What is it?
Mendeley is a social reference manager. This means that you can use it to track your references and manage how they appear in your paper's bibliography, much like the traditional reference managers such as EndNote or RefWorks, but you can also use it to share recommendations, notes and even articles with your peers in research groups. Mendeley has a desktop version that synchronises with a web version which allows you to easily save and add references in your browser and then add them to your desktop version as well. Mendeley works on a freemium basis, this means that you can get most of their services for free, but you only get 2gb storage capabilities and the ability to create one private group and a limited number of collaborators. If you invest in one of the paid plans, you can buy access to more storage and create more private groups.
What can it do for me?
Mendeley is a free reference manager service, that will allow you to use it across platforms and devices. Since it's free, you won't lose any data if you move to a different place of employment, which might use different institutional software. It allows you to organise and annotate your PDF's, discover articles your peers are reading, and collaborate with other researchers. When using Word, Open Office or BibTex it will also allow you to cite while you write.
Mendeley collects all the usual data you provide plus they collect information on what you search and read to improve their recommendations to you. The usual cautions apply to the information you provide. Be aware of what you put out there and when interacting in groups, remember who could be reading along.
Pro’s & Cons
- Service is free
- Mendeley is platform-agnostic
- Mendeley is easy to use
- Mendeley was bought by Elsevier in 2013. It's unclear how this will affect the development of the product and its status as very Open Access friendly.
- No "cite while you write"-integration with Apple-specific software
- Legality of sharing some of the copyrighted materials on the site is questionable