Publishing Innovation

Article of the Future Project Enters New Phase

What you can expect in the next phase

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"We get feedback...that new content elements like these are very useful and do help in better and more quickly digesting the research being presented." IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, Vice President Content Innovation

As we reach the end of 2011, Elsevier’s innovative Article of the Future project is embarking on an important new chapter in its development.

The project aims to revolutionize the traditional format of academic papers with regard to three key elements: presentation, content and context.

To achieve this, a three-pane article view has been proposed, which separates navigation (left pane) and value-added enhancements (right pane) from the core article (middle pane).

What is Article of the Future?

Article of the Future is an innovation project geared towards enhancing the online article to support researchers in communicating their work in the electronic era. The aims of this ongoing project are:

  • to provide authors with the best possible place to digitally disseminate scientific research, and
  • to increase value to readers by providing an environment that offers an optimal reading experience, making it possible to build deep insights quickly.

Three core elements of the article – presentation, content and context - will be rolling out this year and throughout 2012.


This next phase in the project’s journey will see the left and middle panes released on SciVerse ScienceDirect, with a focus on the presentation element.

In Issue 32 of Editors’ Update in June, we profiled the Article of the Future website where 13 prototypes are available to view. Visitors to the site are also encouraged to share their thoughts on the new design in a survey.

So far, more than 700 researchers have taken part in this survey. Their suggestions have been combined with the feedback of the 150 researchers who were consulted throughout the development stages. A clear theme emerging is that while researchers like all the domain-specific advances that technology can add to a paper, they also want to be free to focus on the core message in that paper. This has led the Article of the Future team to further refine the middle reading pane to offer readers a spacious and uncluttered view, improving on the current online HTML article available on SciVerse ScienceDirect.

Figure 1: The HTML article currently hosted on SciVerse ScienceDirect.

Figure 2: The new, easier-to-read Article of the Future layout. The left and center panes will be rolled out shortly.

Hylke Koers, Content Innovation Manager, explains: “The main objective of this presentation-focused release is to introduce the best possible online reading experience in regards to typography and layout, using lessons learned from the PDF to bring the readability advantages that such a style offers to the web.”

According to IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, Vice President Content Innovation for Science & Technology Journals, the improvements to the presentation aspect of the Article of the Future also pave the way for future developments. He says: “A cleaner presentation is needed in order to take advantage of the content and context enhancements that have yet to be rolled out.”


Though the upcoming SciVerse ScienceDirect release will focus mainly on presentation, enhancing article content is the key theme of the Article of the Future project. The aim is to increasingly enrich the value of research articles by including new and interactive content elements, mostly discipline-specific and key to the scientist’s research and workflow. In the last few months we have already introduced a number of such content enrichments, with many more to come.

The most recent examples are Genome Viewer, Protein Interaction Viewer and Google Maps Viewer (see figure 3). “We get feedback from our community that new content elements like these are very useful and do help in better and more quickly digesting the research being presented,” says Aalbersberg.

Figure 3: The Google Maps Viewer as currently available on SciVerse ScienceDirect.

What you can expect

These and upcoming content enhancements provide a number of benefits to authors, which in turn will improve the ‘user experience’ for journals and their readers. Those benefits include:The ability to share new forms of research output – multimedia, interactive data, computer code, enriched visualizations, etc…Inline support of rich files, such as MOL files for chemical structures or KML files for geographically organized data.

Optimal opportunities to expose research, putting it in front of readers in a way that allows them to develop deep insights more efficiently, for example using Google Maps.We are always keen to hear what new content elements editors would find useful in journal articles. If you have an idea you would like to share, please let us know. You can email IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg at


The third core element of the Article of the Future project is context and we are improving that in multiple ways. The trend of storing research data sets at external data repositories is gaining ground and we support this by linking entities and articles to those repositories. As the article is not a one-way street, rather a roundabout that serves to connect with other sources of scientific information on the web, it’s important that information from trusted sources can be displayed alongside the online article.

“We are particularly keen to work together with data set repositories to establish connections between articles (the scholarly record) and underlying (or otherwise relevant) research data as there are numerous advantages to both author and reader,” Aalbersberg adds.

Researchers sometimes prefer independent data repositories over publisher websites as they benefit from domain-specific coordination and organization. Connecting data and articles helps to increase visibility, discoverability and usage both ways, while providing context to the data and avoiding misinterpretation and incorrect usage. Elsevier believes that raw research data should be freely accessible to researchers, and demonstrates this via entity and article linking, and the use of SciVerse applications for linking.

  • Entity Linking: making links between entities mentioned in the article (e.g., proteins or standards – there is a range of possibilities) to relevant information about that entity (example:  Protein Data Bank for proteins and a standard database for standards).
  • Article Linking: making links between an article as a whole and entries in a data repository – like an experimental data set underlying the research presented in the article or curated data from the research article (e.g. CCDC, EarthChem ).
  • Applications: pulling data from a data repository into the article and bringing that to the reader to explore in the context of the article – often with some form of interactivity (e.g. information on genes is pulled from the NCBI GenBank, and is shown alongside the article).

Elsevier is applying this contextual data linking by working with many different repositories, including PANGAEA, CCDC, NCBI, PDB, and (recently added) EarthChem.

As an editor of an Elsevier journal, what database would you like to see connected to your journal article content?  If you know of one that is widely used and recognized, and well-organized and maintained, we would be interested in adding it to the program. Help us to increase the extent and impact of this initiative and benefit your journal and its readers by contacting IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg at

As we prepare to introduce both readers and authors to the next phase of the Article of the Future journey, our sights are already set on 2012, when ongoing content enhancements will follow the upcoming release of the new presentation style. Expect to hear more from us during the upcoming year!

Author Biography

IJsbrand Jan AalbersbergIJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg
From 1999-2002, IJsbrand Jan served as the Vice President of Technology at Elsevier Engineering Information (Hoboken, USA). As Technology Director for Science & Technology from 2002-2005, he was one of the initiators of Scopus, responsible for its publishing-technology connection. In 2006, he switched his focus as Technology Director to Elsevier’s Corporate Markets. Since taking on the role of Vice President Content Innovation in 2009, he has strived to help scientists communicate research in ways they weren’t able to do before. IJsbrand Jan holds a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science.

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