MIE - alternative metrics for libraries

Partnering to harness data capabilities

Filed under: Research Productivity

Building value for the library

In this set of articles to be published over the coming weeks, David Main, CEO at Swets and Dr. Victor Henning, co-founder and CEO at Mendeley tell us how the Swets-Mendeley partnership came about, what drove the two companies to build the platform, and how the product aligns with the different strategies of the two companies. They also discuss the goals and future plans they have for the service itself.

In the beginning there was a pile of research papers…

The Mendeley tool was launched officially in January 2009, but the idea was developed back in 2007 by a team of researchers, graduates and open source developers from a variety of academic institutions.

“Originally, we just wanted to solve our own problems,” says Dr. Victor Henning, “As PHD students, we each had a ton of research papers.  I think I alone had six or seven hundred papers, and what we needed was some way to make those papers searchable and structured. Mendeley was basically born out of that need.”
Henning adds, “With Mendeley, we initially created a free-to-use desktop software that allows people to scan their PDFs and the system will automatically extract keywords, full-text, cited references and bibliographic information. It then turns that into a structured database for the user.”

Building on that initial idea, the team designed a system to aggregate all of the research data and social annotations uploaded by users and turn it into a large research database. It’s here that they add a social component to it, allowing users to create online workgroups to share content and collaborate on research projects. Mendeley has rapidly established itself as a key player in research circles. In just three years Mendeley’s global community of 1.9 million researchers has created a shared database of more than 65 million unique documents. At the time of writing, there were over 190,000 research groups active within the community, making it a truly dynamic and influential research environment.

The platform’s rapid uptake rate meant that Mendeley were literally bombarded with information and the data in question became of interest to many people, and not just researchers. Henning notes,

“Very early on we noticed a lot of interest in the platform from academic institutions who wanted to roll out Mendeley to all of their researchers. Researchers from the top universities like MIT, Cambridge and Stanford were among the first to really see the value in Mendeley and how it could benefit their research. That interest obviously fed back into their libraries and departments, who wanted to be able to compare their research output with other institutions. We then had to set about developing ways to fulfill that need.”

Enter  Swets

One of the early watchers of Mendeley’s development was Swets. David Main comments on the initial conception of a partnership:

“We had recently adjusted our mission to ‘Improving the delivery and use of knowledge’ and it was clear to us Mendeley was doing something innovative in this area. For many people, what Mendeley were doing was radical and disruptive. In the market we heard real interest in using their tool.  To us we saw them as just being very focused on improving the research process; and if done thoughtfully, were in everyone’s interest.  Our interest in research productivity came from the focus on helping institutions add high value services to their researchers and Mendeley’s was on the researchers themselves. Both Victor and I immediately saw that our focuses were aligned and a combination of our strengths was what the market needed.”

Swets has been very active over the past few years in expanding its range of Content Management Services for Libraries. Looking forward, Main commented:

“Our focus is on the future and therefore the requirements of the digital world.  The possibilities, needs and requirements of the digital world are very different to times when all content was delivered in the print format.  In fact, since the introduction of the iPad the requirements of the digital world have changed as much as the initial move from print to the electronic version of the research content.  It’s a much more complex and intensive market nowadays and our services and focus reflect that.”

Swets has separated its portfolio of library content management services into three distinct areas, covering Selection Management, Access Management and Research Productivity. Main clarifies this renewed position:

“As well as streamlining the delivery and access of a diverse range of published content for our customers, we cater to all components of their content acquisition workflow, from analysis and selection of content through to acquisition and validation/accountability through usage statistics. Mendeley’s data supports our Selection Management services as the altmetrics extracted from the platform provide valuable additional information for libraries to benchmark and understand the value of their acquired content.”

Today, libraries are increasingly being judged on whether they are driving and providing value within an institution. They must continuously improve the value they bring to the research process and meet the budgetary requirements of their institution. Main continues:

“The internet has opened up new avenues for researchers to collaborate and communicate and Mendeley embraces this. The only issue for our customers is that, to a large extent, the research process and activities have become increasingly invisible to the library. We have been examining ways to integrate the librarians into the digital research workflows so they can fully contribute their capabilities.  We saw that working with Mendeley, we had the potential to give the library unparalleled visibility on the research being done and help bring them back into the center of the research workflow.”

Building the profile of Mendeley Institutional Edition

“We felt that Swets complimented our work really well so partnering with them was an easy decision,” says Victor Henning. “We did not have the expertise or sales force to build library tools and we saw the potential to reach thousands of institutions at the same time but first we had to figure out exactly what data we should provide and how to provide it.”

In the next post in this series, we will focus on the data capabilities of the Mendeley Institutional Edition dashboard, and how it is focused on generating value for both the library and it’s patrons. Although still in its infancy, it is already evident that the potential it holds is enormous.



This post will be continued on 9th November 2012.

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