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CiteULike: upload pdf files to a group

The good

CiteULike now offers a feature that makes it much more useful: You can not only upload personal pdf copies of papers, but you can finally share them with others in your group.

The bad

This is only possible for private groups, not for public groups.

The ugly

There is no explicit mention anywhere in your group whether it is “private” or “public”. It seems private groups are those where you have to invite others to join, so check for that criterion. Furthermore, if you’ve already created a group and it is public, you need to e-mail CiteULike for them to change it to private for you (which they promptly do).

Confusingly, the CiteULike interface does not prevent you from presumably posting pdf copies to public groups. I had such a “public” group, which only had me and one other user as member. Erroneously thinking it “private”, for numerous articles, when posting the article I ticked the checkboxes next to my personal library and the group library (both showed up), and I uploaded a pdf and ticked the checkbox “I have the right to distribute this document” which showed up underneath the pdf upload field conveniently labeled “You can upload a PDF to private groups which you are a member of. If you wish to do this, you must indicate that you have the right to do so.” (see image)

CiteULike text when uploading pdf to public group

However, the pdf files never got posted to the group, since it was in fact “public”. If you do this, no pdf files get posted to the group, but there is no error message alerting you to this fact. So do make sure first that the group is private, and if in doubt, check with CiteULike. If you don’t, there is no easy way to transfer your pdf files from your user account to your group via the regular interface. Instead, the interface asks you to upload a new pdf file for each article, this time to the group, even if you already have a pdf file in your personal library. Copying and duplicating don’t copy or duplicate the pdf file to your group. Luckily, when I ran into this problem, the CiteULike folks were kind and responsive and copied the pdf files to the group library.


  1. With the possibility to post pdf files to a private group, CiteULike has made a huge leap in usefulness for academic collaboration.
  2. Watch out and make sure your library is private before you upload pdf files to it.
  3. CiteULike staff are helpful and responsive, but the web interface still needs some work.

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