Summary:

A year after opening its API, Mendeley — the document manager and social network for scientists — has seen a blossoming of apps that hook into its system… often in innovative ways. Now it’s looking to the future.

Victor Henning

A couple of weeks ago we reported some fresh moves by Mendeley, the London-based science startup, to use some of its big data to provide an exciting new analytics product for researchers. Now the service says it’s ramping another aspect of its business — a science data API that is already hitting landmark numbers.

Co-founder and CEO Victor Henning told me that the company’s API, which offers other services access to its trove of millions of scientific documents, has just surpassed 100 million calls each month. A year after launching the service — which provides access to the information stored in around 65 million scientific papers, documents and files in Mendeley’s databases — the site has around 240 apps that employ it, and is now seeing growth rocket. And that growth, he said, comes through the increasing popularity of those apps, not through any new, specific effort on its own part.

Henning highlighted a few of the projects which are creating the bulk of that traffic, including some interesting examples of the benefit opening up some data can have on what is, traditionally, quite a closed market.

For example, Readermeter.org and Total Impact are both services that measure how much impact a particular scientific paper or author has by analyzing how much and how widely the work is read. Meanwhile productivity app Hojoki integrates with Mendeley, pulling updates in alongside other services to create a personalized newsfeed for you.

Perhaps most interesting of all is OpenSNP, a project that allows people to share their genomic data with each other. It’s using Mendeley to help users cross reference the data they are finding out about their own genetic makeup with the latest scientific research as a way of understanding what’s going on in their bodies. If that’s not mind-blowing, I don’t know what is.

Henning says this is all part of a move to opening up science.

Next up? Wary of Twitter’s recent API troubles, Henning says that Mendeley wants to enable as many third party apps as possible, and has no plans to force money out of them — instead focusing on paid accounts and secondary services like its institutional dashboard.

“In academia, everything revolves around journals — but everything is behind a paywall, only available to universities who pay expensive subscriptions, and without APIs or other ways to access the data,” he said. “People see the importance of this [Mendeley's API] for opening up science.”

“We want to keep growing the ecosystem, get apps talking to each other and get more integration with the Mendeley experience” he adds. “But we don’t intend to monetize the apps.”

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