Every few months someone asks me what I use to manage my papers. Stupidly, I don’t use anything. Or I haven’t. Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing around with PubChase and Mendeley. You probably know of the latter, and the fact that it’s been purchased Elsevier. Elsevier is what it is. Mendeley on the other hand is a firm that I have a positive view of, in part because of their culture of openness and support for the free flow of information, but also due to the fact that I’ve known their head of outreach for ten years. You trust people, not things. Mendeley‘s not a charity, and I don’t begrudge them their new resources now that they are under the corporate wing of Elsevier. Whether you’re pessimistic or optimistic about their future, I think caution is warranted.
PubChase is a new outfit you probably have not heard of. It’s product is a bit beta-ish feeling to me. I’ve been testing it on and off for a while now, because I have known one of the scientists who works for them for about five years. There are a few things missing, which I’ve been curious about. For example, where is the extension to simply add papers via Chrome? When I inquired about this the response I got was that you could import your Mendeley citations into PubChase. Not totally useful for me, but with the controversy over Mendeley‘s new corporate patron, this is probably a good opportunity for PubChase to position themselves as an alternative.
The ultimate issue here is getting relevant signal from noise. Individual human curation is still useful (ergo, Haldane’s Sieve). I don’t follow too many people on Twitter in part because I don’t want to get overwhelmed. And my focus is more professional than personal, so I have a lot of genomics and evolution people.
In the future I’m going to look for applications which not only manage the sea of data, but help you navigate it. There are way too many papers I download and only see three or four years later as I’m cleaning out folders.