If you mashed up Facebook and Outlook with some professional networking features, threw in a dash of scientific interaction (think Berkeley's BOINC) and pointed the business end at researchers, you'd probably end up with something very much like Mendeley Desktop, a Web-based interactive network for posting, editing, reviewing, and critiquing academic research. It indexes and organizes your research, papers, PDFs, and other tools into an easy-to-use interface, but its online features also make it easy to access work posted by other researchers as well as access scientific, medical, and technical databases and sites.
Mendeley Desktop requires a free Mendeley account that enables users to share and sync data across multiple computers and mobile devices. The setup wizard let us log in to an existing account or create a new one, which only required a name, e-mail address, and password, though users can enter their research field and status. Clicking the link in the verification email we received opened the main page, the Dashboard, in our browser. In addition to the Dashboard, tabs let us quickly access My Library, Papers, Groups, and People. The program's toolbar and navigation panel have the familiar feel of a full-featured e-mail client that can sync folders and data with servers and other accounts. For starters, only three toolbar buttons are active: Add Documents, Create Folder, and Sync Library. We clicked Add Documents and browsed to an archive, but it's just as easy to drag-and-drop documents directly into the program for organizing. Copious help is available for newbies, including video tutorials, local workshops (where available; you can always start one, too!) and even Facebook and Twitter accounts where you can ask questions of experienced users. Like other social networking tools, you can use Mendeley to invite colleagues as well as meet new ones and relocate old ones.
While we can't cite studies to back it up, we suspect that Mendeley is where a lot of intelligent, highly focused yet widely knowledgeable people (we'll call them "nerds") hang out and trade extremely esoteric jokes. But its main purpose is enabling and furthering scientific, academic, and intellectual interaction and cooperation. Like its participants, Mendeley seems more than capable of handling both.