It seems that my quest to close the digital research circle has been joined by a few fellow researchers.
The idea is compelling and would not only save both time and paper, but would offer new opportunities for collaborative research.
In my post, Closing the Digital Research Circle
, I outlined the basic structure by which we could download PDF files into a reference management system that would handle bibliographic data and manage the PDF files themselves. These libraries of files and data would be sharable with others, or made private. Notes could be take digitally, the files could be annotated and remained synced in the cloud so they are accessible across multiple devices. Finally, the bibliographical information would interface seamlessly with word processing programs so that the transition from gathering to integrating to processing research and, ultimately, to creating new work could be done dynamically and digitally.
In the weeks since I wrote the post on Closing the Digital Research Circle
, and the follow-up post, Zotero, the iPad and Summer Research
, I have started to play with Mendeley
Mendeley is being designed and developed by the people who made Last.fm
, and the idea is to do for research what Last.fm did for music. What they have done for me, though, is offer an easy way to organize all my pdf files with their bibliographical information. They have also given me an easy way to create a digital vita with links to pdf files of my work accessible to those who visit my Mendeley Profile
Mendeley has both a web interface and a client. Applications for the iPad, iPhone and Droid are being developed, at least according to William Gunn
, who has been very helpful in introducing Mendeley to me. Having played a bit with Papers
, Mendeley has much of the same file managing functionality and the same iTunes-like ease of use, but adds the dimension of bibliographic information and the ability to share libraries on the web.
The benefit of Mendeley over Zotero
is that Mendeley also gives you the ability to annotate PDF files right in the program itself. The social side of it is also more dynamic than Zotero. The strength of Zotero over Mendeley is its ability to simply bring bibliographical information from the web via the Firefox web plug-in
into your library. Zotero does this beautifully. Happily, Mendeley integrates well with Zotero and you can have your Zotero library sync with Mendeley.
So, we are now getting closer to the ultimate vision (although I am still thinking about how best to integrate ebooks into the process, but one thing at a time). Here is what I do now:
- Download bibliographic information and pdf files into my Zotero library using the Zotero Firefox plug-in.
- Sync with Mendeley to bring the Zotero information and the files into Mendeley.
- Have Mendeley organize my pdf files to a folder on Dropbox.
- Using the iPad Dropbox application, connect to the folder into which Mendeley has organized my files.
- Pull up the paper, read it in Dropbox without annotation, OR
- Using the Open In button at the top right, open the file in iAnnotate for the iPad and do annotations right there.
- Sadly, to return the document to Dropbox, you will need to email it back to yourself and overwrite the file in Dropbox – this is the weak link at the moment.
So, we are getting closer here. I am very hopeful that a Mendeley iPad application will have adequate annotating capabilities and file managing abilities, but until then, this just might work for me.