Mendeley, the future of science publishing

I was at Next09 this week, giving a talk with Rudy de Waele on "Mobile 2.0". Next09 was a good conference, a mix of talks in German and English, covering things like social media, Web tech, and mobile. And, of course, I caught up with a ton of interesting folks I know, and met a ton of interesting folks I was pleased to meet.

There were some startups also pitching there. I met Jon Froda and Ezra Goldman who were pitching their companies, working in helping corporations capture processes and manage change processes through more social Web services, respectively. I also met Renato Valdes Olmos who had a cool NFC social gizmo.

Bringing citation software to the Living Web
One particular startup I almost missed (Rudy pointed it out to me) was Mendeley. I had heard about it from some of the folks I follow on Twitter (as @molecularist) and had it on my "must check" list, but had no idea what it really was. Rudy summarized it succinctly as "Think of for scientific papers".

That was enough to grab my interest, as it seemed to touch on key aspects of the future of scientific publishing that I have been thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking of over the past 18 months or so.

Mendeley is a combination Web and desktop app service for managing your bibliography of science papers. A desktop client helps you extract metadata, annotate, and share the scientific papers you add to your bibliographic database. You can also backup your database online and fill the database ("one-click") with papers from other publication databases.

One of the key upcoming features is a "recommend" feature that helps you find other papers related to the ones you are collecting.

I suppose one could say it has features from delicious (social bookmarking) and StumbleUpon and (social discovery), with a twist of sematics and data-mining.

I got a demo of the desktop app and Website and am really impressed. It seemed simple and useful and all the right elements were there.

Kindred spirit
Victor Henning, who is the Founder and Director of Mendeley was kind enough to sit down and talk to me after his talk. He indulged me in my excitement to share thoughts with him regarding what they were doing.

He told me that the idea for Mendeley arose from his and a friend's general frustration in using citation tools that were basically industry standard. Like all great services, Mendeley was something that they built because they needed something like it.

They've been brewing the service for a few years, and have been in a beta for about 4 months. Already they have thousands of users from some of the top research institutions in the world, and are growing at a great clip. Based on the papers placed in the system (over a million), the largest groups of users are from life sciences and computer sciences.

Another cool story is that they reveal a lot of the usage stats, and saw an emergent version of an impact factor as an article from PLoS rose to the top among the most added paper in their database (I think the Web is so well suited to track emergent authority and such).

Good foundation
I shared some thoughts I had about science publishing, and it seemed that some were issues Victor was thinking about. He's quite excited about the service and feels like he could always do more. We touched upon a ton of cool potential and upcoming features. And like always, ideas are more plentiful than one can implement. But, the core is solid, they have a grate foundation that they can build upon, and their position enables them to offer valuable services that folks would pay for.

Furthermore, he mentioned some designers and developers who are working with him and it seems he has an amazingly strong team to make this happen. What's more, some folks from, Warner, and Skype have put in 1.5M Euros into Mendeley. So they are going to be moving along for some time still.

And something tells me I'll be cheering for them all along.


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