We may not want our content to be “big” but we might want it to be “clever” in the sense that delivered digitally content can be more functional. This is not about social media such as Twitter, blogging, YouTube etc., and the exciting possibilities that surround their application to scholarly communication (we’ll address those possibilities in a forthcoming issue of Publishing News). This is about using new technologies and tools to develop the presentation and usability of our core content.
As an organization we are working with our society partners and authors to innovate with journal and book content in ways that are truly useful to them as researchers, clinicians etc. Three new examples can be found in our journal publishing program, two from the domain of molecular biology – specifically protein science – and one from environmental sciences.
The Protein Society moved their journal, Protein Science, to Wiley-Blackwell in 2009 and, working together, we have just released a new interactive molecular graphics feature on Wiley Interscience. The article in question cites a number of identification codes (from the Protein Data Bank) and in the online version these codes feature hypertext links to an interactive image of the protein in question. Clicking on a figure itself or the highlighted words interactive figure in the figure caption links to interactive versions of the figures created by the author to highlight a specific point (or points) discussed in the text – visit http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/122241268/HTMLSTART to view this development.
In a related area, FEBS Journal (published on behalf of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies), following a successful pioneer experiment by its sister journal FEBS Letters, is introducing Structured Digital Abstracts (SDAs) to enhance (initially) articles that focus on protein-protein interactions. These SDAs will describe the relationship between two proteins, and the method used to study their relationship: protein A interacts with protein B, by method X. Readers will be able to use the SDAs in either the HTML or PDF versions of the articles to link out to corresponding records in external databases. To find out more visit http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/febs_enhanced/journalnews.asp
The potential to enhance content goes beyond the traditionally web-savvy area of molecular biology. One of Wiley-Blackwell’s new journals, Journal of Flood Risk Management, is lining up a special issue on flood visualization. The issue will feature a series of invited papers using a variety of technologies and tools that help researchers and planners to visualize the effects of, for example, rising sea levels on coastal areas. Details of the journal can be found at http://www.floodriskmanagement.org
All of these experiments with enhancing content have one thing in common. They take effort on the part of all of the stakeholders – the author, editor, editorial office, and the publisher. Our next challenge is to develop approaches that lower the threshold to innovation, and move beyond the “experimental” and into “industrial strength” workflows. A glimpse of what might be possible can be found in the online authoring tools under development by the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). PublBio (http://scripts.iucr.org/cgi-bin/chub_login) provides registered users with a range of tools to help with the preparation of text, data and interactive figures of the type mentioned in this article.
So, even in times of economic upheaval we feel confident that there is a bright future for our books and journals in the digital environment, and we are looking forward to working with our partners not just to publish content, but also to make that content clever.