Reference managers are software products that record the details of scientific papers that one interacts with. All academics and many others use them as a crucial tool of their work. Common examples are Zotero and EndNote. Ones reference manager database is usually viewed as a possession of the individual rather than the employer.
They record the details of the papers you have read, including details of the authors, such as their names, employer and for the corresponding authors the contact details. All this information is publically available, one is required to release this data to publish in peer reviewed journals and the reference managers collate it all at the click of a button when one is viewing the document.
I can think of no reason why the GDPR would not apply to reference managers, therefore I would assume it does. While I would also assume that the legitimate interest basis for processing would allow one to use such software, one would have to consider the requirements that the GDPR places on the processing of data, perhaps the time or export constraints.