Editor’s note: This month, Elsevier Connect is exploring open science – and the important role of transparency and collaboration in research. One of Elsevier’s key tools for enabling collaboration and sharing is Mendeley, a free reference manager and academic social network. Here we take a look at how Mendeley supports open science.
According to a recent study published by Elsevier, scientists who choose to collaborate rather than work on their own are more likely to make breakthrough discoveries. Understanding opportunities for collaboration in research is therefore helpful for both a career in this field and the progress of science itself.
Finding a research position
Open science improves career opportunities for researchers by encouraging the sharing of data and ideas while fostering a culture of transparency. This also means ensuring that researchers have free access to information about the opportunities available to them so their skills can be put to use where they are needed most. Mendeley Careers provides such a space.
On the first birthday of Mendeley Careers, Product Manager Heather Williams shared her thoughts on its purpose:
Your career development happens every day. With every human interaction you have and each new skill you learn, you’re developing yourself as a person, and in turn, you give that back to the field you work in by contributing to progress in medicine or building better bridges. We want to increase the awareness of opportunities for positions – academic positions and commercial job opportunities – in front of the job seeker or the researcher at the same time.
A large number of researchers are constantly looking for opportunities, yet too often these can seem to be created behind closed doors. There is a need for more guidance and structure, and Mendeley Careers was built to fill that gap. It’s science’s largest job board, with over 70.000 positions in both the academic and commercial areas. Moreover, It’s free and open for jobseekers and talent-hunters alike, including institutions.
Mendeley users can browse opportunities and get personalized updates on jobs that might be of interest to them based on their CV and detailed Mendeley profile. Each profile is synchronized with Scopus data, offering automatic live updates on citation scores and published papers. This way, the profile becomes the only business card researchers need – one that is always up to date.
As Heather explains, the dream now is to create a space for people to connect. And while more structure is needed to this process, other Mendeley features contribute spontaneously to this goal of career-development for researchers:
We’ve recently done a collaboration with Elsevier’s Publishing Campus and an external expert that led to a webinar, which led to a group on Mendeley called ‘Make a career in research.’ Initially it was set up for the Q&A that came out of the webinar, but it has kept going and growing. People are asking questions such as ‘Do I leave academia? Do I stay? How do I come back into academia?’ because there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this career path. It’s easy to get answers on an open platform, and that is the nice thing about Mendeley, right? One of the reasons that we want to foster the growth of it is that it is indeed open.
Using Mendeley to collaborate
Mendeley’s Groups feature is used for sharing full-text articles with other researchers and collectively annotating them, while Mendeley also facilitates discussions by enabling you to post in groups and stay connected with your network of followers. Its Suggest feature provides recommended readings based on your activity, being a great source for serendipitous discoveries. The list of suggestions learns from the contents of your Mendeley library to increase its relevance over time. Meanwhile, the Mendeley feed provides updates on citations of the work of you and your coauthors, posts shared by people you follow and mentions of yourself or your network in the media.
Dr. Duncan Casey, and Industry Fellow in the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials (BCFN) and a visiting lecturer at Imperial College London, recently shared his experience with Mendeley Groups, a feature he helped shape in his role as a Mendeley advisor. He considered it a vital tool for enabling open communication between teams of researchers:
Mendeley is a tremendous facilitator. It gives you the chance to have live conversations about an article with the annotations in front of you, and you know that everyone is working from the same, final version of the article. … In the Institute for Chemical Biology at Imperial, we had about 80 academics working together. If someone new joined, we could drop all the literature into their inbox: here’s the essential reading list, here’s the recommended list, here’s the cutting-edge stuff – all in different subdirectories.
Using Mendeley for data sharing
Ultimately, the result of open science is synergy. This happens when multiple data are combined to create knowledge about the world for the benefit of science and humanity. However, while many scientists are open to starting collaborations when they are approached for a partnership, very few proactively make their data publicly available.
Mendeley provides a free and open data repository for scientists. It contains rich data of different types and formats, from spreadsheets to images and slides. For example, this dataset describes the discovery of a "cell powerhouse" that is "behind a genetic change known to cause a set of related diseases." The images it contains can be accessed in the built-in previewer, which also provides the correct citation and DOI for each file.
Dr. Helena Cousijn, Senior Product Manager on the Mendeley Research Data Management Solutions team, explained more about how Elsevier noticed the need for such a platform:
In many cases, researchers are asked to make the data available at the end of the project, and that is also the time they come to us to publish the manuscript. We do recognize that there are good domain-specific repositories out there, but we want ensure all researchers have an easy solution if they need it, which is why we started building a generic data repository on the Mendeley platform.
She explained that the researchers decide which license they want to make the data available under, so they can indicate how they want the data to be reused. However, this is always an open license “so the whole world has access to this valuable resource. This way it really supports open science.”
Mendeley Data’s user-friendly interface makes it easy for data sets to be both uploaded and cited, helping researchers get credit for their work and encouraging them to share their data. Users can also choose to set an embargo and a date when the data would become available, while making the metadata public in advance. This way, if a researcher is working on a study, he/she will be aware that someone else has been looking into a similar topic and when that data will be ready to use.
Mendeley has already piloted a search engine for the data deposited on their platform. In the future, this will be expanded to include external domain-specific repositories, maximizing the chances for open data to be reused. Scopus already has a link to the Mendeley Data search engine – when people search on Scopus for articles, they can also select the option to search for data.
Mendeley team members say the constant positive feedback for Mendeley Data encourages them to continue their work while confirming that it does indeed make a difference. Their enthusiasm was conveyed by a researcher from California State University, Northridge, when asked for feedback in an email:
It's wonderful to have a place to store qualitative data in this way. I feel like I've only begun to wrap my head around the possibilities of Mendeley!
The next goal for Mendeley Data is to provide institutional data management solutions. This way, data sharing does not start at the end of the research project but at the beginning. If researchers have a tool that allows them to manage, annotate and collaborate throughout the research life cycle, this will make it much easier for them to practice open data.
While discussing the role of open data on a researcher’s career path, Helena elaborated on the importance of getting credit for your data.
For researchers, there is not always a lot of reward or credit associated with data sharing. I think that is something that needs to change. We show how the datasets can be cited according to the Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles because we think that is an important step towards researchers starting to get credit. It’s a new thing for many of them, and we are trying to make it as smooth and easy as possible.
When researchers receive credit for their work and their data becomes discoverable, their visibility in the scientific sphere increases, clearing the path for collaborations with other people working on the same topic. This way, open science makes the research community more efficient, while offering more opportunities to scientists.
Measuring the impact of your work
Reseachers also need to measure the impact of their work. Here, transparency is also key. As Matt Stratford, Senior Product Manager for Mendeley, pointed out, “Mendeley also aims to bring transparency to the process of measuring impact.”
With Mendeley Stats, scientists can follow their own progress using metrics that describe external engagement with their publications, such as views, number of readers and H-index.. This “researcher self-awareness tool” is vital for collaborations, highlighting the strengths one would bring to a team, explained Senior Product Manager Anna Ritchie: “Mendeley Stats show you who you are in a place of collaboration. It answers the questions ‘What have I achieved as a researcher?’ and ‘What can I bring to the table in X project?’”
This directly impacts one’s career perspective. As Senior Product Marketing Manager Bob Hendriks explained:
When researchers really understand all the different metrics around their work, it can change how they promote themselves and their work or even where in the world they could actively promote themselves.
The journey towards a true community of researchers continues, and with it, the hope that a culture of openness and collaboration will be the norm in the near future. A truly open science will bring more recognition and opportunities for researchers, while partnerships and transparency will maximize the impact of research on society. By signing the Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Guidelines, Elsevier commits to supporting scientists in their work day by day, designing tools and building support networks to empower knowledge.