News that Reed Elsevier is in talks to buy Mendeley.com will have many scientists reaching for their “delete account” button. Mendeley has built an impressive user-base of scientists and other academics since they started, but the possibility of an Elsevier takeover has worried some of its users. Elsevier has a strained relationship with some groups in the scientific community [1,2], so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
If you’ve built a personal library of scientific papers in Mendeley, you won’t just want to delete all the data, you’ll need to export your library first, delete your account and then import it into a different tool.
Disclaimer: I’m not advocating that you delete your mendeley account (aka #mendelete), just that if you do decide to, here’s how to do it, and some alternatives to consider. Update April 2013, it wasn’t just a rumour.
Exporting your Mendeley library
Open up Mendeley Desktop, on the File menu select Export. You have a choice of three export formats:
It is probably best to create a backup in all three formats just in case as this will give you more options for importing into whatever you replace Mendeley with. Another possibility is to use the Mendeley API to export your data which will give you more control over how and what you export, or trawl through the Mendeley forums for alternatives. [update: see also comments below from William Gunn on exporting via your local SQLite cache]
Deleting your Mendeley account #mendelete
Login to Mendeley.com, click on the My Account button (top right), Select Account details from the drop down menu and scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link delete your account. You’ll be see a message We’re sorry you want to go, but if you must… which you can either cancel or select Delete my account and all my data. [update] To completely delete your account you’ll need to send an email to privacy at mendeley dot com. (Thanks P.Chris for pointing this out in the comments below)
Alternatives to Mendeley
Once you have exported your data, you’ll need an alternative to import your data into. Fortunately, there are quite a few to choose from , some of which are shown in the list below. This is not a comprehensive list, so please add suggestions below in the comments if I missed any obvious ones. Wikipedia has an extensive article which compares all the different reference management software which is quite handy (if slightly bewildering). Otherwise you might consider trying the following software:
- Utopia docs  via getutopia.com, see also @utopiadocs
- Readcube.com from Digital Science (part of Macmillan Publishers), see also @readcube
- Citeulike.org, a web-based application owned by Springer, [update: citeulike is not owned by Springer, although they have sponsored them in the past] see also @citeulike
- Papers, also owned by Springer and available on other platforms besides Mac, see also @papersapp
- Zotero.org, see also @zotero
One last alternative, if you are fed up with trying to manage all those clunky pdf files, you could just switch to Google Scholar which is getting better all the time. If you decide that Mendeley isn’t your cup of tea, now might be a good time to investigate some alternatives, there are plenty of good candidates to choose from. But beware, you may run from the arms of one large publisher (Elsevier) into the arms of another (Springer or Macmillan which own Papers and ReadCube respectively).
- Whitfield, J. (2012). Elsevier boycott gathers pace Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature.2012.10010
- Van Noorden, R. (2013). Mathematicians aim to take publishers out of publishing Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature.2013.12243
- Hull, D., Pettifer, S., & Kell, D. (2008). Defrosting the Digital Library: Bibliographic Tools for the Next Generation Web PLoS Computational Biology, 4 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204
- Attwood, T., Kell, D., McDermott, P., Marsh, J., Pettifer, S., & Thorne, D. (2010). Utopia documents: linking scholarly literature with research data Bioinformatics, 26 (18) DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btq383