Reference eReviews | February 15, 2013

Content Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) is a suite of services built on top of the popular research management tool Mendeley.

MIE provides users with powerful, easy-to-use analytical tools to help them understand how faculty, staff, and students at their institutions are actually using journal articles and other digital items. It works by compiling data from faculty and student usage of the Mendeley desktop application and the related website. Compared to COUNTER reports that simply acknowledge that a digital item (article, book chapter, etc.) was accessed, MIE data typically also indicate whether the article has been read, cited, or authored by a user.

It all begins with the Mendeley desktop application and website, currently used by over two million members. Subscribers to MIE invite members of their organization to join and download Mendeley. The desktop application and website then allow those who sign up to manage their personal research information in several ways.

First, Mendeley helps researchers to organize PDFs on their computers by automatically placing documents in user-defined folders, renaming files (based on user preferences), and automatically adding article metadata. There only needs to be one copy of an article, but that item can be in multiple Mendeley folders. Second, Mendeley acts as a useful document reader, offering annotation, highlighting, and note-taking tools. Finally, the system works with Microsoft Word and other word-processing programs to automatically insert in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists in any of thousands of citation styles.

Usability The Mendeley application allows users to sync some (or all) of their PDF documents (up to 1GB) to the online Mendeley accounts, making them accessible from any computer. Although individuals can purchase larger storage plans, MIE will freely provide institutions with increased storage for individuals and for teams.

In order for MIE’s analytical tools to work, users must adopt Mendeley into their workflow. As a result, the MIE data will only reflect what those users are reading, publishing, and citing. Despite reports of reasonable adoption in institutions using MIE, this is a serious limitation.

Administrators can get detailed analytics—updated daily—about the items their faculty, staff, and students are using. The data fall into four main categories: what users are reading, where they are publishing, who else is reading publications from the institution, and how users are interacting in Mendeley’s groups.

The readership analytics illustrate which publications are being read—that is, which items have been added to local Mendeley accounts. Data are displayed graphically and are broken down by publication. Users self identify by discipline (not necessarily department), allowing administrators to examine which publications are read by each discipline. This provides a level of clarity that COUNTER reports can’t provide, but is limited by the self-selection of Mendeley adopters and the self-identification of disciplines.

Libraries can also upload an alphabetical list of holdings to see if users are reading things they have access to or items they acquired through other means. This also provides easier access to subscription journals when users find articles via the Mendeley website.

Within Mendeley, patrons can identify publications in which their work appears. MIE collects and summarizes this data, allowing administrators to see where their users are publishing. Like the readership data, this information can be broken down by discipline. Interestingly, MIE can be integrated with an institutional repository by using Symplectic Elements. This allows the syncing of users’ publications between Mendeley and an institutional repository.

MIE also provides information about how much an institution’s publications are being read by other Mendeley users. These readership metrics fall under the category of “alternative metrics” or “altmetrics” and can provide administrators with a more complete picture of the total impact of a publication than just citation counts or the often misused, but ubiquitous in academia, “impact factor.”

Librarians and administrators access the institutional data by logging on to the Mendeley website and navigating to the group management tools for the institution. There is no application to download, and any institutional group member can be named an administrator.

Analytical data are available via five tabs, including an overview tab that provides a brief summary of readership, publishing, and groups. Other tabs provide data about items added to Mendeley (Reading), institutional publications (Publishing), readership of institutional publications (Impact) and user groups (Social). Data are presented in dynamic, interactive, and easy-to-read graphs, and CSV downloads are available for data.

Pricing Subscriptions to Mendeley Institutional Edition are based on the type and size of the organization, and discounts are available for consortia. Subscriptions for small academic institutions (with fewer than 500 FTE) start at $5,500. Very large institutions (more than 50,000 FTE) would pay $50,000 per year. Because Mendeley is the most useful for those managing many research articles, the company allows undergraduates to be excluded from the FTE account under certain circumstances. Corporate pricing is based on the number of intended Mendeley users and starts at $5,500 for organizations with fewer than 200 users.

Verdict Mendeley Institutional Edition aims to provide libraries with hard-to-get data about how users are actually using digital items, rather than just access data. MIE offers a clean, easy-to-use administrative interface and doesn’t require that the administrator has any special data-analysis skills. This is good news for librarians who have struggled to make sense of confusing COUNTER reports. The high cost of the service makes it a tough sell when many libraries are facing journal cancellations and flat or decreasing budgets. Mendeley Institutional Edition would be best for academic institutions with a large number of graduate students and corporations with a research focus.


Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu

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Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu.

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