RefWorks. Refworks claims to be “an online research management, writing and collaboration tool — designed to help researchers easily gather, manage, store and share all types of information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies”. It looks like a pretty good tool, similar to the likes of EndNote but with more web-based features that are common with Citeulike and Connotea. Here are some ultra-brief notes. RefWorks in five minutes, the good, the bad and the ugly.There is no shortage of bibliographic management tools out there, which ultimately aim to save your time managing the papers and books in your personal library. I’ve just been to a demo and sales pitch for one of them, a tool called
Refworks finer features
- Refworks is web based, you can use it from any computer with an internet connection, without having to install any software. Platform independent, Mac, Windows, Linux, Blackberry, iPhone, Woteva. This feature is becoming increasingly common, see Martin Fenner’s Online reference managers, not quite there yet article at Nature Network.
- Share selected references and bibliographies on the Web via RefShare
- It imports and exports all the things you would expect, Endnote (definitely), XML, Feeds (RSS), flat files, BibTeX (check?), RIS (check?) and several others via the screenscraping tool RefGrab-It
- Interfaces with PubMed and Scopus (and many other databases) closely, e.g. you can search these directly from your RefWorks library. You can also export from Scopus to Refworks…
- Not part of the Reed-Elsevier global empire (yet), currently part of ProQuest, based in California.
- Free 30 day trial is available
- Just like EndNote, it can be closely integrated with Microsoft Word, to cite-while-you-write
Refworks not so fine features
- The 2008 version of RefWorks I saw demonstrated didn’t seem to import anything later than EndNote version 8 (e.g. not EndNote X and Endnote X2) – but see Nicks comments below
- Can’t search Thomson-Reuters ISI Web of Knowledge (WoK) from it, as there are (cough) “competition issues”. Ditto, at the time of writing, WoK will not export in RefWorks format. Scopus (part of Reed-Elsevier) + RefWorks is a serious commercial competitor to ISI WoK + EndNote (both owned by Thomson-Reuters).
- Let’s say your current institution has a RefWorks subscription, if you move to a new institution that doesn’t subscribe, you could have problems accessing and using your library. The same is true for EndNote, and many other software that you pay for, beware of vendor lock-in, and see Nicks comments below.
- Currently, there is no RefWorks API, other than doing simple HTTP GETs, making it potentially more difficult to include and reuse RefWorks software in other packages.
- There are some issues with importing large libraries into RefWorks, see the ongoing Connotea vs. CiteULike debate
- Adminstrators of an institutional license may have access to non-anonymised personal sensitive information, e.g. when user Fred Bloggs created their account, how many times they have logged in to RefWorks and what their email address is. This raises some potential data protection issues, that are a thorny issue for many bibliographic management tools, especially other web based tools like citeulike and connotea.
…and the Ugly
Cost, currently individual licenses are $100 per year, which is $100 more than “free” tools like citeulike and connotea. Institutional licenses are also available, for a biggish University like the one where I work, this will probably be around the £10,000 mark. This is “probably cheaper” than an equivalent site license for EndNote, but the prices for endnote are difficult to compare directly with RefWorks.
In summary, Refworks has both good and bad features. Personally, it’s going to need a lot more novel (and “killer”) features to make me switch from using Citeulike, which exports BibTeX (for authoring in LaTeX) and Endnote (for authoring in Microsoft Word). Citeullike also allows you to dump your full-text PDFs for storage in one place, it’s far from ideal, but it works OK and there’s not much else that is significantly better at the moment. However, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), so RefWorks.com, might be worth a look. RefWorks is already a serious competitor to EndNote and hopefully this competition will mean we get even better tools in the future, rather than being stuck with a single player who monopolises the marketplace. Are you listening Thomson-Reuters?
- Ingrid C. Hendrix (2004) RefWorks J Med Libr Assoc. 92(1): 111–113.
- Duncan Hull, Steve Pettifer and Douglas B. Kell (2008). Defrosting the Digital Library: Bibliographic Tools for the Next Generation Web, PLoS Computational Biology, 4(10):e1000204+. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204, pmid:18974831, pmcid:2568856
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