Is this the best research tool in the last 10 years? (Probably)
When you are researching you need to trawl through as much previous research in your area as possible. You then cite all the relevant research in order to show that your own research is well grounded.
Tools like Endnote help the researcher keep a database of the research that is, or is potentially, useful. It goes a long way to helping with those piles of, virtual, paper, but it does not point you to other papers or researchers that may be useful.
Three German PhD students (Victor Henning, Jan Reichelt and Paul Föckler) found that a significant problem was extracting all the metadata from the pdf files. They set about solving this, and also introducing other features of real significance. Investors told them there were just two significant hubs of research, Boston and London they chose the latter. The company, and the software, is called Mendeley. What does it offer researchers that other software does not?
It is a server-based system, with a desktop client (support for Windows, MacOS, and Linux). The software is free, unless you want to pay a premium to keep your internal research secret, or if you need additional storage space on the server.
PDF files can be dropped on to the Mendeley desktop, which automatically extracts the metadata from it. This includes title, author, keywords and the papers that it itself cites.
However, it goes further than this by using a scrobbling approach seen in services such as Last FM. Every time you add a paper to your database it learns more about your specific areas of research and can connect you to people with similar interests, and even point out papers you may have missed.
The system monitors, in real time, which papers are cited by whom, and can help you spot rising stars and trends in scientific research as they happen. Do you know who is the most popular researcher in your field this morning? Mendeley does.
The rate at which papers are being added is very impressive. The current rate of growth shows the database doubles every ten weeks. At the end of 2009 it contained eight million research papers. At this rate it will very quickly overtake the largest academic databases which have twenty million papers. Some of the world’s leading universities are supporting Mendeley, including Cambridge, Imperial, Harvard and Stanford. The chief technology officer of Amazon, Dr Werner Vogels, recently said that if Mendeley get this right they could change the face of science. It seems he may be right.
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