What is the right reference manager for you?

Reference managers are essential tools to read and write scholarly papers. In the last few years we have seen both a number of new reference managers (most of them web-based), but also a trend for the established reference managers to gain social networking features. More choice is great, but it also creates confusion about the right tool to use. I have talked about reference managers before, but in this slideshow I look at the features that I find important.

And there are at least two features that I like, but haven't really seen implemented in a reference manager:

  • Integration of an RSS reader for journal table of contents (TOC). Currently I use a standard RSS reader, and it requires too many steps to get interesting references from a TOC into my reference manager.

  • Tracking the post-publication discussion. I want my reference manager to link to the papers that cite a particular reference (I currently use Scopus for that) and link to Faculty of 1000 or ResearchBlogging.org comments on that paper.

In the last slide I wonder whether there is a) one perfect reference manager, b) one perfect reference manager for my particular needs, or c) I will always need more than one reference manager and have to move references back and forth between them. Currently I'm at c), using mostly Papers, Endnote and Connotea. But Mendeley, Zotero, Refworks and Endnote are moving in a direction where they try to cover all requirements.

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13 Responses to What is the right reference manager for you?

  1. Richard P. Grant says:

    The linking to citations is an interesting one, Martin. Tracking blog posts is _hard_: perhaps we need a DOI for blogs? As for citations and things like F1000, maybe if the reference lists of all papers (I’m talking about pay to view journals here) were included in the free to view material then we could just let google do the legwork. ISI/Scopus might get upset at that though, heh.
    Many thoughts, all half-arsed. Mine, I mean. A good problem to think about.

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Researchblogging.org. and Nature Blogs already do a pretty good job for covering the blog comments on papers. And F1000 is already linked to PubMed. The PLoS journals and others allow public comments to papers. I don’t see why all this information can’t be used by reference managers.
    We need better tools to follow the post-publication discussion, both to find interesting papers and to move beyond these papers.

  3. Richard P. Grant says:

    Problem there Martin is that researchblogging and Nature blogs are manual processes. As similarly discussed at the London conference last year we need some automated way of following post-publication conversations, then we can lean on the ref managers to pick them up.
    Essentially though, we’re agreeing with each other. Perhaps we should think about this for a session at solo_09?

  4. Christian Hauschke says:

    Nice presentation!
    Another question: is there an institutional licence for a special reference manager at your university? Can your library provide support for this reference manager?
    In Hanover, for example, two university libraries (Leibniz University and University of Applied Sciences and Arts) are offering Citavi to their patrons.

  5. Martin Fenner says:

    Christian, I have already started on the next version and I will include support from the university library as an important requirement to look out for. At the other Hanover university library (Hanover Medical School) we have an institutional license and a lot of support for RefWorks.

  6. Michael Habib says:

    Hi,
    Don’t know how I missed this the first time round. 2collab is integrated with Scopus to provide some of first feature you mention:
    “Tracking the post-publication discussion. I want my reference manager to link to the papers that cite a particular reference (I currently use Scopus for that) and link to Faculty of 1000 or ResearchBlogging.org comments on that paper.”
    If a bookmark has a doi, Scopus citation count is shown with a link to the full cited by list (if you have access) in Scopus. This is especially powerful when using 2collab to create a profile for yourself by using your Scopus Author ID.
    Best,
    Michael
    2collab Product Manager

  7. Michael Habib says:

    Oh yeah. We are not following comments from ResearchBlogging or Faculty of 1000 yet but I am beginning to look into the possibility. ResearchBlogging seems to be powered in part by DOIs, so I am hoping that will be an easy one.

  8. Richard P. Grant says:

    Hi Michael
    you should drop me a line–there’s a group of us very interested about sharing comments…

  9. Martin Fenner says:

    Michael, thanks for the comments. You can talk to Dave Munger from ResearchBlogging.org and Richard Grant from Faculty of 1000 at the Science Online London conference in August. And to the people behind the reference managers CiteULike, Connotea, Mendeley and Papers.
    Although I don’t think that it is a good idea to have a journal publisher provide the author identifier, I admit that you can do some pretty useful things with the Scopus author identifier.

  10. Richard P. Grant says:

    Re -author- contributor IDs, Geoff Bilder (Crossref) will also be in London next month…

  11. Martin Fenner says:

    The list of everybody that has registered for Science Online London is “here”:http://www.scienceonlinelondon.org/attendees.php.
    Disclaimer: Richard and I help organize the conference. We will try to announce more sessions very soon.

  12. Dave Munger says:

    At ResearchBlogging.org, we are actually looking into the idea of DOIs for blog posts. And automating some aspects of research discussions (such as aggregating any post with a DOI or PMID from registered blogs, not just ones that specifically create a citation on our site). And of course we’d love to work with folks like 2collab to do a better job highlighting those discussions.

  13. Martin Fenner says:

    Dave, have you talked with Euan Adie from “Nature Blogs”:http://blogs.nature.com/ about how he tracks blog posts – not only those that cite a paper, but also those citing each other?