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Headlines Published on 10 November 2005

Title Websites taking the chore out of research referencing

The internet is a monster, but it can be tamed. At least this is the idea behind two websites which have sprung up to help academics, in particular, to store, share and organise papers and references of interest.

Connotea is a free online reference management service for scientists. © Connotea
Connotea is a free online reference management service for scientists.
© Connotea
In our era of expanding rights-free publishing, surfing the web can turn up some interesting academic papers. But often enough, you quickly scan the paper or article and bookmark it for later reference or print a copy to read on the train that evening. When you go to find the story, it has been dropped, moved or you just can’t remember the search criteria again. What then?

The website ‘CiteULike’ has a nifty way of classifying this information using common information technology (IT) metadata and tagging techniques. With the click of a button, the site where you found the useful paper is added to your personal library, say the developers of the referencing site. The heavy work is done behind the scenes by CiteULike’s system, which automatically extracts the citation details of the paper. This all takes place within your web browser, so there is no new software to download – and no risk of viruses.

Like web-based e-mail, the information is stored on their server, which means you can update your presentation at conferences in Berlin, Paris or Tokyo. What’s more, says the site, “you can share your library with others, and find out who is reading the same papers as you”. One of the advantages of this is you identify new references and sources. An interesting, if initially confusing, feature of the site is the ‘Everyone’s tags’ section. This is a column of the most active tags on CiteULike – key words, such as ‘bayesian’, ‘brain cancer’, ‘gender graph’, ‘science research’ and ‘folksonomy’, listed one after the other. Registering for this service is free.

Tea for two
A similar service is offered by ‘Connotea’, which describes itself as a “place to keep links to the articles you read and the websites you use, and a place to find them again”. Link-sharing is a feature on the site which helps registered users find new articles, references and websites of relevance to their research. This service was developed by Nature Publishing Group’s new technology team.

“In Connotea, every user’s links are visible both to visitors and to every other user,” the site explains, “and different users’ libraries are linked together through the use of common tags or common bookmarks.” Tag words, therefore, act as a guide for further searching and are a useful way of benchmarking what others are reading in your field and for finding colleagues with shared interests.

The two referencing sites do not appear to be competing for users, as they both built on the ideas of ‘’, a general collaborative bookmarking service. In fact, CiteULike and Connotea are in “close contact” with each other to ensure that their two systems work well together, according to Connotea.

This sort of service has networking potential and could be a way of finding like-minded research partners. Indeed, transparent knowledge-sharing of this kind resonates in a number of EU initiatives, such as the ERA-NET scheme, or networking and dissemination activities associated with EU projects, or partnering events organised through the Union’s Information Society Technologies (IST) programme, for example.

Source:  CiteULike, Connotea

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