Article Of The Future

24 August 2009

Cell Press, a publication by Elsevier Science, has an interesting effort to re-invent what an online scientific article looks like. They’ve launch a very light beta with two different prototypes, and they’ve invited the scientific community to provide feedback on this. See the Article of the Future beta website.

The Cell Press Content Innovation Team states their goals:

“The project’s goal is to take full advantage of online capabilities, allowing readers individualized entry points and routes through the content, while using the latest advances in visualization techniques. We have developed prototypes for two articles from Cell to demonstrate initial concepts and get feedback from the scientific community.”

I quite like this effort. It reflects the importance of how information in presented, which in turn affect user’s interaction content.

The team’s name is also quite interesting: “Content Innovation Team.” All too often innovation efforts are focused on technology and functionality. For a large a publisher like Reed Elsevier it really makes sense to innovate content.

It seems like the folks at Cell (finally) realized that as they move away from offline content formats, they can’t just take a shovel-ware approach of dumping their data online. Data is stored, but information is experienced. And this experience can even affect the user’s understanding of the content and the insights they draw from the material. It’s not a trivial matter. It’s also not an easy problem to solve–don’t underestimate it.

I would also add that offline content should also be innovated. That is, now that Cell is moving online, what does that mean for its offline formats both in the near term and the long term? Online content could completely replace offline, but it could also complement it. After all, people still enjoy reading books and journals as hard-copies. For example, perhaps a very condensed print version of Cell with only abstract could be distributed to subscribers. With a short, unique code the user could then get the full text. Or maybe they could swipe in a barcode to call up the online version?

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