Elsevier scoops up startup Mendeley in controversial bet on open science

Publishing giant Elsevier has acquired Mendeley, a London-based startup that provides social collaboration tools for academics and researchers. The deal was confirmed on Monday after rumors of the transaction leaked months ago, and The Financial Times reports that the buyer has forked over £45 million ($68.85 million) for the London-based startup.

A rising star of the open science and crowdsourcing movements, Mendeley provides free and paid apps that let researchers and scientists share, store and organize content such as journal articles in PDF files. Millions of users have come to depend on the company's apps to cull the most relevant items from the sea of research info online. Some advocates for open science criticized the sale to Elsevier, skeptical that the scientific publisher would support the mission of Mendeley to make research information widely accessible and social.

Elsevier has quickly moved to quiet fears that the company plans to alter that path, boosting the free storage to users from 1 gigabyte to 2 gigabytes as well as more storage for paid users at no additional cost. The buyer is also endeavoring to preserve the culture and technology development that has enabled Mendeley to grow a community of nearly 2.3 million members. As the FT reports, Elsevier struggled to gain momentum with its own collaborative software called 2collab, which was abandoned in 2011.

"We are committing to implementing Mendeley's existing product development roadmap, and giving the company the space to 'let Mendeley be Mendeley.'" Olivier Dumon, managing director of academic and government research markets at Elsevier, wrote on a company website. He added: "It's open, social and collaborative, and it is important to us that it retains all of those traits. [Founders] Victor [Henning], Jan [Reichelt], Paul [Fockler] and other senior managers will remain with the company to ensure a smooth integration and the continuation of Mendeley's vision."

"Our vision is to make science more collaborative and open, and now we have the support of the world's largest science information provider, whose resources will enable us to accelerate our progress towards this vision," stated Henning, who is CEO of the company.  "Above all, we will remember what has made Mendeley a success: ensuring that everything we do makes our users' lives easier."

Elsevier publishes nearly one fifth of the world's scientific, tech and medical content in journals such as The Lancet and Cell. The company makes money from journal subscriptions, but the Digital Age has brought on a growing appetite in the scientific community and the general public for free content that is easily tapped via the web.

Yet Elsevier has also gained tech from Mendeley to enhance its subscription-driven business. The Mendeley Institutional Edition, for example, enables organizations to track which journals are being read in real-time and aid librarians in pointing researchers to top entries. The way Elsevier sees it, such services as MIE could maximize the value of subscriptions.

- here's the release
- read The Financial Times report
- and the post from Dumon