An open system

April 14, 2016

It’s useful to have articles questioning the role of for-profit services in the academic sector (“Do academic social networks share academics’ interests?”, Features, 7 April). However, it is somewhat less useful for surveys of academic social network usage that do not address such issues to be misused as a jumping-off point for that discussion.

In a more considered analysis, one can see that Mendeley has aligned itself so that it becomes more valuable as the scholarly ecosystem grows stronger and more diverse. If we truly want a “distributed commons with shared governance”, we need to embrace the idea of an ecosystem of applications that fits the diverse needs of various fields rather than one monolithic site that aims to be everything for everyone. Millions of academics, publishers, institutions, non-profits and start-ups actively use our site and we are proud of our role in the ecosystem.

A few points of clarification are in order: 1. This is absolutely not a horse race., Mendeley and Researchgate are all distinct entities. Winner-takes-all dynamics are not in play here. 2. The survey asked specifically about profiles, not about total activity with a given service, making the comparisons between sites entirely unsupported by the data in the survey. 3. Mendeley is the only site of the three mentioned above that has an open application programme interface (API) and from which you can freely export your data. Given the closing statement about the ethics of open systems, it is worth pointing this out. There are hundreds of applications that now leverage the Mendeley API, demonstrating our commitment to an ecosystem view of scholarly communication. 4. There are many other sites such as ORCID and Impact Story that provide data portability without proprietary rankings and vendor lock-in. These people deserve plenty of credit for what they do, even if it is still relatively early days for some.

William Gunn
Director of scholarly communication

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