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Scholarly publishing immediately calls to mind the predominantly print- and paper-based PDFs that have been the mainstay of scientific and scholarly publications for many decades. Initially conceived as the standard format for delivering final page layouts for print, PDFs metamorphosed into the format of choice for online journals. While PDFs have their advantages, they do not allow for a holistic, robust, and immersive user experience.
Digital technologies have led to the modernization of the scholarly publishing process.
According to a white paper “How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Publications,” academic researchers “rate academic search engines as the most important discovery resource when searching for journal articles.”
With “search” being the primary criterion in a reader’s engagement with the content, alternative content formats are being deployed to ensure an enriched user experience.
HTML web pages are search engine friendly, allow for interactive links within the text, and are also mobile friendly. This last detail is especially noteworthy in current times when there is a sharp increase in mobile usage for research on the go, especially in lower-income countries.
Full-text XML allows for the efficient creation of enhanced metadata and is eminently suitable for text and data mining, as the complete article is contained within in machine-readable language.
JATS (Journal article tag suite)-compliant XML allows for descriptions of the full article content or just the article header metadata, including article formats with rich metadata tagging, such as authors, sections, references, figures, journal details, and issue details for proper indexing in Google and Google Scholar. This is often called the “new normal” for scholarly publications, as it exponentially increases readership with greater online visibility and results in an expansion of reader experience.
Video is ubiquitous. Academic publishing is not inured to this medium. According to a research titled “The Role of Videos in Research Communication,” from single-digit citations in 2006, the number of academic publications citing YouTube videos in the social sciences, sciences, arts and humanities, medical and health sciences rose to triple digits by 2011. Peer-reviewed, enriched videos with metadata, abstracts, captions, transcripts, and translations can be effectively integrated with publications for enhanced clarity, engagement, and a superior experience.
Podcast is on an explosive growth path and one that is rigorously peer reviewed, with professional editorial support and production assistance. It is a vibrant platform for the dissemination of scholarship and broadens the vision of scholarly publishing. Research indicates that online audio listening has doubled over the last decade to reach nearly 70 percent of the US population.
Infographics with images and data visualizations add tangible value to research; readers comprehend faster and showcase to others. Visual information is a tried-and-tested hook with higher retention, and statistics point to infographics being viewed three times more than articles published with text-only abstracts. Incidentally, infographics are shared more on social media, ensuring wide and deep reach.
Plain language summaries (PLS) are an integral feature of scholarly publishing and must be used far more widely than they are being used now. Ultimately, all research must enable a society to thrive in all aspects: science, health, culture, education, policy, and so on. If all scholarly articles are couched in complex, dense language, they would be inaccessible to the lay public who are the ultimate beneficiaries. Journalists, policymakers, healthcare practitioners, academicians, corporate professionals, and others will need to engage with the research for it to be actionable. Hence, a PLS synopsis is written in plain language, without the liberal use of technical terms; in simple and compelling style; and directly addressing the audience. Of course, lay summaries must be SEO optimized for higher visibility.
Digital content is discoverable content. The higher the publications feature in search engines, the better the consumption and reach. And this, in the final analysis, is where everyone wants to be.
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