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Academic-Reference Firm Offers $10,001 for Best New Research Tool

The developers of Mendeley, a research-management tool that has more than 800,000 users, want to put more than 70 million academic papers, reader recommendations, and social-networking tags to new and innovative uses. The company announced Tuesday its “Binary Battle,” a contest for outside developers to build applications drawing from Mendeley’s collected information, with a $10,001 grand prize for the best new application.

“If you’ve ever thought, ‘You know, I really wish I could search the literature better’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could see how this idea evolved over time?’ or just ‘I wish I had $10,001 dollars,’ well, now’s your chance,” says the company blog.

Mendeley is looking for applications that “increase scientific collaboration, mash up research data with social media in novel ways, or simply wow the judges by being awesome,” the company says in a release. Entries will be accepted until August 31.

As our colleagues at ProfHacker have noted, Mendeley has become popular because it allows users to store and organize their own research, share it with others, and check out the work of other people in their field. The program was developed by the team that built Last.fm, a Web site that makes music and friend recommendations based on songs that users play on the site, and it aims to do much of the same for the academic community.

The tool operates on the freemium model, which means most of its features are free, but users pay for benefits such as extra storage. As the ProfHacker post says, the software is far more popular in the sciences than in the humanities, particularly in comparison with the open-source bibliographic site Zotero.

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