Mendeley and RefWorks Flow: The next, next generation of citation management software

A decade or so ago, ISI's EndNote bought out most of the competition, practically obtaining a monopoly on the reference manager business. In the early Library 2.0 boom, web-based products like Zotero and CSA's RefWorks became the norm. Thomson Reuters played catch up by introducing EndNote Web, and NoodleBib and other adware/freemium clones cropped up in what is now again a crowded marketplace.

Mendeley, recently purchased by Elsevier, has gained fame by offering social media integration and and sharing cababilities. It notably works on the old Questia model of selling itself directly to individual users, not institutions. ProQuest is also putting the finishing touches on RefWorks Flow, which features similar collaboration tools.

The way these newer products allow users to share articles with peers raises interesting questions about them potentially being used as a new "Napster for subscription journals," especially since they are now both owned by major publishers. See my comment for some more philosophical questions....


Does your library subscribe to or support any such software? These products certainly have library-related applications, but are themselves devoid of content in the way that a book or journal can be added to our collection and its information consumed by users. This is also a criticism of the next-generation finding tools, that usually do no more than slap a new browser skin on an existing interface, and add nothing original to a library's holdings. Then again, in my role as a reference librarian, neither do I. We are here to facilitate access.

Our university has access to RefWorks. It is a wonderful time-saving tool, a means to an end which automatically saves, organizes, and formats bibliographic citations in a variety of styles. But to some teachers and librarians it's the contraband calculator smuggled in to a math test, and not to be put in the hands of freshmen who haven't first painstakingly poured through manuals to figure out where the period goes. That's sure how I listed references, at first, but was it really a worthwhile learning activity? Unless you're going to pursue a career in editing, what's wrong with having a little faith in the machines to take care of things? Aren't there better things to be learning in school?

Hi John,

Thanks for noting our work on RefWorks Flow. You mention the potential for users using RefWorks Flow - and the product from other folks you mention - :) as a peer-to-peer sharing vehicle that does not respect copyrights. At RefWorks Flow we are keenly aware of this potential and limit sharing to within an institution where the presumption is that all those in an institution have rights to the document. The slight exception is we do allow is sharing with up to five other Flow subscribers not in the same group and any other Flow users beyond that fifth person can only see the reference and not the Full Text. These five users cannot download, print or further share the Full Text - they get Read Only access.

While we're still in our early stages we will respond to the concerns of publishers and institutions to stay on the side of respecting intellectual property while facilitating the free (but fair) Flow of information.

If you or your readers would like to learn more about us please watch our video:

Thanks again,

Marcos Dinnerstein
Lead Client Support Specialist
ProQuest Research Solutions

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