Mendeley and Elsevier

Earlier this week the rumors that started in January became official: Elsevier is buying Mendeley (see also here). A lot has been written about this announcement, in particular about the fear that Mendeley as a product and organization will turn into something not as open and collaborative as before.

I first met Victor and Jan from Mendeley in 2008 and did an interview with Victor in September 2008. We worked together in the organization of two Science Online London conferences (2009 and 2010, together with Nature.com and others), and my current job started with an entry for an API programming contest co-organized by PLOS and Mendeley, with the first lines of code written in the Mendeley offices during the Science Online London 2011 hackathon. I wish Mendeley all the best with their new parent.

What this acquisition signals to me is that commercial publishers are now moving into the software tools for scientists business at full speed. They have always done this, but with ReadCube by Digital Science (a Nature Publishing Group sister company) in 2011, the acquisition of Papers by Springer last year and now Mendeley, reference management now often means using a tool owned by a publisher – this market used to be dominated academic software such as Zotero and commercial software vendors such as Thomson Reuters (Endnote) or ProQuest (RefWorks).

For me this trend signals that publishers have realized that we are moving into an Open Access publishing model, which in contrast to subscription publishing is not about owning the content, but about providing valuable services around content that is free to read and reuse.

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9 Responses to Mendeley and Elsevier

  1. gregorylent says:

    motivation for selling?

  2. ian Borthwick says:

    Good post. While I don’t think anyone doubts the growth in OA publishing – but it’s still not going to be 100% for all subjects and everything within them any time soon – the complete picture involves more than OA papers. Tools that can integrate with workflows and help researchers/institutions manage wider collaboration/publishing activities should prove valuable to a much wider market.

  3. Mikael K. Elbæk says:

    Not only tools for researchers you may add tools for research management to this – like the Elsevier acquisition of Atira the developer of Pure.

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    Mendeley is a startup, and acquisition or going to the stock market are the typical exit strategies. So for methe question is who and when, not why.

  5. As Martin said, this is typical for a startup. It is also frequent that investors get executive control and the founders have little say in the exit decision.

    Our startup has to be careful to raise the next round without jeopardizing the integrity of PubChase. Our only argument to investors is that being acquired by a publisher would undermine the trust in the research recommendations that our service provides.

  6. Thomson Reuters and ProQuest are publishers too.

  7. Daniel says:

    While there are reference manager that are owned by publishers (you mentioned Papers), I think there is a difference when this reference manager was meant to also be a social network (academic style, connecting researchers, research topics, etc.). This is a delicate area and I think there is an inherent conflict of interest when a publisher is involved. This isn’t about easy entry of meta data, this is about recommendations and contacts.

    I can understand why they sold and kudos for the work, but I am afraid it will hurt the original goals of the project. And personally, I’ve switched and wait how Mendeley is treated in the future.

  8. osvaldo martin says:

    According to the Privacy Policy of Mendeley “Whatever personal data and original content you upload to your Mendeley account is owned by you. We do not claim any ownership rights over your research. Of course, you can delete your data at any time. ” and then continues “In certain cases, we anonymously aggregate this data on an institutional level or other relevant segmenting and make that information available to the Mendeley community. ”
    Hence I can request Mendeley to delete ALL my data including the portions that have been aggregated, Am I right?

  9. Pingback: “Mendelsevier” – “Mendelete” …? Erklärungen, Reaktionen, Konsequenzen in Sachen Mendeley und Elsevier | Literaturverwaltung & Bibliotheken