability with other citation tools

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ease of use

Average

Easy

Easy

Average

* Only the full stand alone version of EndNote was reviewed. The author is aware of the scaled-down version of EndNote Web.

In my personal opinion, Mendeley enters a very crowded marketplace of bibliographic citation tools, with new tools emerging constantly - {2Collab.com}, {ScrapBook}, Cite-U-Like, WizFolio, Connotea and a few more. Today, the major advantages of Mendeley are the ability to extract metadata from PDF files and integrate itself into OpenOffice software, something that other bibliographic tools haven't achieved yet. The major disadvantage is that it is a private company and it may disappear from the marketplace tomorrow.

For more information contact: London, EC1R 5DF, United Kingdom, http://www.mendeley.com. Price: free basic service, premium packages available.

References:

Giustini, D. 2010. Mendeley - Manage, Share & Discover Research - HLWIKI Canada. [Internet]. [Accessed: July 28, 2010]. Available from: http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/index.php/Mendeley_-_Manage,_Share_%26_Discover_Research

Gordin, M.D. 2004. A well-ordered thing : Dmitrii Mendeleev and the shadow of the periodic table. New York: Basic Books.

Mendeley. 2010. About us | Mendeley. [Internet]. [Accessed: July 22, 2010]. Available from: http://www.mendeley.com/about-us/

Reiswig, J.. 2010. Mendeley. Journal of the Medical Library Association 98(2):193-194.

Steinberg, T.L. 1977. Mendele Mocher Seforim. Boston: Twayne Publishers.

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