Impact Challenge Day 4: Connect with other researchers on

Next up for our Impact Challenge is Mendeley.

Are you surprised? While there was pushback against Mendeley after it was unexpectedly bought by Elsevier a few years ago, and it is marketed more as a reference manager than a social network, Mendeley remains popular with many academics and librarians. It offers ways to connect with other researchers that you can’t find on other platforms.

Mendeley Web (the online counterpart to the desktop reference management software) is similar to Google Scholar in several ways. What’s distinctive about Mendeley is that it offers better opportunities to interact with other researchers and get your research in front of communities that might be interested in it, in a context where they’re largely interacting with scholarship they intend to actually read and cite.

Moreover, Mendeley’s Readership Statistics can tell you a lot about the demographics that have bookmarked your work–an important indicator of who’s reading your work and who might cite it in the future.

We’re also going to talk in this post about Zotero, which is quite similar to Mendeley. We’re big supporters of Zotero because it’s an open-source non-profit, and we see that as a killer feature for science tools. However, although it really shines as a reference manager, Zotero’s community features are less powerful–mostly because they have less activity. So we’ll provide links and information on how to do some of these steps in Zotero, but not in as much detail.

Step 1: Create a profile

Logon to and click the “Create a free profile” button. Create a login and, on the next screen, enter your general field of study and your academic status (student, professor, postdoc, etc).

As you advance to the next screen, beware: Mendeley Desktop will automatically start downloading to your computer. (You’ll need it to make the next step a bit easier on yourself, but you can also make do without it. Your call.) Download it and install it if you plan to use it for the next step–importing your publications.

Zotero alternative: Logon to, click “Register” in the upper right-hand corner, and register for an account. Once you’ve validated your new account, click your username in the upper right-hand corner (where it says, “Welcome, username!”) and then click on the “Edit Profile” link on the next screen to head to the Profile section of your Zotero settings. There, you can create a profile.

Step 2: Import your publications

If you didn’t install Mendeley Desktop, here’s how to add your references manually using Mendeley Web:

  • Click the “My Library” tab, then the “Add Document” icon.

  • On the “Add New Document” dialog box that appears, select “My Publications” from the “Add to” drop-down menu, then use the “Type” drop-down menu to specify what type of document you’re adding to your “My Publications” list (article, book section, thesis, etc).

  • The dialog box will automatically expand, giving you many fields to fill out with descriptive information for that publication. Complete as many as possible, so others can find your publication more easily. If an Open Access link to the full-text of your publication exists, provide it in the URL box. And be sure to add a DOI, if you’ve got one. Click “Save” when finished.

  • Rinse and repeat as necessary, until all your articles are added to your profile.

If you’ve got Mendeley Desktop installed, your job is much easier. Export your publications in .bib format from Google Scholar (which we covered in yesterday’s challenge), and then:

  • Fire up Desktop and select “My Publications” from the “My Library” panel in the upper left corner of the screen.

  • Click File > Import > BibTeX (.bib) on the main menu.

  • On your computer, find the citations.bib file you exported from Google Scholar, select it, and click “Open”. Mendeley will begin to import these publications automagically.

  • In the dialog box that appears, confirm that you are the author of the documents that you’re importing, and that you have the rights to share them on Mendeley. Click “I agree.”

  • Click the “Sync” button at the top of the Desktop screen to Sync your local Mendeley library with your Mendeley Web library.

That’s it! You’ve just added all your publications to your Mendeley profile. And you know how to add any missing publications that didn’t auto-import, to boot.

Here’s what your profile page will look like, now that you’ve added publications to your My Publications library:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.12.32 PM.png

Zotero alternative: to auto-import your publications from a BiBTeX file, follow these instructions. To manually add publications, follow these instructions.

Step 3: Follow other researchers

Now you’re ready to connect with other researchers. Consider this step akin to introducing yourself at a conference over coffee: informal, done in passing, and allowing others to put a face to a name.

First, you’ll need to find others to follow. Search for colleagues or well-known researchers in your field by name from the Mendeley search bar in the upper right-hand screen of Mendeley Web:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.17.39 PM.png

Be sure to select “People” from the drop-down menu, so you search for profiles and not for papers that they’ve authored.

When you find their profile, click on their name in the search results, and then click the “Follow” button on the right-hand side of the profile:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.20.56 PM.png

That’s it! Now you’ll receive updates on your Mendeley homepage when they’ve added a new publication to their profile or done something else on the site, like join a group.

Zotero alternative: Zotero works in a very similar way. Search for your colleague, find their profile, and click the red “Follow” button at the top-right of their profile to begin following them.

Step 4: Join groups relevant to your research

If Step 3 was like introducing yourself during a conference coffee break, Step 4 is like joining a “Birds of a Feather” group over lunch, to talk about common interests and get to know each other a bit better.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.27.13 PM.png

Mendeley groups are places where researchers interested in a common topic can virtually congregate to post comments and share papers. It’s a good place to find researchers in your field who might be interested in your publications. And it’s also the single best place on the platform to learn about work that’s recently been published and is being talked about in your discipline.

To find a group, search for a subject using the search toolbar you used for Step 3, making sure to select “Groups” from the drop-down menu. Look through the search results and click through to group pages to determine if the group is still active (some groups were abandoned long-ago).

If so, join it! And then sit back and enjoy all the new knowledge that your fellow group members will drop on you in the coming days, which you can view from either the group page or your Mendeley homescreen.

And you can feel free to drop some knowledge on them, too. Share your articles, if relevant to the group’s scope. Pose questions and answer others’ questions. Openly solicit collaborators if you’ve got an interesting project in the pot that you need help on, like Abbas here has:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.43.54 PM.png

Use groups like you would any other professional networking opportunity: as a place to forge new connections with researchers you might not have a chance to meet otherwise.

Zotero alternative: Zotero works in a very similar way. Search for a group topic, find a group you want to join, and click the red “Join Group” button at the top of the page.

Step 5: Learn who’s bookmarking your work

Once your work is on Mendeley, you can learn some basic information about who’s saving it in their libraries via Mendeley’s Readership Statistics. And that’s interesting to know because Mendeley bookmarks are a leading indicator for later citations.

To see the readership demographics for your publications, head to the article’s page on Mendeley. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a small Readership Statistics panel:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.58.08 PM.png

Readership Statistics can tell you how many readers you have on Mendeley (meaning, how many people have bookmarked your publication), what discipline they belong to, their academic status, and their country. Very basic information, to be sure, but it’s definitely more than you’d know about your readers if you were looking at the number of readers alone.

Zotero alternative: Zotero doesn’t yet offer readership statistics or any other altmetrics for publications on their site, but they will soon. Stay tuned!


Perhaps the biggest limitation to Mendeley is their association with Elsevier. Mendeley was acquired by the publishing behemoth in early 2013, while the ghastly, Elsevier-backed Research Works Act fail was still fresh in many academics’ minds.

As danah boyd points out, even after Elsevier dropped support for the RWA and the “#mendelete” fracas ended, Elsevier was (and is) still doing a lot that’s not researcher-friendly. And yet, some of us continue to eat at McDonald’s knowing what goes into their chicken nuggets. Like any big organization, Elsevier does some stuff right and some stuff wrong, and it’s up to researchers to decide how it all balances out; there’s lots of room for reasonable folks to disagree. For what it’s worth: at Impactstory, one of us is a Zotero early adopter and code-contributor, one of us has switched from Mendeley to Zotero, and one of us uses both 🙂

Drawbacks to the platform itself? You can’t easily extract readership information for your publications unless you use Mendeley’s open API (too high a barrier for many of us to pass). So, you’ll need to cut-and-paste that information into your website, CV, or annual review, just as you would when using Google Scholar. (It’s relatively easy to extract readership numbers using third-party services like Impactstory, on the other hand. More on that in the days to come.)

A final drawback: if you want to add new publications, you’ll have to do it yourself. Mendeley doesn’t auto-add new publications to your profile like Google Scholar or other platforms can.


First, complete your profile by manually adding any works that the BibTeX import from Google Scholar didn’t catch.

Next, build your network by following at least five other researchers in your field, and joining at least two groups. On each of the groups you’ve joined, share at least one publication, whether it’s one you’ve authored or one written by someone else. Remember, make sure they’re relevant to the group, or else you’ll be pegged as a spammer.

Over the next few days, log onto Mendeley Web (or Zotero Web) at least one more time, and become acquainted with your homescreen timeline to stay abreast of new research that’s been added to groups or your colleagues’ profiles.

Finally, learn how to export your publications–and the rest of your library–from Mendeley, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel attempting to set up a profile for your publications on another platform. Here’s how to get your library out of Mendeley in BibTeX format:

  • In Mendeley Desktop, select all publications you want to export.

  • From the main menu, click File > Export.

  • In the dialog box that appears, choose BibTeX from the drop-down menu, rename your bibliography if you want, and choose a safe place to store the .bib file. Click “Save” and you’re done!

Are you hangin’ in there?

You’ve now completed your Day 4 challenge, meaning you’re over halfway finished with Week 1, and over 10% finished with the entire month. That’s some free math, from us to you 🙂


Tomorrow, we’ll master LinkedIn. Get ready!

One thought on “Impact Challenge Day 4: Connect with other researchers on

  1. Mendeley is indeed awesome. It saved my bottom many times during my PhD. I my master thesis I used (and suffered) EndNote. I was very happy when I discovered Mendeley at the beginning of my PHD.

    At next Scientist we are running a little giveaway for Mendeley you might find interesting.

    We have 5 Mendeley Premium Team Plans for free during 4 years. Check the Mendeley giveaway here

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