Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mendeley as CiteBank: some ideas

Here are some quick notes on how BHL could use Mendeley as a "CiteBank".

As a repository of bibliographic data

If the goal is to assemble a "bibliography of life" then there are various ways this could be done.

Taxon-specific bibliographies

Create groups that are taxon-specific (or find existing groups in Mendeley. For example, I've created groups for amphibias (Amphibian Species of the World) and reptiles (TIGR/JCVI Reptile Database) based on the Amphibian Species of the World and TIGR/JCVI Reptile Database, respectively. Taxon-specific groups are probably going to be attractive to users, but the quality of bibliographic metadata can be variable. However, a bibliography for a specific taxonomic group that is populated with links to BHL content would be very useful.

Journal-specific bibliographies

This is where I've spent most of my efforts. I've created around 300 groups for various journals (see list below, or go directly to http://dl.dropbox.com/u/639486/groups.html). In some cases I've managed to populate these with the complete set of articles published in that journal, typically harvested from the journal's own web site. Typically the metadata from journal sites is high quality, although one has to be wary of Orwellian metadata.

I use these groups in two ways. The first is as a source of metadata for extracting articles from BHL using BioStor. If you have article-level metadata finding articles in BHL becomes easier, and can be automated so that 1000's can be added in a few minutes.

The second is for the taxon-literature mapping project, where one strategy is to use approximate string mapping to find equivalent citations in Mendeley and the ION database. Ultimately I'd like to link to the Mendeley citations as they tend to be higher quality than those in the original ION database.

BHL could create Mendeley groups for journals it has scanned, and populate those.

As an article-level index to BHL

This is perhaps the most direct way BHL could use Mendeley is as follows:

  1. Create a BHL account.
  2. For each BHL title create a Mendeley group (the name would be the BHL TitleID).
  3. For each item in that title create a folder in the corresponding group (the folder name would be the ItemID).
  4. Within each folder list the articles, book chapters or other component parts. If these aren't available yet, encourage people to add them. Some of these could be pre-populated with content from BioStor.
  5. Harvest the contents of these groups to provide an article-level index to BHL (which for me is the single biggest impediment to using BHL). Previously I've suggested a way to easily add article data to BHL, Mendeley title/item groups and folders might be way to facilitate this process.
PDF storage

Although Mendeley offers PDF storage, this is one feature I'd be less inclined to use. Mendeley's rule for sharing PDFs and making them publicly available are too restrictive (they often don't know whether a PDF can, in fact, be shared). Plus you want tools to visualise, index, and archive PDFs. In effect a big file store with added features. I have some ideas on how this can be implemented (and have a rough working version to support http://iphylo.org/~rpage/itaxon). Alternatively, one could use Internet Archive services.


As I've often argued, given the success of tools like Mendeley it seems pointless for anyone to try and build yet another online bibliographic database. The trick is to figure out how to leverage what Mendeley provides to support what the taxonomic (and broader biodiversity) community needs.