Research Remix

August 3, 2010

Why I want everything OA, right now

Filed under: openaccess, tools — Tags: , , — Heather Piwowar @ 2:29 pm

I’ve started using Mendeley. I like it a lot, so far. Papers, but with a networking aspect. CiteULike, but with a quick PDF full-text search aspect. Free. Cross platform. Good stuff.


The But isn’t Mendeley’s fault. It is a result of the evolution of our methods of scientific communication. I’m usually a fan of iteration, evolution. Not this time. I want instant, sweeping change.

I want to share all the PDFs in my Mendeley library with everyone. Right now.

I can’t, I know. Maybe some I can, some are OA articles or author preprints with redistribution rights. But most I can’t, because publisher licenses say I can’t. Because that is the way that is where we are right now. I get it, but it is SUCH A PAIN. Because my bibliography would be so much more useful to people if they could use it like I use it, by searching full text. And clustering. And browsing. And doing other things that you can only do with full text.

It isn’t well tagged, it isn’t well meta-dataed, because I don’t use it that way.

For others to go find PDFs for all the articles will be inconvenient, inefficient, and probably unsuccessful due to shrinking subscription budgets and uber-interdisciplinary nature of my field.

I normally like to talk about possible solutions when I talk about problems. In this case, though, I’m just taking a moment to imagine what the world would be like if we could just freely share research outputs with each other, completely, without a second thought.

Wow, eh?

Anyway, in this real world, if you are interested in data sharing, or just want to see what a Mendeley bibliography looks like, here’s my Data Sharing and Withholding Collection:

I’ll be creating other public collections too, for data reuse, data citations, etc. Here’s my Mendeley profile to watch if those topics interest you. Send your collections my way if you have related ones?

And if anyone really wants to see the PDFs, I can invite you into a Shared Collection. Better than in the old days of photocopying, right?


  1. Hi, Heather. That is why we need to help ensure Federal Research Public Access Act.

    I have heard Jason Hoyt of Mendeley speak at several conferences (such as Science Online and most recently at the Open Science Summit). He strikes me as an extremely capable, smart person who believes in his product and in the advancement of science. Good for him and for you.

    Comment by Hope Leman — August 3, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  2. I feel your pain, Heather, I really do. I know it’s not revolution, but for what it’s worth, you can search the everyone’s papers online at

    If everyone would insist on publishing open access, things would be a LOT easier from Mendeley’s side of things, too.

    Comment by Mr. Gunn — August 3, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  3. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve more or less put myself in charge of Mendeley integration into Open Journal Systems :-)

    They don’t do much to highlight when a given resource is actually OA (only that the PDF is findable and linked via Google Scholar), and we’re pushing them on his in the hopes that it’ll impact the shareability of those documents within Mendeley. They’re also out to lunch on HTML full text, but the fact that they actually support PDF annotation almost makes up for it.

    Also — and I’d fawn all over them just for this, OSS or not — I don’t need to use Firefox.

    Comment by Alex — August 3, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  4. Alex, auto-sensing shareability within Mendeley would be sweet! And agreed, HTML is definitely more useful than PDFs for a lot of things, especially if OA and thus clearly text analysis fodder.

    Thanks for the update on the overlap with your work, sounds like you are right where the action is.

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — August 3, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  5. Folks, big changes are afoot in terms of how Mendeley handles OA content. Mendeley already shows how much of the catalog is available in full text as Alex said, but we need to get some of the back-end stuff working in order to flag an item as OA (and deal with the different flavors of open), so that the shareability of the content can be handled differently.

    Mendeley has the potential to really spike the OA citation advantage, so it would be foolish to pass on this chance. Can’t promise much in terms of dates, unfortunately, but there’s steady progress being made and a redesigned sharing system is planned for the next release.

    Comment by Mr. Gunn — August 4, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  6. William, thanks for the comments. Great news to hear that Mendeley is working in this area. Yes, Mendeley sure could highlight and enhance the benefits of publishing OA, very true. Good stuff.

    Maybe when some of the OA integration stuff is farther along you can rename the “Everything” in the Advanced Search tab to “All metadata” and have another field for “Everything (including available full text)”???

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — August 5, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  7. OA? That’s us, Oxford Archaeology, supporters of Open Archaeology and working hard to make all our holdings Open Access. Well, strictly it’s all public domain anyway, it’s just the archaeological tradition means open access is some carefully stored boxes somewhere in the back of a museum store room. Not so open, definitely not very access(ible).

    So we have for our documents and scans of paper records, and we’re working hard to get the raw data presented online in some form, although that’s a challenge.

    Comment by Chris Puttick — August 5, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  8. Noteworthy that, on Mendeley’s “Statistics” webpage, under “General stats”, PLoS ONE is currently among the top five Overall “Most read publication outlets” (but, not among the top 5 “Most read publication outlets” in Biological Sciences).

    Comment by Jim Till — August 5, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  9. Good point, Heather. I think the idea is to have the “Everywhere” search actually search everything. Let me get an update on how that’s going.

    Comment by Mr. Gunn — August 5, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  10. It would certainly be great if Mendeley could scrape some kind of licence or copyright statement from a document if one exists. Even better of course if their social aspects were sufficient that, if someone worked it out and added it to their metadata, it could be easily accessed by anyone else. So we would know!

    One problem with Mendeley that I’m finding, particularly the shared library part, is that it’s really hard to navigate. Most read items or journals are not very interesting when I’m pursuing an idea that only a few dozen others are interested in. Some better shared tagging would help; those interested in data withholding could devise a tag like a Twitter hashtag, and then we could see what we were all interested in much more easily!

    Comment by Chris Rusbridge — August 6, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  11. The copyright status of most things can be looked up via Sherpa/RoMEO: Implementing this remains a work in progress, though.

    Chris, I totally hear you on the shared tag issue. That use case is what public collections were intended to address, but I realize the discovery of these collections could be improved. The next version, due later this month, has a re-working of the collections concept.

    In the meantime, perhaps I could point you to the advanced search operators as a means of running more precise queries?

    Comment by Mr. Gunn — August 6, 2010 @ 9:32 am

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