Another Start-up Bites the Dust: Elsevier Buys Mendeley

When TechCrunch reported that there were talks going on between Elsevier and Mendeley this January, I did not want to believe it. Being an ardent user and advocate of the platform, I wanted it to stay out of the clutches of Big Pub. But it is now official, Mendeley has been acqui-hired by Elsevier for an unknown amount, which could be anything from65-100 million US $.

After Posterous being pwned by Twitter last year and then eventually getting shut down this year, my mind immediately bodes ill on hearing this bit of news. Mendeley was not doing too poorly after they had introduced “pro” features and monetized successfully. Their revenues had apparently tripled since they asked people to cough up money for extra storage space and bigger teams and all that.

There never is a good environment about the acqui-hires. When Twitter took over Tweetdeck, and the Posterous, their death knells were predicted months before they were rung. And Elsevier comes with not the best reputation in the business. From surreptitiously removing journals from the free/susbsidized HINARI, to hiking institutional subscription fees by astronomical amounts, to facing academic rage for being a successful money-minting business in an otherwise gloomy financial environment – it does not bode well for the nay-sayers, who believe that Mendeley will ultimately go to enhance Scopus, Elsevier’s own initiative.

However, talking purely from the financial and outcomes point of view, this was not a bad move. If Elsevier continues the free version and keeps Mendeley adequately de-centralized as to be able to make their own innovation without too much hierarchical foot stomping, then this is absolutely the best. The developers can concentrate on delivering the best possible product without having to worry about raising money to keep the business afloat.

The Mendeley Blog has put up a QnA style post which assuages my fear that the free version would be closed. And to keep skeptics like me happy, they have thrown in an additional sop – they are doubling everyone’s storage space, to begin with. So, y free account now has a massive 2 GB box. They also assure me that the take-over does not mean that Mendeley shall stoop to promote content from their parent company. But the veracity of that claim can only be established with time.

Anyways. I am a little bit unhappy that the start up has been phagocytosed (not that I complain; fiscal reasons can be more than compelling); but Richard Horton tells us, “Elsevier is changing”:

 

And more than a few have guffawed at this claim. I shall, for the time being, prefer to hold my horses.

But, as I said when Posterous was gobbled by Twitter, I congratulate CEO VIctor Henning and the others in the Mendeley team on the success. I just hope that they continue to run the program as they have done, but better, now that they are (probably) unencumbered with financial considerations.

Literature Search Workshop at UCMS: Extra-Curricular Academics at the MEU

The Medical Education Unit at the University College of Medical Sciences, where I am now doing my residency, is a small, but super-active group of people, and they presented today a workshop on Literature Searching and Reference Management. Although the target audience was mainly the Residents, there was some spill-over as well. There were students from 3rd Semester, Final Semester and even an Intern or two! Also, interestingly, there were a few librarians in the mix – something I could not have even dreamt of in Kolkata! Of course, the bulk of the participants were residents, but it was also great to see the faculty members sit in as students. There were Professors and Asst. Professors who sat in with us, listening in to the session! This was an extremely surprising and enthusing thing, because it is indeed wonderful to see the Profs discard their roles and sit down with us, as one of us! It was a first in my experience, to be entirely honest.

with vasu ma'am

The workshop was conducted by Vasumathi Sriganesh, who we all know as Vasu Ma’am (so much so she chose the same URL for her blog!). For those of you who do not know her, she is the CEO of QMedKF (Facebook them here), and is at the forefront of a slowly, yet steadily growing health information retrieval and understanding revolution in the medical fraternity. She has been a mentor for me, so obviously I shall be providing a biased opinion of her work, so to get your own views, do sit in on a session she conducts. I assure you, if you have any interest in literature search, then you shall be left craving for more! I could say a lot more or review her work in details, but simply attending one session would be more evidence. In fact,if you are in Mumbai or thereabouts on the 24th of this month, see if you can attend an interactive session on Pubmed searching. You can enroll for the program here.

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The first half of the session was an intense work-up on Pubmed. I used to have this pride, that being tech savvy and all, I am  aware of search and have mad skillz, but after coming out from Vasu ma’am sessions, I am always left feeling like I used to hack away like a palaeolithic man with his pathetic stone instruments (I have said this before and I say it again…).

to strive, to seek...

The best part was that the session was largely hands on, with a lot of exercises and examples shown live, online. This was why the session whizzed by and we did not even feel even a bit exasperated by the amount of information that we were having to handle!

This was followed by a session, short and pithy, on searching the Cochrane Database. Now the principles of search were basically the same, with some modifications in the user interface. Since we were running slightly short on time, there were less chances of doing stuff on our own, so, personally, I am not sure how much of the session shall stick or how much flow through the sieve of my memory!

i am monarch of all i survey

[And what meet is complete without embarrassing pictures of me and my rapidly enlarging bald pate? I have decided to keep a folder of all my bald head-shots and call it “Baldemort”. See the baldness that has encroached in on the left margin of the frame? Yours truly…]

The final part of the session was on Mendeley, the reference management software. It was hands on and was obviously an instant hit. The reference-tortured crowd could barely contain their enthusiasm when they were shown that “M” [there, got the Bond-reference of the day in!] could not only act as a library of my references, but also insert an entire bibliography with as much as a single click!

le group

The group was not very large, but was largely motivated, which led to a high quality interactive session overall, and I think we were able to absorb most of the material that was thrown at us!

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One thing that sets UCMS apart from many of the other medical education institutes is the MEU. Led by teachers from different departments, this is a unique league of super-teachers!

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