Friday, April 30, 2010

Mendeley Open API and the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Mendeley have called for proposals to use their forthcoming API. The API will publicly available soon, but in a clever move Mendeley will provide early access to developers with cool ideas.
Given that the major limitation of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (from my perspective) is the lack of article-level metadata, and Mendeley has potentially lots of such data, I wonder whether this is something that could be explored. My BioStor project takes article metadata and finds articles in BHL, so an attractive work flow would be:
  1. People upload bibliographies to Mendeley (e.g., bibliographies for particular taxa, journals, etc.)

  2. BioStor uses Mendeley's API to find articles liklely to be in BHL, then locates the actual article in Mendeley.

  3. The user could then grab a PDF of the article from BioStor that contains XMP metadata (which Mendeley, and other tools, can read)

Users would gain a tool to manage their bibliographies (assuming that they prefer Mendeley to other tools, or are happy to sync with Mendeley), they would be contributing to a database of taxonomic (and biological literature in general, BHL's content is pretty diverse), and also gain easy access to PDFs for BHL content (this last feature depends on whether Mendeley can associate a PDF with an existing bibliographic record automatically). In the same way, a tool such as BioStor (and, by implication, BHL) could gain usage statistics (i.e., who is reading these articles?).

Our communities efforts at assembling bibliographies haven't amounted to much yet. The tools we use tend to be poor. I find CiteBank to be underwhelming, and Drupal's bibliographic modules (used by CiteBank and ScratchPads) lack key features. We also seem reluctant to contribute to aggregated bibliographies. Perhaps encouraging people to use a nicer tool, and at the same time providing additional benefits (e.g., XMP PDFs) might help move things forward.

Anyway, food for thought. Perhaps other tools might make more sense, such as using the API to upload metadata and PDFs direct from BioStor to Mendeley, and making the collection public. But, if I were Mendeley, what I'd be looking for are tools that enhance the Mendeley experience. There's some obvious scope for visualising the output and social networks of authors, such as the sparklines and coauthor graphs I've been playing with in BioStor (for example, for W E Duellman):



Before this blog post starts to veer irretrievably off course, I'd be interested in thoughts of anyone interested in matters BHL. There's nothing like a deadline (Friday, May 14th) to concentrate the mind...