For some two years now, the giant scientific publisher Elsevier has been working on the “Article of the future,” a project undertaken in collaboration with scientists , editors, researchers and readers in an effort to redefine the scientific article, the base unit of formal scientific communication. They have now released prototypes in seven different disciplines, each tailored to its own community of researchers. Some of the features are already available in Elsevier published journals; the 3-pane view (more details below) will be introduced towards the end of 2011 and early 2012.
The prototypes aim to break free of the linear organization of a traditional print-based article in favor of a more integrated, contextual, and personalized presentation of text and figures, so that every reader can follow a path based on his/her personal interest and level of expertise and understanding. (Remember the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books that were all the rage in the 90s? Kind of like that.)
Never fear though, — the pdf still holds pride of place, linked at the very top of each of these total-immersion sensory extravaganzas.
Earlier versions of the A. of the F. were launched in 2010 in the journal Cell, and were recently awarded the 2011 PROSE award (among 491 entries from more than 60 publishers) for Excellence in Biological & Life Sciences by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
So! what do we end up with? Take a look at the newly-released prototypes. Notable features include a 3-pane presentation for ease of navigation and enhanced contextual display and integration of supplementary material. Multimedia and interactive objects are much in evidence — interactive tree diagrams, interactive charts, maps, tables and plates; embedded videos and animations (kind of a nice touch is the embedded video abstract (example), where the authors give an informal presentation of the main findings of their research. Context-specific features in the right sidebar enhance and facilitate the presentation of related information — chemical compound look-ups, detailed experimental set-ups, access to data repositories, spreadsheets and flowcharts, photo galleries, slideshows or presentations, 3D models …
And! They want to know what you think. There’s a yellow link to a survey in the upper right of each prototype article. If you don’t want to tell them, you can always leave a comment here. We like mail.