Mendeley advanced options


It is now two years since the UOC Library made the Mendeley Premium reference manager freely available to all members of the UOC community. It replaced RefWorks, which had until then been the reference manager that the University had provided to its students and faculty.



To help make the transition from one bibliographic manager to the other, the Library produced a tutorial explaining how to access and register for a personal account on Mendeley. It also explained the basic features. Likewise, since the beginning, the Library has organized workshops every semester to help both faculty and students get started with this reference manager.

Lately, users’ growing level of experience with the tool has meant that some have reached the end of these initial Mendeley workshops asking for more. Some users have asked for higher-level workshops to look at its more advanced features, especially those linked to use of this reference manager as a social network for sharing documents online, creating groups, discovering new articles and documents linked to a specific subject, compiling statistics and meeting other researchers, etc.

Here at the UOC Library, we have rolled up our sleeves and started work on expanding the tutorial on Mendeley to cover these new features and to offer new more advanced workshops to meet the demands of the UOC’s user community.

In any case, it is interesting to see the evolution in reference managers in recent years. They have moved away from simply focusing on the work of researchers – helping them compile, organize and cite bibliographic references in their research – towards 2.0-style tools that aid the sharing of resources and the generation of authentic specialist social networks. They have been very popular with users and gained a strong foothold in academia as specialist networks for making contacts and discoveries.



Screencasts are video recordings of what is shown on a computer’s screen made using special software. They are usually short and accompanied by audio. They may show the whole screen or just a part of it and include special effects such as zooming in, calling out certain sections or highlighting the cursor.

The word screencast was coined by journalist Jon Udell in an article published in InfoWorld in 2004. However, it was back in the early 1990s when screencast software began to appear, though they only had limited features. The first was ScreenCam from Lotus. There are now a great number of screencast programs. There are lots of different kinds (proprietary, free, online, etc.) and for all the different operating systems.

Basically, screencasts are short video recordings of that shown on the computer’s screen and represent an alternative to text to aid understanding.

Often, that explained via voice or text can be difficult to follow or understand. However, if supported by some form of image or animation, it becomes simpler and easier to understand.

Screencasts are used, above all, to create tutorials and demos of how applications, tools or software work. There are many examples on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. But they are also used to visually show the steps that have to be taken for a particular procedure to make the learning easier.

So screencasting can become a vital tool for user support services looking to help resolve doubts and overcome difficulties when using online services, resources or applications.

Screencasts have for years been a commonly used tool at the UOC Library for user support in helping to resolve the doubts and problems arising. The response from users could not be more positive.

At the UOC Library, as well as becoming a really useful tool for dealing with users’ queries and problems, screencasts are also now widely used for training videos (known as knowledge pills) on the Library’s resources and services: http://biblioteca.uoc.edu/en/how-it-works/tools-and-library-services

Wikipedia has an extensive comparison of the most popular screencasting software: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_screencasting_software


The Library Group of the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (Catalan University Services Consortium, CSUC) has been analysing some of the next generation of products, including Sierra, Alma and WMS.

The group’s main aim, as we have said in previous posts, is to analyse the state of the art in next-generation library software.

The work carried out to date has been to assess whether this new software is a good fit for the consortium.

We have attended an Ex Libris Alma presentation and been to the Orbis Cascade conference, so we have some information. The Alma system looks like a powerful tool with well organized information. Ex Libris has produced a fully integrated software solution merging all the different types of collection (books, e-books, journals, databases, etc.) into one interface. The discovery tool, Primo, has everything you would expect in a discovery tool, but it also allows for some configuration of the relevancy of the results. As far as we can see it is a powerful tool and continually evolving.


Another software solution is Innovative’s Sierra. The consortium currently works with Millennium, so we know how the program works. Our feeling is that Sierra is more or less the same as Millennium. Some improvements have been added and the discovery tool, Encore Duet, (as was the case with Primo) has all the functionality you would expect. In this case, however, there is something that is never explained: the integration between Sierra and EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS). None of the presentations showed how to manage electronic collections or how to have items appear in the discovery tool. Innovative are still using a Java client for librarians, whereas the others are using web clients.

Finally there is OCLC WMS. As with Alma, it is a fully integrated platform. It was built to manage the OCLC consortium, and both local and consortium needs are supported by the system. The whole World Catalog infrastructure has to be analysed to see if it would fit with our consortium. There are some functionalities that are locally customizable and some related to the discovery tool that are interesting. The overall impression of WMS is that it is good software that meets our expectations.

This is what we have seen. We have had the chance to look at some aspects of the software and analyse them in different ways. It should be pointed out that these were sales presentations, where some information is highlighted and other information hidden. Knowing that, the consortium will continue to collect information as it decides whether it is a good time to change the library system.




The importance of being (R)eproducible

Reproducible Research (RR) or reproducible data analysis is the idea and practice to complement scholarly journal articles with all the information needed to reproduce the results they present.

Very often scientific studies rely on complex textual explanations of what has been done to analyze the data that can overwhelm the reader that has to accept them as an act of faith.

To avoid this, a good way to understand better what has been done is to provide the raw data and an univoque description of the procedures used to analyze it. This practice will allow the scientific community to reproduce the results, work along with the data and assert the validity of the results.

Many tools have appeared with the advent of Big Data and the need to analyze large datasets, specially around R, a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics that’s becoming a kind of standard de facto in open science. Here are some tools of the R ecosystem that allows to publish the results along with the methods and the data.

  • RStudio IDE is a powerful and productive user interface for R, free, open source and multiplatform.
  • rOpenSci is a collection of analyses and methods can be easily shared, replicated, and extended by other researchers, accessible through the R statistical programming environment.
  • KnitR is an elegant, flexible and fast dynamic report generation with R that allows to incorporate R, Python and other live code snippets in a document, and comes packaged with RStudio.
  • Slidify is a tool to write slides in R Markdown, a format that combines the core syntax of Markdown with embedded code chunks that are executed.
  • RPubs is a tool to publish and share directly from R Markdown.

Last year during the Open Education Week (11-15 March, 2013) the UOC took part in the project ORIOLE (Open Resources: Influence on learners & educators), in collaboration with The Open University (OU) UK and the Universitat de Barcelona (UB), by launching the ORIOLE survey 2013 about the reuse of educational resources.

The ORIOLE Survey 2013 collected information about the contexts in which open resource use may occur, looking particularly at attitudes about reuse of educational resources (OER) in teaching. What influences open resources in education is a topic of relevance to anyone taking on forward engagement with open education and the answers lie with those who are working directly in the delivery of learning and teaching, and those who support this work.

logo and mission

In 2011, the ORIOLE project developed and distributed an online survey (conducted Chris Pegler, OU), based on earlier UK-based RLO surveys and research, and directed specifically at practitioners in the UK higher education and further education community. In 2013, a further survey was distributed, this time with a more international focus, available in English and Spanish and with some modified questions. This second version, ORIOLE Survey 2013, was made possible through the collaborative work of Chris Pegler and myself (I joined to ORIOLE project during a visiting fellowship to OU in late of 2012) and our institutions.

The results of ORIOLE Survey 2013 were published last month in Qualitative Research of Education:

Santos-Hermosa, G. (2014). ORIOLE, in the Search for Evidence of OER in Teaching. Experiences in the Use, Re-use and the Sharing and Influence of Repositories. Qualitative Research in Education, 3(1) 232-268. doi: 10.4771/qre.2014.46

I invite you to have a look and comment :-)

For more information about both ORIOLE project and survey, you can check the following:

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