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Is this the ‘Article of the Future’?

academic paper.jpg
I can’t believe they used to print these things out!

By James Dacey

Do you relish the challenge of ploughing through online abstracts in search of the article’s “bottom line”?
Do you still print out all your papers before going at them with the fluorescent pen?
Do you still love the arcane language and the classic layout: intro – method – results – images – discussion?

Well, your habits could be about to change with the launch of a new initiative by a leading scientific publisher. The Article of the Future project by Elsevier has set out with a modest aim to “redefine how a scientific article is presented online”.

One of the key features of the new format is a kind of web-based filing system in which different aspects of the research – i.e. intro, images, discussion – can be “taken out” and viewed separately.

Intros are different – including a bulleted article highlights section and a graphical abstract. Multimedia is present throughout such as interviews with the authors. If interested, you can see a couple of prototypes of the new format here.

Elsevier say the project is intended to promote interdisciplinary scholarship and help readers identify more quickly which papers are most relevant to their interests.

So how will this new format go down in the physics community?

I reckon pretty well, though I’m sure some purists – especially the theoreticians – will argue that you can’t always reduce the subtlety of their arguments to a few bullet points.

What’s more, if this does catch on with other publishers, it will be interesting to see how the bloggers respond. Because it seems to me that a large aspect of their job at present is to trawl through the piles of paper and pick out the highlights from their field. But if the journal publishers have already done this… what then?

One outcome is that they become more critical. The bloggers will – once and for all – move away from just cheerleading for their chosen specialism. We might see a new form of blogging in which the key players start championing / laying into research with a new-found vigour.

Well, whatever happens I reckon this is another key development in an interesting transitionary period for both the publishing and media sectors.

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