Cyberinfrastructure is integral to all aspects of conducting experimental research and distributing those results. However, it has yet to make a similar impact on the way we communicate that information. Peer-reviewed publications have long been the currency of scientific research as they are the fundamental unit through which scientists communicate with and evaluate each other. However, in striking contrast to the data, publications have yet to benefit from the opportunities offered by cyberinfrastructure. While the means of distributing publications have vastly improved, publishers have done little else to capitalize on the electronic medium. In particular, semantic information describing the content of these publications is sorely lacking, as is the integration of this information with data in public repositories. This is confounding considering that many basic tools for marking-up and integrating publication content in this manner already exist, such as a centralized literature database, relevant ontologies, and machine-readable document standards.
We believe that the research community is ripe for a revolution in scientific communication and that the current generation of scientists will be the one to push it forward. These scientists, generally graduate students and new post-docs, have grown up with cyberinfrastructure as a part of their daily lives, not just a specialized aspect of their profession. They have a natural ability to do science in an electronic environment without the need for printed publications or static documents and, in fact, can feel quite limited by the traditional format of a publication. Perhaps most importantly, they appreciate that the sheer amount of data and the number of publications is prohibitive to the traditional methods of keeping current with the literature.
To do our part to get the revolution turning, we are working with the Public Library of Science 1 and a major biological database, the RCSB Protein Data Bank,2 to destroy the traditional concept of a publication and a separate data repository and reinvent it as an integration of the two information sources. Here, we describe new authoring tools that are being developed to consummate the integration of literature and database content, tools being developed to facilitate the consumption of this integrated information, and the anticipated impact of these tools on the research community.