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Elsevier Has Bought Mendeley (techcrunch.com)
78 points by sadiq on Apr 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments



Quoting one of the comments from Techcrunch which I think should be upvoted:

"disgraceful that they spent their whole life as a company arguing that they were the next big thing in open publishing only to sell out to the most unethical monolith in closed publishing out there. no doubt el$evier will enjoy slowly ripping apart what's left of mendeley and continuing with its centuries-old business model of making money off the back of researchers' freely provided knowledge.

nice to see your true colours team mendeley!"


I don't want to comment on a comment, so I'd prefer to point you to Mendeley's official blog post on this topic here: http://blog.mendeley.com/start-up-life/team-mendeley-is-join...

If there are more questions, we have put together a couple questions and answers here: http://blog.mendeley.com/press-release/qa-team-mendeley-join...

Finally, if there are still lingering questions, we're more than happy to answer them here or directly with us on twitter @rvidal / @mendeley_com / @mendeleysupport And there's always email: support@mendeley.com :)


Do you really not understand how fundamentally anti-open-access Elsevier is? Have you not seen what happens to the other companies they absorb? Many of us have experience in this particular field and it's not a pleasant one.

Your official blog post is inane marketing-speak that has no basis in the reality of the damage Elsevier has done and continues to do to the fabric of science publishing. Mendeley should be ashamed, and you personally should be ashamed for perpetuating this nonsense. Within a year your company will be effectively dismantled and anyone left over who actually cares about open access can start over from scratch. I wish them luck.


I know exactly how bad Elsevier has been and I've spent most of my career with Mendeley campaigning against them. If anyone has the right to be mad about this, it would be me, but I've actually had the chance to speak with folks there, from the CEO on down, and I really believe they see something valuable in us.

There have been detailed discussions about how Mendeley can integrate with parts of Elsevier like Scopus and Science Direct. I don't think they would have gone through all that effort just to bury it. I could be wrong, but I think things are changing at Elsevier and I think bringing us in is part of that.


I have a feeling people aren't going to wait a year to start on an open replacement given the cartoonishly awful reputation Elsevier has.


Cartoonish is right.

Not only are they horribly exploitative towards the academics and librarians who by and large both write and purchase what Elsevier publishes, they also ... sponsor arms fairs! whee!


I'm sorry you have such sour feelings about Elsevier. I can't really comment much about that. However, I can speak for what I know from Mendeley and I can tell you that we have projects planned that span farther than the one year abyss you mention. We're excited and looking forward to maintaining our company culture, work ethic, and the ultimate goal of building a useful tool and resource that helps our users.


How do I cancel my Mendeley account?

Edit: If you log in to your account and go to account details there's a "delete your account" link at the bottom. When you click the link you get a dialogue box that says this:

We're sorry you want to go, but if you must... Deleting your account will remove all of your personal data from Mendeley Web, and limit the functionality of Mendeley Desktop. Your data is still present in Mendeley Desktop so it can be archived or exported.

If your profile is visible to search engines then Mendeley may show up in relevant search results until the search engines re-index the site (this is an ongoing process but should occur within a couple of weeks.) Until this occurs, clicking on the search result link will load a Mendeley page stating that the profile cannot be found.


How about giving it a month or two to see if things really are that bad? I understand you have no reason to trust Elsevier, but Mendeley has been a staunch advocate of open access from the very beginning, so I really do think we'll bring more openness. At the very least, we've earned that.


I just went down the same path, make sure to leave a statement (but keep it civil) in the free text field when you delete your account.


Really hope you guys have autonomy to keep it going kind of independently, specially with stuff like Open API.

Good luck there in this new path!



What I don't understand about this quote is this:

>disgraceful that they spent their whole life as a company arguing that they were the next big thing in open publishing

Mendeley is not a publishing company.


"Elsevier tried to sneak in legislation through lobbying – the so-called Research Works Act – that was to undo the National Institute of Health’s Open Access mandate and therefore would have prevented public access to millions of bio-medical research papers. They had to pull back after outrage and boycotts from the academic community.

Our vision is to crack this open by, first of all, encouraging academics to be aware of their rights, be aware of the lobbying that is going on, and also by enabling them to post their own publications over which they retain copyright, from their Mendeley profiles. A ton of papers have been made available by Mendeley in this way, by academics uploading their own papers. So, that’s our attempt at making content more accessible and science more open."

Quoted from the founder in an interview just a few months ago (17 September 2012). Speaks for itself really.

http://www.kernelmag.com/features/qa/3322/cracking-open-scie...


It does speak for itself, in that Victor and many other Mendeley staff stand by their opposition to the Research Works Act. We believe that the SOPA blackout protests (which we participated in), and the Cost of Knowledge boycott have led Elsevier to start addressing the issues people have had with them. Some things will be quick to change, others more slowly.

The morals of our staff haven't changed overnight, and we'll continue to try and push Elsevier towards a future with a greater emphasis on open science. There's no contradiction here, just a huge challenge on our part.

(Full disclosure, I'm a designer at Mendeley)


Thanks for digging it out. Upvoted!


God damn it. After the recent MySQL/OpenOffice/Java and Google Reader fiascos, my lab had a huge internal debate about whether to continue using Mendeley or choose a FLOSS alternative that wouldn't bite us later. Obviously we miscalculated.

I don't blame the Mendeley team -- too much -- since $100M is a lot of money. Although they shouldn't try to pretend that this isn't a complete sellout.

The fault really lies in the community's willingness to fall over and over for these shiny but not-quite-free alternatives. Two years ago, I would have said that Stallman is a nut; now, I think he's quite right.


>my lab had a huge internal debate about whether to continue using Mendeley or choose a FLOSS alternative that wouldn't bite us later.

What alternatives did you consider?


The finalists were I, Librarian, Zotero, or roll-our-own.


See, that's the thing. It's hard for open source projects to attract top caliber developers and build a critical mass of users. Firefox has done really well, AOSP has done well, but Mendeley and Zotero are really the only competitors in this space, and they're not exactly comparable.

That said, this isn't a buy and bury situation. Mendeley is now very well positioned to dominate so there's no reason to worry, and anyways you can always take your data with you.

FYI - I work for Mendeley.


I'm flattered to know that you think we're the only competitors in the space. However, given that you have several times as many full-time developers as we have part-time developers and my code was/is the basis for critical features in your product, I think you're really overstating the caliber of your developers. As for your "critical mass of users" that we supposedly lack, I suggest you consult Google Insights.

While I don't know the specific details of your agreement with Elsevier that make you so "well positioned to dominate," I do know that your target market's principles are more closely aligned with ours than with yours, and that they aren't stupid. You can't really preach open access for years and then sell yourself to the OA movement's greatest enemy and expect that no one will notice.

In any case, I welcome the competition, although I hope that in the future it comes in the form of shipped code and not more lies about the viability of free software.

FYI - I'm a member of the Zotero core team, but I'm also a graduate student in neuroscience at MIT.


I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank you and your colleagues for Zotero. I use it for keeping track of anything that interests me that I might want to cite later in blog posts, emails, papers, whatever. Great tool. Thank you for making and sharing it.


We are going to continue with our current roadmap. We're going to provide more features, more content via integration with Scopus and ScienceDirect and we even have a rewritten iOS app coming out soon. More resources will allow us to provide the necessary attention on the various key features in mendeley. Like the open API that will continue to be open and provide access to our catalog (which is also being improved!). I don't think you've miscalculated. However, I'm obviously biased.


"Two years ago"? Everyone's complete inability to remember anything is why Stallman hasn't gotten his point across in the past 30 years.


It isn't quite so simple -- usually you pay for the flexibility and freedom of FOSS with a significantly less polished UX.

In an ideal world, everyone would pool their resources toward free software and all would benefit. In reality, it is like a multiplayer Prisoners' Dilemma: people who "defect" by using proprietary software are rewarded (in the short term) with a nicer UX, at the expense of those who "cooperate", and at their own long-term expense.

There are other problems: FOSS (especially Linux) suffers from severe fragmentation, and I also question to what extent people are willing to develop software that is not fun for free.

Anyway, I never "forgot" the excesses of, say, Y2K-era Microsoft. I have just been skeptical of the workability of FOSS. But I do think it is the ethical way to go.


> I also question to what extent people are willing to develop software that is not fun for free.

Pay them to develop the features you want rather than pay the cost of using proprietary software or closed systems.

Everyone wins.


Or is it that Stallman's framing of his message (ie. moralistic) isn't memorable to most people?


While Mendeley certainly has me hooked on their desktop client, I'm not sure I've ever understood their social aspects...

I'm very, very, very skeptical, but this could wind up being a good thing. Elsevier can't entirely make it a "walled garden" just due to the nature of research. Mendeley may not have been able to make their business model work alone. Finally, some of Elsevier's search tools are actually quite nice. Seeing them integrated into Mendeley could be very useful.

I just hope they don't smother/abandon the desktop side of it. Currently, Mendeley is the best cross-platform research paper manager, i.m.o. I'd really, really hate to see them drop linux support, but I'm worried that it's somewhat likely.


Integration of Mendeley with Elsevier's Scopus and ScienceDirect is very much on the roadmap. The desktop app is going to continue to see more attention. Some great features coming to our next release. We've totally rewritten the iOS app and will be working on an official Android client soon too. Support for win/linux/mac is to continue too. :)


There are a lot of mixed emotions with the confirmation of the rumors that have been floating around for a while now. On the one hand, it's a huge positive sign of just how desperate the dying giants are to protect their business. On the other hand, it's Elsevier.

Regardless, huge congrats to the Mendeley team.


I'm curious, since I was just starting research and was going to need a tool like this, what options are there? I've already used Mendeley a bit, but that was before I really needed a serious bibliography, so I didn't use most of the features. What else is out there in a similar vein?



+1 for Zotero, its the bees knees.


There's a large comparison table of the many reference management tools out there on wikipedia. It's not very very up-to-date but will provide for some good links and overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_managem...


I've heard a great deal of praise for Papers App (Windows, OS X, iOS) [1]. It'll cost you quite a bit though--$79.

[1]: http://www.papersapp.com/papers/


There's a 40% discount for (undergraduate) students, making the price $47. I bought it when it was in Public Preview in '07, and love it.

The ability to sync with the app on my iPad mini is really nice, as it means that I always have immediate access to any paper I might want to refer to in conversation, regardless of whether I have an Internet connection.


If you're on a Mac you should check out BibDesk.


The Mendeley desktop client is a great cross platform way to manage research papers. I really hope Elsevier doesn't screw it up.


Based on my past experience with Elsevier, I would not be too hopeful. :(


I haven't heard of many nice experiences with Elsevier either, here's hoping they don't mess up such a crucially useful tool.


Well it will surely still work great for managing Elsevier papers.


There will be no favoritism for Elsevier content: http://elsevierconnect.com/elsevier-welcomes-mendeley/


Lots of people have had bad experiences, especially this year. I was one of the people leading the charge against them, in fact. However, they were able to convince me that they really do want us for our openness and they want us to bring that to them. I didn't change my mind easily and I wouldn't expect you to either, all you have to do is consider our track record and continue to hold us up to a exactly the same high standards as before.


Is Zotero [1] a competitor in that space? If so, any idea how they compare?

[1]: http://www.zotero.org/


Zotero has a desktop app in addition to their original Firefox extension. Personally, I've been very happy with it. I have my articles stored in JungleDisk, and everything syncs between mac laptop, windows desktop, and ipad (with ZotPad on the ipad).


There are plenty of reference management tools. Papers, RefWorks, Endnote, JabRef, Zotero, colwiz, readcube, and more. Here's a comparison table at wikipedia (probably not super up-to-date but worth taking a look): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_managem...


I've used both and found Zotero to be miles better.


As I've mentioned before, we see this as a great opportunity to focus on our users and provide an ever better tool and overall resource. More resources will mean more features faster and more attention to key projects like our open API (which will see more attention!)


Desperately praying that an Oracle-style slow, suffocating death of the product doesn't ensue.


We certainly don't hope that this is the case. We are very much excited at the opportunity this is providing us to focus on our userbase. We have an action packed roadmap set ahead of us and the resources now available to us will allow us to work faster on implementing the many features we have planned.


I certainly hope that's true as well, but everyone says this at this stage. Literally everyone.

And now Elsevier is in charge of your roadmap and resources. The company known mostly for profiteering, being boycotted, paying for shill reviews on Amazon, taking payouts to publish fake academic journals and being the example case of why open publishing was desperately needed.

You have a tough road ahead of you PR wise. Hopefully you can deliver on these promises. I believe you are being sincere in your comments here. But I would put a lot of money on this going the way the cynics expect it to go.


I hate to sound rude but.."Hope"?!

Surely you have some ironclad clauses saying that the product cannot be killed or something along those lines?

Otherwise your roadmap is pointless since you do not control it anymore.


Ok, you are reading too strongly into my words. I was trying to keep a light tone. I apologize if that wasn't what came across. Anyhow, we do control our roadmap and we have plenty of exciting work ahead of us.


Can I use it offline? My wife installed it a long time ago and never signed up for an account. Back then offline usage seemed to be possible. I copied her profile to her new laptop and it never required signing up which is great (why on earth would she put her literature database in the internet??? The tool shall just index the papers on her harddrive).

When I wanted to install Mendeley desktop for my brother, it was impossible to start it without an account. Is that on purpose? Can it be skipped?

I just backuped a fresh download before Mendeley gets modified more, but I wonder whether I have to take her profile to seed a new computer so that it gets running without internet access.

Of course it's quite obvious that Mendeley or Elsevier have no interest in supporting anybody who wants to just USE the programm, instead this social stuff shall be pushed...


The most interesting part of this disucssion is to see Mendeley "staff" doing their damage control over the backslash of the sale. I don't think the scientific community will continue use the tool, they will just migrate.


and... a great reason to switch to Zotero if you haven't already. Elsevier has rightly earned the mire of academics around the world, and I'm sure they'll continue that path with their acquisition of Mendeley.


Well, this is what you get when you rely on non-free software.

But hopefully Elsevier can at least put some decent software engineers on it to make it somewhat less excruciating to use, e.g. http://brandon.invergo.net/news/2012-12-13-Damn-It-Mendeley....


Sorry to read that you had issues with Mendeley. A quick look at that link and I can see that many of the issues you highlight are related to citation styles. We have made some good progress there with our citation style editor. We have also made plenty of improvements since that post. If you felt that some of the problems were limiting your research, we have a support team (support@mendeley.com) and also points of contact on twitter (if that's your thing). As for software engineers, we have a very talented and expert team but we are proud to say that we will be adding to the team soon so that we can improve and iterate more rapidly and solidly.


It's not really about citation styles, it's more about metadata.

That being said, it looks a bit better after testing for 2 minutes. Journal names seem more consistent when importing from Pubmed (although they are all in sentence case still..). Still seeing publisher cities stuck in the Journal field in some cases. Still seeing some hilariously botched names like "Smith, J Q John Q" instead of "Smith, John Q", though. All these issues make it infeasible for me to use for citations in my papers.

And can I ask one question... whose idea was it to put journal names in sentence case rather than title case? I have never seen it done anywhere else, and it just seems bizarre.

And I am sure you do have good software engineers, but at the same time, I and others have been using it for years and the consistency in references has just been so laughable for so long that it almost boggles the mind. Best of luck towards figuring it out. I still do use Mendeley for PDF reading and note taking.


As someone who has been a longtime longtime Zotero user is there any good reason for me to check out Mendeley? I played with it once awhile back, but not enough to get a good feel for it. Zotero worked well, and continues to work well for me. Are there different use cases for one vs. the other that I might be missing?


If you have lots of pdf's on your hard drive that you want to automatically extract metadata from (or organize), it's quite nice. It's easy to go from nested folders of pdf's --> Mendeley --> bibtex file, with a reasonably minimal amount of quality control.

I may be misremembering, but I don't think zotero is geared towards that?


FWIW I prefer Zotero because I find downloading the pdf to actually be rather annoying. I just save the citation and double click on it to open the article in my browser whenever I need it. No metadata extraction necessary b/c Zotero pulls metadata from a doi or PMID (which is a quick copy and paste from the web) and unsurprisingly does it much better than Mendely pulls metadata from pdfs.


> I don't think zotero is geared towards that

Zotero can import pdfs and figure out metadata, just like Mendeley, except without using OCR.


Zotero can extract metadata from PDFs, but at present it can't import folder structure. We're always happy to take patches: https://github.com/zotero/zotero


You can easily synch your Zotero library into Mendeley (check preferences). Mendeley is (in my biased opinion) easier to use with a better user interface. It allows you to read, annotate, collaborate in groups, etc. Sync to the web so you can run Mendeley on multiple operating systems (and even mobile apps). While not always up-to-date, here's a large comparison table of reference management tools: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_managem...


Awful.


No, it isn't. We're still committed as ever to producing a great research tool and resource for our users. We will keep pushing for that and will certainly accelerate the pace with more resources.


You may have commitment, but do you have any actual authority?


Dear rsvidal,

Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck.

As you can infer from the comments here, please keep in mind (as you no doubt already understand) that Elsevier is widely mistrusted and nobody is willing to take them at their word. Indeed, with 13,385 of my colleagues I am a proud signatory to the Elsevier boycott.

Regardless of whether Elsevier is an "evil" company or not, they are mostly engaged in rent seeking rather than wealth creation, and I am convinced that academia will be better off without them than with them.

However, organizations can and do change, as you acknowledge in your blog post. You have a difficult road ahead of you. I wish you the best of luck. I have never used Mendeley, but it sounds like you have enormous power to do good if you succeed.


"While not all of its moves or business models have been universally embraced, it is also a hugely relevant, dynamic force in global publishing and research."

That's great.

But I'm still not going to hand over copyrights to my work for zero compensation so they can be "published" behind a paywall that benefits only Elsevier.


Elsevier does have open access journals and does allow you to pay to have your article be open access in some/many of its journals: http://www.elsevier.com/about/open-access/open-access-option....

Yes, it isn't as easy as the BSD or GPL licenses, and I bet there are some warts, but it definitely is not true that "publish with Elsevier" implies "lock behind paywall".

Also, lots of 'old' content appears to be freely available: http://www.elsevier.com/about/open-access/open-archives


Elsevier does have open access journals and does allow you to pay to have your article be open access in some/many of its journals

Ok that's good, I wasn't aware of that. I don't mind paying (reasonable) publication fees to cover their costs - my main priority is maintaining copyright over my work and having the ability to make it publicly available under a creative commons license or similar (and freely redistributable, not just available from my personal homepage).


Fingers crossed Mendeley keeps existing for the duration of my degree. It's a lifesaver.


We're in it for the long run. So no worries. I also need it to finish my degree, so there's that too! :) (Btw, notice that you now have double storage!)


Here's hoping they take that $100 million and build a better product to replace Mendelay.

That's how you stick it to The Man. With his own money.


What has done what to what? Neither of these names have any meaning to me. This is literally the first I am hearing of either.


I was almost going to feel bad that I'd never heard of either of them until I found a kindred spirit.


I finally came to terms with this about a year ago. On HN, you're going to see the soap opera version of silicon valley. Necessarily, most elements are going to be blown way out of proportion just to justify a narrative. Without the narrative, what hope do the rest of these poor slobs have of catching the huge attention their VCs want to make them feel fuzzy and warm about their fuggly valuations?


As someone who a) doesn't live in SV, and b) doesn't work for a startup, I miss a lot of the inner plot that happens in the HN narrative.


In this case, it's 'science' not 'Silicon Valley' (Mendely's offices are in London and New York; Elsevier's headquarters are in Amsterdam).

Elsevier is one of the biggest scientific publishers, with over 2,000 journals, including several with very high impact factors (eg. Cell).


What an insightful comment.


Really, because clearly I've lived under a rock to miss such influential, household name companies such as these.


If only we had some sort of machine into which one could type a variety of questions and said machine would then display answers to said questions. But you are right, until we have those machines, we are left with leaving confused comments like yours in hopes that someone would answer.


I can see not being aware of the controversy around Elsevier, but they are in fact an immensely influential publisher.

You'd be hard pressed to not come across books/journals from them in the course of earning a STEM degree.




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