Should Altmetric impact your choice of reference/citation tool?

If I were to save an article to a Mendeley library, that would be counted by Altmetric.  If I were to save the same paper to a RefME library, it wouldn’t.

Altmetric and it’s colourful little doughnut is becoming more and more commonplace.   The use of these metrics is also becoming more widespread.

Example of the Altmetric doughnut from the BioOne platform

Example of the Altmetric doughnut from the BioOne platform

At the same time, options for reference or citation management tools are still increasing.  I was introduced to a relatively new option, RefME, just last week at Internet Librarian International 2015.  As part of the learning or research support we offer, librarians often recommend and/or teach particular reference/citation management tools to our users.

One of the things Altmetric measures is the number of readers an article has, using data from reference management tools.  However, Altmetric only counts readers on 2 platforms currently – Mendeley and CiteULike – although they are hoping to add Zotero soon.  Should we be worried about whether our library users are being counted in Altmetric’s statistics? And if so, how high up the priority list should this be when assessing the suitability of a reference management tool for an individual or for general promotion?

If we recommend a reference management tool to our users and they all start using it, it could impact on the Altmetric reader counts for the articles they are reading.  If they are reading research produced by our institution, and the impact or value of that research is being assessed, at least in part, by Altmetric’s data, then that’s good for our institution isn’t it?  Part of me feels this isn’t fair, and it’s just another example of being able to ‘play the game’ and influence metrics by knowing how they work.  But then another part feels I should want to contribute to this new metric, to improve it and add to the data by having what I am reading counted.

So what do you think?  Have any libraries chosen to promote Mendeley or CiteULike because of Altmetric?  Would you consider doing so?  I’m really interested to know what you think.

Corrected to clarify that although Altmetric counts Mendeley and CiteULike readers, they do not contribute to the Altmetric score.  See Stacy Konkiel’s comments for more information.


Thing 14 (part 2): Reference management, a library perspective

This post was written for 23 Things for Professional Development, Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike.

My last post was all about the experience of using reference managers as a student.  This post is about my experience of librarians providing support for the use reference managers.

When I was working as a trainee at the Radcliffe Science Library I had the opportunity to get involved with some of the user education offered by the librarians.  I tested the worksheets that were given to participants at user education sessions and helped at the sessions as a demonstrator (i.e. when the participants were on the practical part of a workshop I went round answering questions).  There were some sessions which covered just reference management and some where reference management was just part of a session on research skills.  Some sessions were a compulsory part of the course, but most were advertised by the library and open to anyone.  Mostly they were aimed at undergraduates tackling their first research assignment and/or first year postgraduates.  One-to-one sessions with subject librarians was also available.  Different sessions used different software and certain departments had a preference for different software.  The full range of courses included RefWorks and EndNote which were provided by the university as well as the (currently) freely available Zotero and Mendeley.

There is also an online guide to reference management, with specific information on RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley and Colwiz at  One of my projects during my trainee year was to research and produce this guide.

Thing 14 (part 1): Reference management, a personal perspective

This post was written for 23 Things for Professional Development, Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike

You mean you do it all by hand!?

One thing that surprised me during my graduate trainee year was that hardly any of my fellow trainees had ever used reference management software before.  I had assumed that everyone who ever had to write a dissertation or coursework essay at university would have used it.  I now know this is not the case.  I think perhaps this is a subject thing.  I did a science degree and reference managers certainly seem popular with the students at the science library where I did my traineeship.  If this is the case I wonder why?  Do scientists have more references, do non-scientists have more references in unusual formats which reference managers don’t deal with so well or is it just that there is more awareness of reference managers in science?  Or does it depend which university you go to?  I’d be interested if anyone has any ideas on the matter or knows of reference managers being popular in other subjects.

Trials and tribulations of reference management

My first experience of reference management was a skills session on EndNote at the beginning of my third year of my undergraduate degree.  Interestingly this was given by an academic, not a librarian.   As getting EndNote on my laptop would have involved me parting with a hefty sum of money I decided to use EndNote Web (which I thought was freely available until went home for Christmas and found it was asking for my university log in!) for the references I needed for my third year and then fourth year projects.

EndNote Web was not perfect and one day while sat at a library computer getting thoroughly frustrated at the extremely long time it was taking to do something my lovely department librarian showed me Zotero.  I tried it out, but didn’t really like the interface so decided to stick with EndNote Web.  A decision I was later to regret when less than a week before my fourth year project was due to be handed in EndNote Web’s Cite While You Write (the bit that integrates with MS Word to create in text citations and bibliographies) stopped working and did something very strange to all my citations and my bibliography.  I sorted it out in the end via EndNote, but not without further complications and a lot of stress.  I haven’t heard of anyone else having similar problems with EndNote Web, and it may have had something to do with my old version of MS Word, but my relationship with EndNote Web was irreparably damaged and I changed allegiance to Zotero.

During my traineeship I used Mendeley for my references I used at work when writing biographies of the people we held archives of, but continued using Zotero to store other references.  I used Mendeley because it was the easiest thing to get to work without admin rights on the computer I was using and it did the job.  Now I’ve started my MA I’ve had another think about which reference manager I want to use.  I’ve settled on Zotero as it’s (currently) freely available so I will continue to be able to use it wherever I end up working in the future and it can import references from the UCL online catalogue and the bibliographic databases I’m most likely to use.  Although I did have to spend a couple of hours yesterday unsuccessfully trying to get it to work with OpenOffice (I don’t have MS Office on my laptop) and then giving up and downloading LibreOffice which I have managed to get Zotero to work with.

Why bother?

So, with all the stress and difficulties why do I still bother using a reference manager?  My main reason is to keep track of all the things that I’ve read so that I can find them again if I want to reference or re-read them.  I can store my references in folders so that I can find everything I read for a particular course in one place, I can add tags to my references which I can then search (one of the tags I use is ‘to read’, which I find very useful), I can add notes to the reference to summarise it, tell me which bit was useful or said something interesting, tell me why I read it, etc.  If I had to do it all by hand I just wouldn’t be as organised.  Oh, and (when it works) it does make formatting references much easier and quicker.

Zotero 3.0 – exciting new features

Last week saw the launch of Zotero 3.0.  Zotero is currently my personal reference manager of choice and I was quite excited to see a couple of the new features of Zotero 3.0 (and to see them working!).

The major new feature to come with Zotero 3.0 is the introduction of Zotero Standalone with connectors to Google Chrome and Safari as well as Firefox.  Previously,  Zotero was only available as an extension for the Firefox web browser, viewed in a separate pane within Firefox.  Zotero Standalone is a desktop version of Zotero with references captured from web pages via a web browser connector.

From the point of view of using Zotero, Zotero Standalone works in exactly the same way as the Firefox extension version except that it is in a separate window rather than a pane within Firefox and you have a choice of three web browsers.  I’ve already found it useful to be able to choose whether I want to look at Zotero at the same time as a webpage (via the Zotero Firefox extension) or in full screen (via Zotero Standalone) depending on what I’m doing.

The other new feature in Zotero 3.0 which I was very pleased to see (so pleased a little celebratory dance was required!) was duplicate detection.  Zotero is now able to recognise where two references in my library are the same thing and then merge them – though don’t worry it won’t merge records unless you ask it too.  I haven’t tested it extensively yet, but it seems to work very well.