What is Mendeley?

Mendeley is a tool to manage references and a social network for academics.


Reference Manager & Community

With Mendeley web importer researchers can import citations directly from the web, create their personal library and share it with others. They can cite while they write, using the citation plugins for text editors. Other features include metadata extraction, PDF annotation and cloud access.

In addition to the reference manager, Mendeley also provides researchers the opportunity to connect with others, create and join specialized groups and see their personal stats, such as the number of views, downloads and citations of their publications.

Business Model

Mendeley’s returns are made via their premium services, such as extra storage space with prices ranging from $5 to $15 per month. Mendeley also offers an institutional package to institutions, the Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE). This MIE offers unlimited private groups, in-depth analytics, and institutional support.


According to their website, over six million people, among students, librarians and researchers, use Mendeley. However, there was a large number of users that have left Mendeley after Elsevier’s take over in 2013.


Paul Foeckler, Victor Henning and Jan Reichelt founded the company in 2007. They had an idealistic take on the tool, being advocates of open access. In the words of Henning, the key idea was to create “a desktop app that can automatically turn my loose collection of PDFs into a structured research paper database that I can read, annotate, cite, and share with others.”, he told Scientific American. In August 2008, Mendeley released the public beta version to the public.

Elsevier Takeover

As Mendeley’s reputation as an open and collaborative space grew, researchers started to get a hint of how they could easily make their research open to everyone. But, unexpectedly, in 2013, the Dutch-based publisher Elsevier, one of the ‘big five’ scientific publishers (more than half of the academic publishing is controlled by five for-profit companies), announced it had bought Mendeley. Neither Mendeley nor Elsevier revealed the costs of the transaction, but estimations go from $69 million to $100 million.


Elsevier doesn’t have the best reputation concerning open access among universities and research institutes, which raises concerns over the merger. Researchers feared Elsevier would collect their search queries and data and use it to sell them similar, closed articles. Further, many Mendeley users are directly opposed to Elsevier's tactics, such as publishing fake journals or bundling practises. Open access advocates found it hard to reconcile Mendeley’s policy of free sharing locked articles with Elsevier’s locking of free science, and, as a result, left Mendeley (see for example the Guardian, ScholarlyKitchen, or Enjoy-the-Disruption).