The face of research and publication is switching globally. Due to the intense competition in academia, there is immense pressure on scientists to publish at a quick tempo. On the contrary, the journal publication process is slow and researchers scramble to establish scientific priority on their work to avoid getting scooped. The role of researchers is no longer restricted to conducting, writing, and publishing research; they are expected to collaborate across geographical boundaries, contribute to the research community as peer reviewers and journal editors, attend conferences to network with their peers, promote their research to the scientific and non-scientific community, and stay on top of fresh developments and innovations. Add to that the need to dodge predatory publishers and the numerous traps that abound in the academic publishing industry; researchers undoubtedly have a lot to deal with!

To help researchers bounce the numerous roles they have to play, the scholarly publishing community has been coming up with a diverse range of innovations. Since 2013, numerous digital contraptions have made their way into the scholarly world to facilitate literature search, research writing, reference management, journal selection, collaboration, networking, data sharing, and research promotion. Besides, there are instruments that facilitate open science and open data, and others that aim to make science efficient by working towards standardization. Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer, librarians at Utrecht University Library are conducting a project called ‘Innovations in Scholarly Communication’ on the numerous instruments and innovations that are appearing on the academic publishing scene. Presently, they have listed over 400 implements and are investigating their usage for different activities in the research workflow.

This two-part article will take a look at some of the devices mentoned in the project that researchers can use at various stages of the research workflow. In this part, I will take you through some instruments that can help you with literature search and reference management.  

Literature search: There are a host of available contraptions to help researchers explore the millions of articles that have been published till date. These can be search engines, curators,  or databases where a researcher can find relevant and reliable sources for a literature review and help them stay on top of the literature in their field. Some databases have special features that make this lighter. Here are a few examples:

Google Scholar: This is one device that most researchers already know about and use. It is a popular search engine that helps researchers find scholarly literature across disciplines using relevant keywords.

F1000Prime: This is yet another search engine that identifies and recommends significant articles in biology and medical research publications. The tool’s USP is that articles are selected by a group of leading scientists and clinicians, who then rate them and explain their significance.

PubPeer: Researchers can use this platform to search for publications using DOI, PMID, arXiv ID, keyword, or author. Apart from searching for relevant literature, researchers can also provide feedback on articles or embark a conversation anonymously.

PubChase: Using the PubMed database, this instrument helps biomedical researchers search and browse through abstracts of research papers and bookmark them to a individual PubChase library. The implement generates recommendations for papers based on the articles in the user’s library.

Reference Management: Reference management instruments or reference managers are software that researchers use to treat references and citations while writing. Reference managers store full-text papers along with the references and also permit users to take notes on and annotate PDFs. Most importantly, they help in formatting in-text citations and bibliographic references while composing a manuscript. Thus, if a manuscript is rejected by one journal and needs to be submitted to another, the author does not need to spend time reformatting the references and citations to suit journal requirements. This can be done at the click of a button using reference managers. Mentioned below are some of the popular reference management instruments. Note that some fields may have preference for specific reference managers over others, so it would be a good idea to consult an accomplished from your field while choosing one.

Zotero: It helps researchers collect, organize, cite, and share their research sources. Zotero automatically downloads and saves the PDF version of articles that the user is reading and extracts all bibliographic information. When writing a paper in Microsoft Word, Open Office or Google Docs, users can lightly search for and add in-text citations, which automatically show up in the bibliography. Zotero lacks the capability to annotate the PDF itself, but the author can add separate notes files, which are searchable.

Mendeley: Mendeley is a platform comprising a social network, reference manager, and article visualization contraptions. The reference manager permits effortless saving and storing of articles, has a Microsoft Word citation instrument which permits users to seamlessly add references to their documents. Unlike Zotero, it permits users to view and annotate PDFs from within the Mendeley program. The platform’s best feature is that it permits researchers to lightly collaborate and share documents by creating private groups.

ReadCube: A program for discovering, managing, annotating research papers, ReadCube provides an enhanced PDF reading practice in which the static PDFs suggest interactive citations, integrated authorial information, access to supplementary data, related articles and a full-screen figure browser.

EndNote: Wielded by Clarivate Analytics, this software device for publishing and managing bibliographies, citations, and references is utterly popular among researchers. Researchers can create their own reference library by adding references by hand or importing them; organize and store references; create and edit citations using EndNote. EndNote can automatically format a citation into any of over Two,000 different styles that the user chooses. The device also permits researchers to share their research and references, including full-text files and notes with other EndNote users.

In the next part of this series, I will introduce you to some devices that will help you with data-sharing/management, journal selection, networking, and research promotion.

Related video: The latest innovation in mobile learning is here. Find out more!

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