I’d previously used the phrase “Napster for Research Papers” when thinking about Mendeley. Mendeley lets you upload your own research papers to your personal library under publishers’ fair use agreements and to share them with their peers as you might share a traditional paper reprint. So, maybe Napster was never the right metaphor…there’s nothing illegal in sharing your papers via reprints and most publishers nowadays allow their authors to do so via eprints.
Mendeley describes itself as, “Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.”
Now, personally, I have just a few papers in research journals dating back to the stone age (pre-mainstream online, you might say) but am not a research scientist so always felt what I could gain from Mendeley would be an entirely one-sided benefit without me being able to give much back. I could, I assumed (rightly), search for a paper of interest and hope to find at least one of the authors of the paper who had uploaded and shared a copy; I could access an eprint you might say. But, the benefit of my searching to the authors would be my journalistic interest in their work.
I was discussing the point with actively online scientist Ricardo Vidal. He suggested that the Napster metaphor is not strictly true and does not reflect what Mendeley is really all about.
“Mendeley is more like a super complete repository with strong recommendation features and ability to connect and collaborate with others based on your library,” he told me. So, if not Napster, then maybe it’s a last.fm or a Pandora for Papers?
“It’s social based on [research] data, not on making friends,” he explains. “The reprint aspect is an extra bonus.” He points out that the ability to self-publish is not simply about sharing the papers for free but it provides Mendeley users with near real-time statistics based on your readership. Viewed globally all those statistics can produce an approximately real-time picture of what’s “hot” and what you should probably be reading within your area of research. “It’s more than just sharing papers,” he add, “it’s improving research as we know it.”
I finally “completed” (still a few gaps but my green bar is complete) the David Bradley profile on Mendeley and will probably get around to uploading my “papers” over the next few days. Even though it’s social for data, do feel free to add me as a Mendeley contact if you’re on the system, and if you’re not, then why not tune in and check out the hits?