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Friday, 31 October 2014

I only come here for the comments - Websites that allow researchers to review and comment on other’s work

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Image © CC BY NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre http://bit.ly/1wPSD0m


The idea of public post-publication peer review of journal articles would have been considered heresy just a couple of years ago, but in recent years there has been a growth in post-publication reviewing options. The following blog post looks at a few of them and discusses the idea of leaving post-publication reviews and whether its all as bad as some in the academy community seem to think it is.


The journal publishing model has been quite consistent for many years now, authors submit their paper to a peer-reviewed journal. Reviewers read and analyse it and give feedback, and depending on how good or bad that feedback is the paper is eventually accepted or dismissed for a variety of reasons, which may lead the authors to attempt a resubmission to another journal. For the papers that do get published, that often ends the cycle of conversation between peers unless the research is discussed at an event, such as a conference or appears in the media, where comments can be easily left - which are sometimes scathing, unjustified or plain unhelpful. And there is the rub, when does post-publication peer review become post-publication comment and how different are they?


Unlike many other things that appear on the Web, such as music, film, art and review, where comments and critique is normal and helps others make better informed judgements on what to consume; academic articles only appear above the surface for review and critique when it is used as part of someone’s research or teaching. Often there is no critique, good or bad of the research post-publication, just an important line, conclusion or otherwise to help build the hypothesis of new research; agreeing with or against previous works. To say there was no post-publication review system previously would be untrue as the likes of BMJ editors and others have accepted e-letters and Rapid Responses about research published in their journals, and blogging and social media have more recently offered platforms for researchers to discuss other’s works.


From my experience many researchers feel uncomfortable on speaking about other people’s research, which is understandable. Nobody wants to hear ill of their own hard work, as this is what they are potentially opening themselves up to. Take for example the reviews on such as YouTube or the Daily Mail website, often comments can become personal, malicious and quite damning. The issue is that everyone has an opinion and that can be on everything from Syria to fracking, and the Web has facilitated that opinion culture to the point where ‘trolling’ is now an acknowledged and serious problem. Yet academic publishing is different, certainly academics are more than culpable for their barbed comments, but making unjustified ones online will help no one, especially in the advancement of knowledge via discourse.


The journal publishing model has been criticised for being out of touch with modern publishing, and rightly so; in that a piece of research which can take years to complete can then take nearly as long to get published. So by that time things may have moved on in that topic of research, new methods, technologies and ideas may have surfaced. Post-publication reviews can help highlight this, and also may make researchers aware of potential future collaborators or similar research being undertaken.


For post-publication review to really be productive it has to be open, unlike sites such as YouTube which has allowed aliases and therefore trolls to flourish. Obviously not every piece of research commands a post-publication review and given the figures which range from about 12% to 90% of papers not being cited, it is pretty likely that not all papers will get reviews or at least have the mechanisms to be reviewed. We also have to remember that while some areas of research are less reliant on the journal publishing model, this does not mean post-publication review is not for them, in disciplines such as the humanities it may have just as much use.
Academic debate using the many Web 2.0 and social media tools freely available has only been embraced by a small percentage of academics. Interesting papers are more likely just shared using such as Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn than discussed, but considering that it is far easier and less time-consuming just to share content on the web than review it, it is understandable. Reviewing takes time and unlike reviewing a film, which is foremost a subjective piece of writing and focuses on whether you enjoyed it or not and whether it was well made, peer-review requires more considered thought.  Research is measured on whether it was well designed and conducted, not how well it was written (although that does come into the formal review process - but more about whether it is understandable, not just using long words to impress). That said I will cover JOVE below which helps aid that second part of the review process.


The debate on whether is the best way forward for post-publication review will continue and like other topics such as measurement of research, there appears to be no ‘silver bullet’. Instead there is a collection of sites and tools operating in silos, all offering to solve a problem, that being the lack of post publication discussion and assessment. Below are a list of some of the main tools and sites offering some kind of comment, discussion or review system- it is not exhaustive or comprehensive, but it will give you some idea as to what they are and do.


PLOS ONE
PLOS ONE’s refers to its mission statement as; “Accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed research”. First and foremost PLOS ONE is an open access collection of journals that unlike many traditional journals has sped up up the publication process and ensures authors retain copyright. Not a post-publication review site outright, it does allow users to comment on the published research, very much how newspapers allow visitors to comment their news articles. Commenting on research is in essence less formal than post-publication reviewing, the reader comments and has the remit to post something as indepth as they wish. They may want to write just a few lines about a part of the research, the methodology, results or conclusion or a longer more in-depth review about the whole paper. When commenting on papers in PLOS ONE you must be a registered user and identify any competing interests. The rules are quite simple and say that anyone commenting on someone else’s research must not post content as stated below:
  1. Remarks that could be interpreted as allegations of misconduct
  2. Unsupported assertions or statements
  3. Inflammatory or insulting language
Anyone breaking these rules will be removed and their account disabled- obviously it does not stop them creating new accounts, but that will always be a problem for many interactive websites.
http://www.plosone.org/
PubMed Commons
PubMed is a huge publicly accessible search engine that accesses the Medline database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. It recently launched PubMed Commons to enable authors to share opinions and information about scientific publications in PubMed.


To be eligible to use PubMed Commons you have to be an author of a publication in the database, therefore preventing anyone from going in and leaving comments. The emails of eligible authors have been collected from the NIH and the Wellcome Trust and authors emails within PubMed and PubMed Central. You can also ask a colleague to invite you into the system.


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© PubMed
The guidelines for PubMed Commons are more stringent than that of PLOS ONE and other such sites. Commenters must use their real name and again disclose any conflicts of interest. By contributing to Commons they grant other users a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual license under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Again the usual rules of not posting inflammatory, offensive and spam comments apply. Full guidelines can be viewed here:


Open Review
Open Review is a new feature within the popular academic social network and research sharing platform ResearchGate. Open Review allows users to publish an open and transparent review of any paper they have read, worked with, or cited. ResearchGate say it is: “Designed to approach the evaluation of research in a different way, Open Review encourages scientists and researchers to focus on one key question: Is this research reproducible?” Users can discuss articles they click on, with a slant more towards asking questions about the publication, than commenting or reviewing it.




F1000 Research

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© F1000


F1000 - standing for Faculty of 1000 - is made up of F1000 Prime, which is a personalised recommendation system for biomedical research articles from F1000. F1000 Research is an open science journal with post-publication peer reviewed research with underlying datasets. Finally there is F1000 Posters which is an open repository for conference posters and slide presentations.
F1000 Research has a system of open peer review which publishes referee responses and allows for replies by the authors and reader comments, so a bit of everything. In addition they offer incentives for reviewers which include a 50% discount on article processing charges for the 12 months following the submission of their referee report. They also offer a 6 month free personal subscription of their sister service F1000 Prime. Users of F1000 can track the conversation and even discuss the article at the bottom of the page, so the entire process, paper, review and discussion are taking place on one page. Even referee’s reports can be cited in F1000 Research and published under a CC BY license. A DOI (digital object identifier) is assigned to every referee report, so it can be cited independently from the article.




PubPeer
PubPeer refers to itself as the online journal club that allows users to search for papers via DOIs, PMIDs, arXiv IDs, keywords and authors amongst other options. PubPeer’s goal is to create an online community that uses the publication of scientific results as an opening for discussion among scientists. Researchers can comment on almost any scientific article published with a DOI or preprint in the arXiv. You can also browse the list of journals with comments, although presently it is rare to find a journal with more than a couple of comments. First and last authors of published articles are invited to post comments- I’m presuming the authors in between also get a say. Unlike some of the other tools mentioned, PubPeer allows for anonymous commenting, which could open the door for more trolling and abusive behaviour as reviewers feel an extra level of protection from what they say. -one researcher has filed a lawsuit over anonymous comments which they claim caused them to lose their job after accusations of misconduct in their research.




Publons
The primary aim of Publons is to help researchers get credit for peer review. Whilst writing for peer-reviewed journals have often been seen by many of handing their hard work over to someone else to benefit from financially, that being the publishers, at least there is the benefits of the author’s increased kudos, profile and knowledge-building and potential to gain promotion within their organisation. Peer reviewing can also have similar rewards with regards to the researcher’s CV and promotion prospects and that they get to see emerging research but the anonymous nature of much of it means less opportunity for profile building, yet it is no less part of the system that is the research publishing cycle. Publons sets to works with reviewers, publishers, universities, and funding agencies to turn peer review into a measurable research output. They collect peer review information from reviewers and from publishers, and use the data to create reviewer profiles with publisher-verified peer review contributions that researchers can add to their CV. Publons state that; “reviewers control how each review is displayed on their profile (blind, open, or published), and can add both pre-publication reviews they do for journals and post-publication reviews of any article.”
https://publons.com/

The Winnower
The Winnower is possibly the least academic looking post-publication platform of them all, but that should not put readers off; in fact it should have the opposite effect. An attractive site that sets its stall out on the homepage with the statement that; “The Winnower is founded on the principle that all ideas should be openly discussed, debated and archived. As with so many new academic tools and platforms it began life thanks to a PhD student, namely Joshua Nicholson from Virginia Tech. It provides an interesting new angle looking at research from both ends of the spectrum, that which has made a big impact and research that was retracted with its own ‘Grain’ and ‘Chaff’ page. The grain features publications with more than 1000 citations or a Altmetric score above 250. Whilst the chaff looks at papers that were pulled from publication and give authors an opportunity to talk about their research rather than just a ‘name and shame’ list. The Winnower is obviously still in its early stages due to the handful of reviews and publications, but not every post-publication review site can begin from the point of PubMed. It is one certainly worth keeping an eye on.

https://thewinnower.com/


JOVE
The Journal of Visualized Experiments has now been around for some time, almost a decade but it is only in the last couple of years it has really broken through and is now subscribed to by many university libraries. JOVE is a PubMed-indexed video journal with a mission to increase the productivity of scientific research. Although not at the forefront of JOVE’s priorities, they do allow for comments on the published research videos.




Peer J
Peer J is an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal that focused on publishing research in the biological and medical sciences. It received substantial backing of USD 950,000 from O'Reilly Media - which founder Tim O’Rielly is famous for popularising the term Web 2.0. It is part of the same publishing company that was co-founded by publisher Peter Binfield (formerly at PLOS ONE) and CEO Jason Hoyt (formerly at Mendeley), who obviously have a lot of experience in scholarly communications.


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© CC BY Peer J


Peer J has a points system for authors and commentators as an incentive to publish and comment on research. Anyone who has ever argued that citations, H Indexes and such as Twitter and followers are just multi-levelled multiplayer games will get this. The points system are below:
  • Be an academic editor on a PeerJ article = 100 pts
  • Be an author on a published PeerJ article = 100 pts
  • Make your manuscript reviews public on a PeerJ article = 35 pts
  • Submit an "open review" as a reviewer on a PeerJ article = 35 pts
  • Be an author on a PeerJ PrePrint = 35 pts
  • Be an academic editor on a rejected PeerJ article without reviews = 35 pts
  • Have an answer on a question accepted = 15 pts
  • Have feedback deemed "very helpful" by an author of a PeerJ PrePrint = 15 pts
  • Receive an up vote for an answer = 10 pts
  • Receive an up vote for a question = 5 pts
  • Receive an up vote for feedback on a PeerJ PrePrint = 5 pts
  • Receive an up vote for reply to question or comment = 1 pt
  • Have first feedback approved in moderation on a PeerJ PrePrint = 1 pt


There are tables of the top authors and reviewers which can be filtered by topic area, publication date and those who have asked the most questions and given the most answers. The questions and answers aspect is a different angle to the commenting process as it does potentially open up further dialogue between authors and commentators. At present though there does not seem to be much activity in this area.


Peer J state: “Our annotation system goes beyond just answering questions or finding answers. Everyone from authors, editors, reviewers, and visitors to PeerJ are contributing in some way. Often, these are "hidden" contributions to the body of science that can go unrecognized. The points that we are starting to show on profile pages are just a light way to surface this participation.”


As for this points ranking system, it will appeal to some researchers, those with a competitive edge, but on the flipside will feel uncomfortable to others who do not want to see their work captured in numbers, and that applies to any kind of metric not just Peer J. Netherless, it is an interesting take on the publishing model and one that will continue to create interest and debate.


        
PaperCritic
One of the first proper research commenting tools, PaperCritic appears to have ceased business but is still worthy of a brief mention. Created using the Mendeley API, PaperCritic connected with a user’s Mendeley account and allowed them to comment on research hosted within Mendeley’s huge database of references. Their blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts all fell silent in 2012 leading me to believe that this was no longer running. The chances are that Mendeley will at some point create their own commenting and reviewing system, so still well worth the mention.




There seems to be some difference between the notion of reviewing, discussing and commenting, something Kent Anderson in The Scholarly Kitchen wrote about earlier this year. With Anderson summerising that; “Today’s commentators seem to have many axes to grind. Far too often, commentary forums degrade into polemical attacks with win or lose dynamics at their heart. The pursuit of knowledge and science isn’t the goal. Capitulation of one combatant to another is.” Anderson questioned the validity of comments being championed by publications and websites and that they could never be considered in the same light as peer-review.


There is a need for both as comments can be insightful and highlight or spot useful content for the original authors or other readers without going into indepth reviews. On the flipside they can be malicious, unfounded and just clog up the whole knowledge process if left un-moderated and anonymous. Peer-review may not be perfect, but as the social web becomes more useful as a platform for discussion and knowledge sharing, it makes sense that other options are explored, even if they are supplementary. This is growing case for Altmetrics, first seen as an alternative to the traditional measurement of citations and now argued as more of an alternative indicator, rather than measurement. The real problem is that like with many other technologies and platforms for communication we run the risk of not being able to see the wood for the trees. Post publication review platforms need to be explicit in their aims and explain that clearly to readers and reviewers. Like social media, it is unlikely that we will see every researcher using these unless they became standardised and part of the research cycle. It is an option, as with academic discussion lists, where the most insightful and on occasion barbed communications take place. Post-review commenting is happening right now and someone out there may have already commented on your research- whether you respond remains your choice.


Recommended reading:





Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Information Resources Academic Development Group

Within the Information Resources Group here at ScHARR we have an academic development group, cunningly titled the Information Resources Academic Development Group (IRADG). In line with the other academic disciplinary groups within our section of Health Economics and Decision Science, we meet every other month to discuss issues relating to our personal and professional development. Due to the diversity of roles that we have, we alternate the topics of our sessions. We have occasional visitors to give us an insight into areas that we feel we need to know more about but the sessions are generally led by members of our team.

Our topics rotate between teaching and research. To give a flavour of what we do, in our last meeting we discussed our research plans for the next three years and how our applied project work, particularly around literature searching, could feed into more methodological research, such as the work undertaken by Ruth Wong on “Assessing searches in NICE Single TechnologyAppraisals: Practice and Checklist”. In IRADG we are keen to look more at a variety of areas, such as grey literature searching and diagnostic searching to name but two.

In our last teaching focussed meeting, we discussed our many and varied teaching commitments and also discussed opportunities for further development. Within our team, we have people who have undertaken the SheffieldTeaching Assistant, become Fellows of the Higher Education Academy, undertaken Certificates in Learning and Teaching, undertaken Masters level qualifications in teaching and our own Helen Buckley Woods is currently in the process of taking an EdD in Higher Education. Phew!

Within the group, we all take our development and progression seriously, and the IRADG provides an excellent opportunity to meet, discuss and plan how to take this forward. I have been chairing this group since its inception in 2009 and whilst I am on maternity leave I am handing over to Ruth Wong to continue the good work! 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Workshop and presentation slides on Altmetrics from Internet Librarian International 2014

This week myself and Claire Beecroft made our yearly pilgrimage down to London and attend Internet Librarian International 2014. For me it was my fifth trip and Claire's fourth and as far as we can remember another year where we had given a joint talk.
We delivered two pieces of work, firstly a day long workshop run by myself and Cat Chimes from Altmetric.com with contributions from Claire and Dr. Ehsan Mohammadi from The University of Wolverhampton. The slides and abstract can be viewed below.

Whilst Claire attended to help facilitate the Monday workshop on Altmetrics and co-deliver a parallel session on the same topic on Wednesday, I stayed down for the whole conference.
Metrics was very much a large part of day two with talks on measuring what students want to how libraries communicate with their users. There was a strong theme of creating positive change, whether that be through Rachel Neaman's plenary on digital inclusion or new ways libraries can work with everything to 3D printing to gamification thrown into the melting pot.
You can view the entire programme here for more information. 
http://conferences.infotoday.com/documents/212/ILI2014_Programme.pdf

Whilst the 3,000 plus Tweets from the conference can be viewed here:here: http://eventifier.com/event/ili2014/

The conference ended with a session on the ILI2014 App developed over the course of the conference, which sadly I had to miss due to catching my train back home. I did however stay around long enough to find out I was one of the winners of the conference selfie competition along with Bryan Kelly from CETIS and Toun Oyelude from Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan. The winning image (brace yourself, is below). We all won a box of Green and Blacks chocolates, so well worth the effort.



Here are the slides from our conference workshop - excluding Ehsan Mohammadi's at his request due to them being used at a future event.



Here are the slides from our conference presentation on Altmetrics



I also got to see the story of the Anonymous hackers group at the Royal Theatre in Sloane Square, which has been turned into a hilarious and at times scary musical. It was quite fitting to find myself chatting with a guy from the U.S. before the show, whose job it was to stop such groups gaining access to websites and databases for the likes of the U.S. government. I never really got to ask him what he thought of Anonymous and Lulzsec. I've posted a video of the show and cannot recommend it highly enough, even if you are not that interested in the Web, it has a real human interest angle to it and is very, very funny.







Monday, 20 October 2014

Nature journals - all titles now available via the University library

Last November the University Library conducted a survey for staff and students.  Many of our customers commented that although we had access to some Nature journals we did not subscribe to some important titles.
 
After negotiations with the publisher therefore we now have a subscription to the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) complete collection! This includes all ejournals published by Nature Publishing Group.
 
For a full list of titles and access to the Nature website, please see http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/cdfiles/nature.

Or to access individual titles, please search for them on StarPlus.

Image: Nature.com



Thanks very much to Anthea Tucker, Liaison Librarian (Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health) at The University Library for the heads up.  You can read their blog here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Can cartoons teach medical students to be better doctors?


Still from one of my animations using  GoAnimate! 

Around three years ago now, I took on a new teaching commitment, to deliver a "Masterclass ILA", (Inquiry Based Learning Activity), for our Year 3 and 4 students at the Medical School at University of Sheffield.

The aim of this short course was to help students develop the skills to have difficult conversations with patients about how decisions are made on which drugs should be funded on the NHS and why some drugs which can be life-extending are not considered "cost-effective".

Given the overall aim of the course , I needed to find a method of assessment that would enable the students to demonstrate to me that they had developed their communication skills and their knowledge of health economic decision-making. The obvious route to go down here would have been some kind of role-play scenario, as medical students are often assessed in this way, and it would be a familiar format to them. However, when attempting to book rooms for the course, it quickly became clear that a room with a suitable amount of space for them to act out their role-plays wasn't available, and also, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted the students to be able to watch themselves and assess their own performance as well as that of the fellow students.

After having seen a demonstration of free online animation tool (Extranormal.com), the germ of an idea began to form. I looked at various online animation tools, and eventually decided to use "GoAnimate"- A free online animation tool that looked relatively easy to use and had an overall style that I thought the students would enjoy.

Having spent a couple of days learning how to use "GoAnimate", I quickly realised that I wouldn't be able to ask the students to create their own animations, as the time they would need to invest in learning it was simply too great. So I decided instead to give the students each a question, posed to them by a patient, based on a real life scenario that we have been using throughout the course. They wrote a script for a consultation with the patient, during which they attempted to relay to the patient, in an empathetic style and using  lay terminology, the answer to their question. I would then produce an animated version of the consultation myself, and we would then watch these as a group in the final session of the course, and the students would be asked to comment both on their own work and that of their fellow students.

When I first broached this to the students, I will admit that they were rather taken aback, though intrigued. It took longer than I expected to create the animations (12 of them in all), but the final session was successful and fun. Understandably the students were rather amused by seeing themselves as animated characters, but also enjoyed watching the scrips being read by the patient and doctor
 characters, and from the feedback they gave it was clear that once they heard their scripts being spoken by the characters, they could see both the strengths and weaknesses in what they had written- which was exactly what I had hoped for.

Having spoken about this with various colleagues over the last couple of years, most people are intrigued but rather surprised, and perhaps a little concerned that there could be any place for 'cartoons' in the medical curriculum. I was delighted therefore to read a story on the BBC news website around a year ago now about a doctor who had used comic book techniques in their own teaching with medical students, to great success! You can read more about it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25112785

I've now run this course three times, and my animation is getting better... I also pair the students now, so there's only six animations to prepare, which makes it a little easier on me. The animations are uploaded to YouTube as "unlisted" videos, and the students are given the link to the video so they can watch it again later, show their friends, etc.

It did require a small investment of time, around two days in total, to master the animation tool, but it has been very rewarding to use animation in an assessment context, and I would recommend it to anybody who might otherwise use role-play techniques as a form of assessment. Of course you can also use animation to give feedback, and I did exactly this, as I thought it was only fair that if I was animating the students, I should animate myself. So I'll give myself the final word, by showing you my animated self, feeding back to most recent  group of students:



Posted by Claire

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

No-one can multitask like an information specialist…



We are a multi-talented bunch here at ScHARR Towers, and in particular we are known for our baking. Even Andy Tattersall, a man more known for his web 2.0 skills than his whisking, can whip up a batch of brownies. I just about managed to stop cramming one into my mouth in time to take a picture of these last few crumbs. Not only did Andy bake these himself, but they contain beetroot from his allotment!

Andy Tattersall: information specialist, allotmenteer, baker, blogger, renaissance man.

Posted by Claire

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hey Intern!


For the next few weeks we have an undergraduate student from the ISchool doing a placement with us - what our American friends like to call an 'Intern'. Over the next few weeks Ben will be helping us to develop our Health Utilities Database - our exclusive database of papers that report health state utility values (HSUVs). Ben will be developing a publicity strategy for the database, helping us find new sources of content and inputting lots of lovely papers into the database. He's already off to a cracking start - evening managing to 'tweet' about the HUD on his first day! Good luck Ben!



Friday, 3 October 2014

Mendeley Open Day 2014

It just seems at the moment that I don’t seem to be in the office that much (to the relief of my colleagues), following on from the Altmetrics and MmIT conferences and the joint Sheffield universities’ social media symposium in the last few weeks I’ve not stopped on my travels. And one event I could not miss was Mendeley’s Open Day 2014. Seeing as I had been to the previous three held at Mendeley HQ in Clerkenwell - soon to be within the Silicon Roundabout in London - it made sense I should continue with the yearly tradition.
It was a wise decision as the event was hosted in the cool surroundings of Camden Market at Proud Camden; a cross between horse stables, a disco and comedy venue. Yet it wasn’t just the venue that made it all worthwhile, it was the many useful sessions run by the clever and obviously keen developers of Mendeley. For myself who has been to the three previous open days, at least I think this was the fourth - something confirmed by co-founder Victor Henning, there is always a lot of benefit from the long journey.


The day began with a brief introduction by Ricardo Vidal from Mendeley and kicked straight into action with some live data comedy from science comedian Rob Wells who delved into the funny and interesting side of data and web searches on Google Trends. This was a genius way to begin a day long event, by firstly grabbing everyone’s attention but also had the great effect of making the audience quite relaxed, it is an idea that should be tried at all future day long academic events.


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Mendeley Open Day - Image © https://twitter.com/rvidal
We then heard from the three co-founders of Mendeley Jan Reichelt, Paul Föckler and Victor Henning about the vision for the platform and highlights from 2014. The session was particularly interesting as we heard from Victor Henning who was the catalyst for creating Mendeley and through the support of his two friends made it a reality. Following on from Jan and Paul talking about the ‘now and future’ Mendeley we heard an honest and open talk from Victor who each time he pitched his idea of this new reference management platform to friends and colleagues was told it was a; “stupid idea”. As Victor calculated, that 500 weeks on from the start of Mendeley it had grown incredibly well, as a business, organisation and gained a loyal following. He talked about the stresses and triumphs of the three co-founders starting their platform and how in the end it was all worth it.
After a brief break we got down to the real business of the day as the audience was treated to a series of presentations from various project leads on the many areas of work they are undertaking to improve the Mendeley experience. At this point I really noticed how many of these faces were the same ones I’d seen at the first Mendeley HQ Open Day. Given this is a software company going places, it was obvious that the staff leading the charge at Mendeley believe in it, they drive the platform and  genuinely seem passionate about it.
Various presentations from key developers Steve Dennis, See Wah Cheng, Matt Green and Matt Coulson et al showed that Mendeley was not resting on its laurels. At this point you might start thinking, that with previous posts I have written about Mendeley, that this is just a PR pitch for them. The truth is, for myself and many of the 2,200 other Mendeley Advisors, we believe in the product, how it has changed research from discovery, to altmetrics to plain old referencing which makes it one of the best purely academic tools on the market - if not the best.
The audience were given glimpses of the various new interfaces, the new desktop, Web Library 2.0, profile pages and the new researcher profile. Other innovations such as improved discovery, suggested papers and for researchers and students working in my department and discipline, support for better Medline integration.
We saw how Mendeley was working on helping researchers drill further down into how their papers were being accessed and shared. Whilst Android was heavily mentioned as the Mendeley team showed the work they had done creating the first official Android app and were now keen to test it.
Speaking to William Gunn, Head of Academic Outreach at Mendeley over lunch I said to him that this very much felt like Mendeley 2.0, possibly the greatest shift in the company’s history since its initial launch, to which William concurred.
After lunch there were presentations on the various work being done with Mendeley APIs with Joyce Stack and an invited talk from Dr John Lees-Miller, co-founder of the WriteLatex tool. This was a tool that had passed me by but I was very impressed by its functionality that allowed researchers to reformat papers for resubmission to other journals and had a great collaborative aspect for writing said papers, I was very impressed. Whilst full respect goes out to Joyce for mentioning my Tweet about Mendeley being better than iTunes as it did not include a free U2 album (which it has been referred to for the academic community)
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The breakout stables at Proud Camden
The session also highlighted how researcher’s needs were changing in their use of Mendeley, that for early career researchers and students the productivity aspect of the platform became less important and the social aspect more so as they progressed in their careers, whilst both elements remained important for the majority of users.
We were then treated to a preview of the Super Secret Summer Video that was a compilation of advisors from throughout the world, all joined up by throwing a Mendeley beachball to each other off-screen and explaining why they loved Mendeley. Following that there was a useful presentation from Mendeley Advisor, Vicky Pyne, final year medical student from the University of Bristol talking about the various useful tools Vicky employs as part of her studying such as Evernote, Prezi and of course Mendeley.
In the next break, we all ventured off again to the seven activity areas, all within old stables to meet specialists, play games and give feedback to the Mendeley product. In one area, with what appeared to be a pole dancing pole in the middle of it, we were split it into specialist groups. The we were given a board with a cartoon image of dna on it with various aspects of Mendeley on each strand and asked to place various stickers by the many strands of Mendeley that make up that code. I would imagine that most people reading this blog post will be familiar with the tired old exercise of sticking post-it notes on posters to reflect your feelings about a topic. This had a new angle with various stickers meaning different things, some good, some bad - all unique. We added our own thoughts as to what was good and bad about Mendeley, my personal one being more support and integration with Google Docs. In amongst the various stables was a photo booth, a chance to meet the founders of Mendeley, a community space and an opportunity to meet the API, data and analytics teams.  
After the break, the Data Science Team gave a presentation about machine learning and why this was so important to Mendeley. Kris Jacks who leads the team talked about recommendation systems they were working on and how the software improves with experience.
There was an interesting announcement by Donna deWeerd-Wilson, Executive Publisher in the field of Economics at Elsevier. Donna told the audience they were launching with Mendeley a new programme for early career researchers and the creation of research ambassadors. This was piloting within environmental science and economics and will launch in January 2015. It aims to create a Science Digest that will be a freely accessible collection of layman translations of original research papers with societal impact and/or policy focus, which will be published next to the original article in ScienceDirect.
Finally we were treated to some more top notch geek comedy from Helen Arney, one third of Spoken Nerd, a scientific comedy trio. Helen sang songs about maths, love and produced the best geeky joke of the day when she talked about being the only woman on her science degree and dating a scientist from her class when she said: “The odds may be good, but the goods are odd”.
The day finished with the customary Mendeley Social, where visitors were treated to more great food and a free bar in probably the best location I have ever attended an academic event. To go with that we got our swag bags which again exceeded previous years and something like my 10th Mendeley t shirt, actually more like my 15th.
Despite all of the fun and frolics, the day was a very serious (well informally serious) insight into the many things Mendeley are doing and how they are still, 10 years on almost, trying to push the academic envelope. There were no signs of Elsevier except a few very low-key members in the workshops and on stage and there was no sign that Mendeley has become what many see Eslevier as. There were no suits, no corporate speak and no hard sell, Mendeley may have lost some followers when it was bought out last year by the publishing giant, but from what I can see from the work they are doing to develop Mendeley, it may well have been their loss. I look forward to the new versions of everything, the library, profiles, APIs, desktop and much more when they come out and with any luck my fifth visit to their yearly gathering; well it would be rude not to.
Useful Links
You can view some of the day here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw2QJJ5mQP4gs8K2sK4MaSPERWjOXEVKC
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