“Articles of the Future” – moving things along in a small way

As people may know I am among my other tasks a journal editor, editor of Research In International Business and Finance, published by Elsevier. And a fine journal it is…Elsevier have introduced the ‘Article of the Future’ concept recently, which aims to expand scholarly articles from simple static print to be a richer and hopefully more meaningful multimedia enabled communication. See here for more information.

As part of this development, RIBAF will now require any paper accepted for publication to be accompanied by either a short video presentation (such as the author(s)s explaining the motivation or importance or interesting aspects of the paper, a video presentation of any theoretical or econometric findings (such as a visualisation of how a volatility surface changes or simulation of a model as parameters and assumptions change) or a presentation of the paper (such as  a keynote or powerpoint slideset).  Humans are visual creatures if a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much is a video worth? More seriously, academic publications are in all essentials unchanged since the early 19th century – there are ongoing massive debates on peer review, charging, access and so forth, but we have as an academy given little thought to how the base element of how we present the work may take full advantage of modern  ICT.

Thoughts welcome!

11 thoughts on ““Articles of the Future” – moving things along in a small way

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » ‘Articles of the Future’ – moving things along in a small way

  2. margaret e ward

    Hi Brian,
    That looks like a step in the right direction but I think academics need to first apply the standards of clear English to their thinking and writing. That means understanding their audience and writing with them in mind. If it’s a general audience – newspaper readers, member of the public – then industry jargon needs to be removed or explained simply. Visual thinking is definitely the key to the communications of the future but you need clear thinking first!

  3. bjg

    I can read faster than you can talk. And I can read continuous prose faster than a series of powerpoint [spit] slides. So the first and third examples would, I think, require more bytes but would slow down the “readers” (which is why television is, I believe, less efficient than newspapers or text articles on tinterweb). Only the second seems to offer anything that could not be done by text.

    Elsevier’s description of the article of the future stresses hierarchical over linear presentation, but the video and slide additions you suggest are linear add-ons to a linear article and, by their nature, slower to take in than straight text-with-diagrams. I think that you need a more radical reconceptualisation of your articles.

    Coincidentally, I felt that Paul Krugman’s recent piece on technology and journals http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/open-science-and-the-econoblogosphere/#more-28323 suggested ways of adding real value. As with distance education, it seems to me that improving speed of publication and promoting communication and discussion are better applications for technology (and writers’ time) than adding videos, graphics or even LaTeX.


  4. james

    Yes, ye are behind the curve in this regard. Search Engine Optimisers and Internet Marketers, discovered this years ago.
    If you wish to make something appealing, then it must;
    1) Make noise – music, voice, childs rattle
    2) Move – T.V. , video, dog or cat running after a moving paper.
    3)Be colourful – See soccer, baseball, darts even, T.V., x factor – all more of a colour spectacle than a “content” authority.
    Debate; would many watch darts or soccer, if black and white and without adrenaline pumping noise?

    These three requirement apply to all gadgetry and manufactured objects also. Add a flashing light, a bleeper, contrasting colour scheme with parts, etc..
    Video can be made with static images or photos, by adding effects (fade, etc..), and mood can be managed by aligning image mood with music mood (important, and relatively easy).
    Powerpoint “presentations” are boring at best.
    Try Windows Movie Maker, and splice-in some open source music (community audio, moby, museopen and other classical libraries).
    Edit the music, yourself – Audacity (open source) – copying and pasting sections for emphasis or mood, as well as production length.
    Host free on Youtube (unlisted if you wish), to pay for bandwidth.
    Use computer for live presentations – ensuring constant and uninterrupted stream, replaying entire video as a windowns movie file (.wmv).

  5. conorjh

    Adding things like youtube videos or slides is nice, maybe helpful, but it is basically decorative; the future should really about open access, speed to publication and transparency of the review process


  6. gmcmahon

    The most important caveat is that the underlying data is ‘open’ and unfettered from any rights grab by the publisher. While the move toward enhanced publications is to be welcomed [ see also the Dutch SURFFOUNDATION http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FHI4J94YUUk ] , the fruits of publicly funded research undertaken by publicly funded researchers must not be locked into the type of rent-seeking behaviours so prevalent in academic publishing. Scholars and scholarship deserve better.

  7. Stefano Sanvitoefano Sanvito

    Hi Brian,

    This is a good idea and some Chemistry journals from the American Chemical Society have been doing the same for some time now (although on a volountary basis). My fear is that such an initiative may become irrelevent inside the enormous volume of publications that the Science produces. In other words the risk is that nobody will look at the videos if there are too many. I think that in your context (if I remember a discussion we had some time ago, your volumes are much smaller than the typical Physics/Chemistry ones) it may be very effective.

    I guess that what I am saying is that such initiative becomes more valuable as one is able to screen the uninteresting work (I do not believe that we can lower down the number of published materials any time soon) before reading it!! In my view this is possible in time of social networks. I suspect that the key to link social networks, peer review, open access and progressive PR is there somewhere there. I am sure some clever kid will find it and … the publishers will not like it!!


  8. DrMCashin

    Interesting development from Elsevier, responding to clear ICT threats. Publishing houses have had the advantage of global access, enabling authors to have access to a wider audiences, sharing their research etc., however, this advantage has all but disappeared! Recently I read that Elsevier was linked to the proposed US bill which may come before Congress which has been described as academic firewalling, restricting free/open access to research papers, originally funded by public grants etc. A difficult to argue against, particularly when Elsevier’s profit was $735ml last year, with that kind of profit I would expect a personal reading by theed authors themselves in the comfort of my living room…can’t get more interactive than that really! In concluding, a good idea to perhaps use video abstracts, helps to put ‘personality’ behind the paper/article…

  9. sf ca writer

    For every lesson there is a million learning styles that may need to learn it. It is not always possible to have a complete audience of just one learning style, so multimedia will help in capturing most of any audience.
    As economy, especially the Irish economy, is such an emotional social issue, there are even poets.
    They all vote, they all spend, they should all be part of the discussion.
    I knew a math teacher who always pointed at a communication pylon in a nearby field during Pythagoras related problems. I asked him why and he said, ‘because there is always someone who’s looking out the window’.


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