Helping your field get the most out of the articles you review

We highlight some resources for reviewing manuscripts containing interactive maps, 3D models, database links and other innovative content

Authors publishing in Elsevier journals have the opportunity to add content innovations to their articles to enrich the experience for readers. These interactive maps, figures, 3D models, computer code, data linking tools, and a host of other additions make articles interactive and give readers a clearer and deeper insight into the research described.

If you’d like your community to benefit from everything on offer, here’s how to spot these opportunities when reviewing articles - and help authors take them.

Tools available to help you review

If a manuscript contains any files related to content innovations, they will be mentioned at the end of the PDF you receive to review. If the files are processed outside of the submission system, you’ll find instructions in the email.

The Interactive Maps, Interactive Plots, MATLAB Viewer , Interactive Phylogenetic Trees , and Data Profile tools have verification web pages to which you can upload the file to check how it will display on ScienceDirect. You will find links to these pages on the content innovation homepage and on the content innovation reviewer pages, which contain a full guide for reviewers.

Identifying opportunities for authors

The journal’s homepage on and the search tool on the content innovation pages will tell you which content innovations are available for the journal you are reviewing. This may help you alert the author to any missed opportunities. A few examples:

  • In journals featuring Interactive Plots, the author can include a plot that also shares the data, saving readers the hassle of using a ruler on a printed page to figure out the values of the data points. Authors only need to create and test a simple data file and include it with their submission. See also the Interactive Plots section below.
  • In journals supporting Interactive Maps, any classic map included in the article can be made interactive, allowing readers all the functionalities that GoogleMaps offers. Authors can simply create the required file from Google Earth or the Geographic Information System (GIS) system they most likely already used in their research.
  • Does the article cite data stored in external data repositories, or include for example gene names of commonly used model organisms? Following the guidelines on our database linking page will create working links inside the manuscript, and also feed applications like the Antibody Data application and the Arabidopsis Gene Viewer, for which the author does not need to upload any separate files.

Interactive Plots

Sometimes it is hard to decide what is best: presenting the data in a plot, for the nice overview, or in a data table, for providing full detail.

With Interactive Plots, authors can include a plot that does both - by creating, testing and uploading one single file.

The file to create is one in the .csv format, supported by most database software programs. The file needs to follow a few guidelines and the author is advised to test how it will display on a web page before submitting it with the manuscript via the online submission system.

Interactive Plots

Two examples of .csv files for Interactive Plots

Reviewers can use the same web page to inspect the file for review.

On ScienceDirect, the Interactive Plot is shown on the right, next to the article, but readers can click to open the plot in full screen. The user can switch between plot and table view, or hover over the plot to see the value of a datapoint. They can also download the dataset.

Take a look at this live example.

Interactive Plots

The Interactive Plot Viewer in ScienceDirect. Users can click the ‘Data table’ tab to access the data, or hover over the plot to see the value of the data points.

Author Biography

Simone Groothuis

After obtaining her MSc in Physics at the Free University in Amsterdam, Simone spent a few years writing articles for an engineering magazine and working on user studies for a telecommunications company. At Elsevier, she started as a Publisher, first in computer science, then in cell biology, and in 2014 joined the content innovation team to work on applications in ScienceDirect, focusing on physical sciences.

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