Regular readers will be aware that I am always seeking out new technology to assist with the day-to-day job of research and teaching. One of the most time-consuming tasks, at least for me, is the management of my research library but PaperShip – a new IOS app for managing research papers on the iPad and iPhone – seems set to become my go to reading and annotation tool, and promises to help users better gauge the public impact of academic research.
There are an increasing number of tools that promise to help us manage our research libraries, from the old stalwart Endnote, through powerful programs such as Papers and Sente, to the relatively new kids on the block Zotero and Mendeley. Readers will know that for some time Zotero has been my go to app (see my previous post on Zotero here). Whilst these are great in the office and essential when preparing papers for publication, I prefer to read and annotate my research papers on the go using my iPad.
Most of these systems now have a mobile app for managing and reading papers on the go, however I have yet to find one which works reliably with larger databases or offers the range of features that I need (I have yet to try the Endnote app released early November 2013). Most of the systems are relatively expensive – with Papers and Sente coming in around $89 (£55) for the programme and mobile app (Sente does have a free version but this is limited to 100 papers), and Endnote costing a whopping $259 (£160) including the $9.99 (£5.99) mobile app. Mendeley does have a free IOS app but it functionality is limited and Zotero relies on the third-party Zotpad app, which for me is a little too clunky and has limitations in use.
The new kid on the block
Enter PaperShip. Designed for iPad and iPhone, PaperShip syncs with Zotero and Mendeley libraries, providing access to all items stored inside them. To add new references, it also imports directly from the web and automatically downloads full text PDFs when available. Each PDF can be annotated and highlighted, then stored back within the library with every modification saved. Annotated documents can also be shared via email, text messages, Facebook and Twitter. In use I have found PaperShip to be fast and reliable. Set up was as easy as adding in my Zotero or Mendeley username and password. You can decide if you want to download your complete library of papers to your device or choose to download individually as and when you need them. So far in use the app has been rock solid and reliable, one of the main problems that I had with other systems. It also looks good and has an intuitive interface taking cues from email apps such as Gmail and Mailbox.
The basic version of the app which allows you to download, read and manage your research papers. You can also annotate papers by exporting to a third-party app like Goodreader or iAnnotate. For a one-off payment of $9.99 (£5.99) however, you get access to PaperShips own annotation tools which are extremely powerful and as good as other tools I have ever used.
I would highly recommend spending the cash as the tools are great, and it is also a good way to support the developer.
One of the more interesting and unique features of PaperShip is that it displays the significance of publications by providing web-based metrics known as altmetrics. Online activities around a scholarly work are taken into account, such as the number of times a paper had been downloaded. With PaperShip, even non-peer-reviewed literature impact is measured, including Open Access publications. For such needs, the donut-shaped graphic from the Altmetric company is added to the PaperShip interface. The question of how article level metrics can inform qualitative assessments of impact is an interesting one and it is nice to see this feature included.
PaperShips has become my go to app for reading, managing and annotating my research library. I only wish that this app had been released a few years ago when I was completing my PhD!