Google Scholar Reference Management

Google Scholar is a popular and handy website for all academics. It helps you to find the literature you search and does so publicly available. But I do not see it as a finished product which is also the reason why me and other academics refrain from using Google Docs to write their articles although Google Docs is perfectly fit for collaborative writing.

One important piece of function is missing: Reference management.

In my everyday work as researching psychologist I have to document my studies, write articles about them and work toward a publication in a highly rated, peer-reviewed international journal. Of course there are digital technologies which help me being more productive and simplify the writing process. Reference management software is one such thing although the German term „Literaturverwaltungsprogamm“ is more adequate because you do not only manage references but also the underlying literature.

I prefer open source software over propriety software the main reason being interoperability and the prevention of vendor lock-in. Therfore I use Zotero instead of Mendeley. I do not say that Zotero is better than Mendeley, on the contrary, I believe Mendeley is better than Zotero in many parts but Zotero is open source and sufficient for my needs. Mendeley is not perfect and has many things to improve on but that is another topic.

The ability of managing references is completely lacking in Google Scholar. Google has all it needs in place to integrate this functionality it just has to connect the dots. Google Drive as the repository of your references, Google Scholar as the mean of adding references and Google Docs as the mean to use your references. The ability to collaboratively write articles and share references would win the academic world over to Google. I have a vision of how this could look and work.

Yes, Google Scholar is not open source but Google mostly adheres to their corporate motto „don’t be evil“ and you can pull your data and leave if you wish to. Using a website for reference management and writing makes it interoperable and being able to download and use all my files, prevents a vendor lock-in. I assume there are some third party add-ons to add this reference management functionality to Google Docs but this mostly helps only one person sitting in front of one computer screen.

Google themselves integrating this would lead to a groundbreaking development and a benefit for all sciences which by definition …

  • build their own work on previously done work
  • collaboratively write with others
  • need to openly share their insights
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