London-based Mendeley, launched in 2009 by three former PhD students, is used by around two million researchers worldwide to discover, share and annotate research papers, and to network and collaborate with other academics.
Its sale to the giant academic publisher Elsevier for up to £65 million, which has been rumoured for some time, was finally confirmed on April 8.
Some open access advocates in particular reacted with horror to the rumours, launching a campaign on the social networking site Twitter, under the hashtag “mendelete”, encouraging academics to delete their Mendeley accounts.
Many object to Elsevier’s historic opposition to open access, which led to last year’s pledge by thousands of academics to boycott it. The boycott was led by mathematician Sir Tim Gowers, Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professor at the University of Cambridge.
Fears have also abounded that Elsevier would no longer permit Mendeley to release its usage data freely to developers of “alternative metrics” of article influence.
However, Olivier Dumon, managing director of academic and government markets for Elsevier, said Mendeley would continue to operate as it currently does. It would maintain its “freemium” pricing model and independent platform, and will still be run by its founders.
On Mendeley’s blog, those founders say they could have continued to build independently, but felt that “the opportunity to give our users access to better content, more data, and faster development was just too exciting to pass up”.
“Of course, we are aware that – especially in the past year – the academic community has criticised Elsevier for some of its policies and positions. Our own relationship with Elsevier has been conflicted at times.
“We were being challenged by some parts of the organisation over whether we intended to undermine journal publishers (which was never the case), while other parts of the organisation were building successful working relationships with us and even helped to promote Mendeley.”
They add that Elsevier “struck us as one of the most innovative and tech-savvy publishers out there”.
“Combining Elsevier’s content, analytics tools, and long-standing publisher/society relationships with Mendeley’s collaboration platform and social data will enable both of us to develop amazing new services that will make [researchers’ lives] easier,” they say.
Mr Dumon said Elsevier’s first act would be to expand Mendeley users’ storage capacity.
“[Elsevier] is a complex, dynamic, evolving company that cares about supporting the research community. And we know that means supporting a divergent set of perspectives and serving a variety of communities. But we’re totally aligned when it comes to the product, the vision and the benefits this union will deliver to the research community,” he said.