August 2007
The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure
Clifford Lynch, Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)


Finally, we are coming to a more sophisticated understanding of photography. A photographic print, or its reproduction on a printed page (or, indeed, a digital simulacrum of a printed page), is in effect a reduction of the image stored in a photographic negative or, more recently, an image dataset captured by a digital camera. Adjustments in focus, dynamic range, contrast, and similar parameters can yield radically different images from the same dataset. Here, again, it would clearly be desirable to have software tools that allow one to toggle between the rendering of an image dataset and the underlying dataset, and to be able to manipulate the key parameters that control the rendering.

All of these examples share common themes and raise common questions. The source article becomes more richly structured and exposes its semantics more explicitly. At the same time, the article becomes more and more intractable for humans to read without the correct set of mediating software. This means that the requisite mediating software must be highly reliable, simple to use, and ubiquitously available. Specialized software for individual journals or individual publishers will not, in my view, reach the necessary critical mass.

It’s easy to underestimate the problem of maintaining the level of quality and flexibility inherent in today’s visually oriented presentations. Consider the humble graph — it’s not just a table of coordinate pairs; it has a caption, labels and markings on the axes, a default scale, perhaps a layer of annotations on some of the regions of the graph. We don’t want to lose any of these capabilities.

In terms of deployability and acceptance there are also questions about the potentially increased workload involved in preparing this new generation of scientific articles. While most publisher databases are already using XML based representations of articles internally and are carrying an increasing amount of tagging that can be put to good use, a careful analysis of the distribution of responsibilities between authors and publishers in areas such as the preparation of various kinds of “illustrations” is called for, as well as consideration of the tools that might be available to help the author.

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Reference this article
Lynch, C. "The Shape of the Scientific Article in The Developing Cyberinfrastructure," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, August 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/the-shape-of-the-scientific-article-in-the-developing-cyberinfrastructure/

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