Access-Oriented Literature Management

There has been a fair amount of backlash in the last few days directed at Mendeley and Elsevier. Some of it coming from open source advocates who hate to see good software contributing to the boycott-worthy Evil Empire of closed-source publishing, and some of it from folks who are not happy to share their user data with said Evil Empire. Personally, I rather appreciated the perspective of Jason Hoyt.

When PubChase was first conceived, I had no ambition for competing with Mendeley (or any other PDF management software), but our faithful early adopters made it very clear that syncing libraries between PubChase and other software was a task they didn’t welcome, no matter how much they appreciated our search and suggestion features. Thus, we’ve made the decision to support PDF storage and organization within PubChase, which has put us squarely in the headlights of the Evil Empire’s newest acquisition.

So, it’s quite tempting for me to look at the disruption of the “disruptive start-up” as an opportunity for PubChase to snag some Mendeley refugees as we move into our full-scale growth phase. And it would be very helpful to get feedback from seasoned Mendeley users as we implement and refine our PDF management interface. But, something else occurs to me that cuts, I think, to the heart of the discontented #mendelete crowd.

PubChase, from the outset, intended to offer a free web portal, along with mobile devices, to access literature from anywhere. Instead of developing one platform, we have insisted on forging ahead on multiple platforms (web, iOS, Android, including Kindle), hoping to reach all classes of user. It’s the ready access to information that is the driving pulse of in heart of technological advancement. Many internet organs facilitate this access, both for-profit and non-profit (Amazon and Wikipedia have both done mountains of good for information access, despite their two very different motivations). The service to scientific advancement provided by NCBI’s PubMed is mammoth, but lacks the leverage that contemporary search algorithms ply against an ever-larger mountain of literature to sort through. PubChase rights that missed opportunity, and so in this way too, we are facilitating access to information for the researchers who use our website and mobile apps.

So, in the week that our first steps toward PDF management hit the website (notice direct links to PDFs available in PubMed Central are now available), we make this pledge to our users and future users: we are here to facilitate your access to literature. That means saving you time when you search for papers. And it means helping you search for them whether you’re standing in your lab, sitting at your desk, riding on a subway car, listening in a seminar room… you get the idea.

And, while we’re not a non-profit, we do realize the conflict inherent in suggesting to you what information to read and being owned by a company that sells access to that information.


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