mendeley madness?

Last month I was giving a research training session around the themes of my Web 2.0 triumvurate technologies: RSS, Delicious and Zotero.  One of the questions which came up was ‘What about Mendeley?  Should I use it? How does it stack up?’ Over the past couple years I have explored its features and found it is quite comparable to Zotero (as well as RefWorks and EndNote).   As I’ve said before, I would rather promote non-profit vendors (like Zotero) over commercially sponsored equivalents.

mendeley homepage

Whilst Mendeley was outside of the mainframe I judged its ownership as ambiguous at the time and never fully promoted it.  If I didn’t know who owned all of the company (some venture capital funds) let alone my data, I’m a bit skeptical about pushing it. As announced on Techcrunch earlier this week, Mendeley is in advanced stages and is likely to be bought by Elsevier for around $100M (£63M).  Those outside of academic journal publications and libraries may not be aware of how for-profit (understatement) Elsevier truly is.  I don’t have a problem with capitalism but the peer-review process which underpins academic journals rely on the goodwill of specialist academics volunteering their time and efforts to ensure that the cogs of the academic-tenure-and-scholarly-development wheel continues. When library budgets are static or being cut, Elsevier has consistently charged in excess of inflation–causing journal expenditure to rise any where from 25% to 47% (see Association of Research Libraries journal studies and serial expenditures).

Academics such as prominent mathematician, Timothy Gowers (University of Cambridge) are now boycotting Elsevier by not publishing with them, participating as an editor or referee as part of the peer-review process.  I can’t say I blame him or any of the thousand academics who have signed his petition to boycott them. It is less of a told-you-so moment and more of a prescient relief that I did not invest time and energy into promoting Mendeley at the time and recommend that you take all of your folksonomic metadata and files and migrate to Zotero—made ‘by academics for academics.’


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