Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What is CiteULike?


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What is CiteULike?

CiteULike is a free service to help you to store, organise and share the scholarly papers you are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there's no need to type them in yourself. It all works from within your web browser so there's no need to install any software. Because your library is stored on the server, you can access it from any computer with an Internet connection.

Why is it "social"?

You can share your library with others, and find out who is reading the same papers as you. In turn, this can help you discover literature which is relevant to your field but you may not have known about. The more people who use CiteULike, and the more they use it, the better it becomes as a resource. You can help with this process just by using CiteULike and through the invite a friend feature.

Why write CiteULike?

CiteULike's founder, Richard Cameron, said (2004):

The reason I wrote the site was, after recently coming back to academia, I was slightly shocked by the quality of some of the tools available to help academics do their job. I found it preferable to start writing proper tools for my own use than to use existing software. Collecting material for a bibliography is something which appeared to require an amazing amount of drudgery. All the existing options seemed to require more effort than strictly necessary to transfer the citation details for the article currently open in my web browser into some sort of permanent storage. I'm sure with a lot of practice I could have got the process down to twenty seconds or so, but that twenty seconds just presented enough unpleasantness of flipping between browsers and external applications, copying and pasting details, and opening downloaded "citation export" files that I was far less likely to actually do it. I'd need amazing amounts of self discipline to consistently bookmark everything I ever read on the off-chance that I might want it again. Unless, of course, it just involved clicking a button on the browser and having it all magically happen. So, the obvious idea was that if I use a web browser to read articles, the most convenient way of storing them is by using a web browser too. This becomes even more interesting when you consider the process of jointly authoring a paper. There is a point where all the authors need to get together and get all the articles they wish to cite into the one place. If you do this process collaboratively on a web site, then it's easier. The next obvious leap is that if all the references are available via a web interface on a central server, it would be really nice to see what your colleagues are reading and be able to show them what you're reading. It cuts down on the number of emails saying "have you seen this article?" In fact, if enough users register on the system, you'll probably find people reading the same articles as you. That provides a great way of keeping on top of the literature - you simply share it with people who have common interests. If we have a model of everyone's library being completely open, then our reference manager has suddenly transformed itself into a piece of social software. That's what CiteULike aims to be. There were a number of social bookmark managers which existed before CiteULike (del.icio.us, unalog, etc), but they were all general systems designed to handle arbitrary web links. They didn't really capture all the metadata (authors, journal name, ...) which go with academic articles. Also, the way some publishers operate makes it quite difficult to actually get a stable URL to bookmark, you need to do a bit of processing on it first. So, I wrote CiteULike. It's grown a little bit since then, and the plan is to keep developing it and making it better.

Good for researching power articles