Interview with William Gunn

William Gunn

William Gunn

Mendeley is a service highly used by researchers world-wide for the management and sharing of scholarly information. In this interview with William Gunn, some important issues are addressed regarding the operation of Mendeley, the thematic areas and its users. Elsevier acquired Mendeley, but what does this mean for scholarly communication in the view of our interviewee?  William Gunn is Head of Academic Outreach for Mendeley, and specialized in altmetrics, reproducibility and Open Access. He obtained his doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from the Center for Gene Therapy, Tulane University, USA in 2008.

1. Which are the areas most covered by users of the bibliographic reference manager Mendeley?

The sciences are our main demographic with the most representation from biological sciences and significant representation from medicine, computer science, social sciences, chemistry, physics, medicine, and engineering. We have growing representation in law and the humanities as well.

2. Mendeley users from countries outside the mainstream register mostly international literature over literature from their own countries?

It’s certainly true that most researchers have an international perspective. What we see is that attention tends to be allocated to a country’s research according to the proportion of their output, with a few notable outliers such as Switzerland & Sweden, which have a high scholarly output per capita. Interestingly, Argentinian researchers tend to have the largest Mendeley libraries, with Brazil at #11, ahead of the US.

3. Bibliographic reference on Mendeley can show the use of published literature, but are they predictive? Is there a correlation between registries and future citations?

It’s too early to be able to predict anything, but several published studies have shown that there is a weak correlation between Mendeley readers and citations:

  • JASIST@mendeley1
  • Applying social bookmarking data to evaluate journal usage2

Those studies have also shown that Mendeley also captures research impact that hasn’t yet been reflected in citations. In other words, many papers in a researcher’s Mendeley collection have been read, but the paper in which they’ll be cited hasn’t been written yet! In addition, we also see that Mendeley can detect the influence a work has on readers who don’t publish – researchers in industry, clinicians, patients, and the public. I’m really excited to hear that Open Journal Systems is now using PLOS’s article level metrics tracking application, which incorporates Mendeley readership information. I think this will yield lots of interesting data on article usage throughout the world.

4. After Mendeleys’s acquisition by Elsevier in 20133, did users stop using the application?

We did have a handful of people who stopped, but the publicity also brought many new users as well. The product has steadily improved throughout the year and the pace of development has picked up, for example with the release of our new iOS app, and we will continue to work to surprise and delight the researchers who have placed their trust in us.

5. Does Elsevier intend to keep Mendeley’s API interface open?

Absolutely. They see it as a key part of how Mendeley can grow to serve the needs of more researchers. There’s never been a good a platform for third-party development around academic data, and we are now perfectly positioned to be that platform.


2Applying social bookmarking data to evaluate journal usage
3The acquisition took place in April 2013:


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