The 'Article of the Future' (beta) by Elsevier/Cell

July 21, 2009

I have previously noted in a prior post that the journal Cell has started tromping around in Nature Publishing Group’s traditional territory. Namely, pontificating mightily on the nature, state and future of scientific publishing. At the time, Cell was opining on the issue of least publishable unit.
Today I have learned via an email from some chap who signs himself as “Senior Consultant, Public Relations and Word of Mouth communications” working for Kaizo*, that Cell and their publisher Elsevier are up to some new tricks. They have proposed a new format for The Online Article of the Future (please read in that echoing big-voice from AM radio).

The root site for the Cell Beta Prototype article is here. The main idea here seems to be:

A hierarchical presentation of text and figures so that readers can elect to drill down through the layers of content based on their level of expertise and interest. This organizational structure is a significant departure from the linear-based organization of a traditional print-based article in incorporating the core text and supplemental material within a single unified structure.

Well, that and just trying to make the dang thing readable on the computer screen- something at which the pdf and traditional HTML versions of the article do not excel.
The site also offers two prototypes for your viewing pleasure DearReader.
Article #1
Article #2
I must admit I am impressed and intrigued. I like the tabbed browsing of sections and the figures which can be cycled from the same window.
*I just find the idea of a whole PR sub-industry designed to stir up buzz to be sort of interesting. Astro-turfing? or just using the Web2.0z do you think?

No Responses Yet to “The 'Article of the Future' (beta) by Elsevier/Cell”

  1. Nat Says:

    Now that had some seriously cool stuff going on.
    Once you liberate yourself from the preconceived notion of a scientific report as a printed series of pages, you can really get to some much more useful ways of transmitting the information.


  2. RobC Says:

    The “drilling” analogy is a bit goofy, but I like the idea, and the prototypes look good to me.
    Does anyone else think this is an attempt to circumvent open-access? The nice, easy to read article of the future will cost you a subscription, while they dump a crappy formatted .pdf into PubMed Central?


  3. Nat Says:

    @RobC – Drill Down has a specific internet usage. I find it grating, but it’s out there.
    I hadn’t thought about how this might affect pubmed central stuff; Maybe the requirement could be update to allow some NLM mirror site?


  4. JSinger Says:

    Does anyone else think this is an attempt to circumvent open-access? The nice, easy to read article of the future will cost you a subscription, while they dump a crappy formatted .pdf into PubMed Central?
    I’m still going to print out the PDF and read it that way, just like I do in preference to clicking through the HTML version. Yes, this makes me old. (Although if I understand these lousy kids today correctly, Cell should be figuring out how to cut down the LPU to 140 characters and sending them as Twitter posts. Frighteningly, I can just picture Nature or Science actually doing that.)


  5. antipodean Says:

    Will it be called “Beta Cell” then ?


  6. DSKS Says:

    Oh, I like that, it would be a vast improvement. It’s very readable, imho.


  7. juniorprof Says:

    I love it and I hope they go to that as soon as possible… Can the pdfs also be turned into tabbed documents? One would assume so.


  8. daedalus2u Says:

    Of course it is a way to sabotage open access. If you look carefully, the references link to Elsevier’s proprietary reference data base (Scopus), which requires a subscription to use. Sometimes they link to the publisher, and sometimes not.
    It is the same old same old. Elsevier often doesn’t link to articles in non-Elsevier journals. Why? I presume for business reasons. Making access to non-Elsevier journals easier is bad for Elsevier, no matter how good it is for individual researchers or science research as a whole.
    At least in this example they are linking to PubMed. Often in their current way of presenting papers they don’t. Will they always link to PubMed in their new and better way of presenting papers? Do you feel lucky?
    A quick check of the patent literature reveals that Elsevier is active in it.
    Hmmm, patent 7,360,175 looks kind of like what they are presenting as the “article of the future”. If the article is in this patented format, then even if you own the copyright Elsevier can block you from using it. My guess is they are trying to get their articles in a format that can’t be turned into a pdf. Then you won’t be able to share reprints, or maybe even print it out except as a zillion pages.


  9. Lab Lemming Says:

    1. I note that none of the tabs are “data”.
    2. I’m sure that they aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.
    3. If open access is motivating commercial publishers to lift their game by actually adding value to their product, that would appear to be a market win.
    4. Comment #8 may be on to something.


  10. Liked the format except that in the Results, the text and figs are still just passively lumped together in one stream. Why not do a split screen, with figs on one side (and LARGER), text on the other, and do some scrolling jujitsu so that Fig 4 is centered in the fig panel whenever you’re on text referring to Fig 4, and vice versa?
    But yeah the notion that Elsevier is doing this out of the goodness of their lucre-loving hearts is dubious.


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  12. kevin. Says:

    Slightly off topic, but have you noticed that Cell has in each issue one or two “Featured Articles.” I recently noticed a second type called the “Sponsored Article.”
    WTF is that about? I can’t find any information…


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