During the last year, Cell has spearheaded an initiative to change the way readers interact with research articles on the Internet. They note that, for a long time, research papers on the Web laid flat and lifeless on the screen, much as print articles do on the page, but they were capable of so much more. Cell came up with new layouts for research papers that take advantage of current Web technology, and presented the prototypes to its authors and readers, who voted and gave feedback on the designs.
What Cell came up with was a format it has christened “Article of the Future.” Articles of the Future are broken down into their respective sections (Introduction, Discussion, Figures, and so on) with a navigation section at the top, allowing readers to jump to the sections they are most interested in. The landing section of each article is a bullet-point summary and abstract next to a representative image, allowing readers a quick take-away message if that’s all they’re looking for (video descriptions called a “PaperFlick” appear here, when available). You can even zoom in on images (!), which are presented under the Data tab as a film strip. The citations in the body of the paper are also linked to a separate section, where readers can view the citation in full.
Hold on, don’t reach for your smelling salts just yet. Doesn’t this sound a little familiar? It should—to an extent, all Cell has done is take features from dozens of websites and apply them to scientific publications. But, similarities aside, any effort to make research more accessible and readable is a good thing, and rare among Cell’s peers. Maybe this will encourage other publications to step into the Future—or, you know, at least 2001.