This post was written by Matteo Cantiello, a theoretical astrophysicist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and Authorea’s Chief Scientist. It is intended to be published as a post on Astrobetter.com.
I am aware that a while back a lot of astronomers have tried out writing their research articles on Authorea, a web-based collaborative writing platform. Some were disappointed by the lack of certain advanced LaTeX features (e.g., deluxetables, now supported). You were disappointed, you told us why, and we just implemented some big changes to make you happy. Authorea now has a ”Power LaTeX user” mode which supports a much much larger subset of LaTeX. Essentially everything. And unlike some services such as ScribTeX and WriteLaTeX (previously reviewed on Astrobetter), all your LaTeX renders both to PDF and to HTML (i.e., the web).
So, why should you give Authorea a spin and start using it daily for your research? It’s a good question. Here some highlights that might guide that decision.
With Authorea, your paper is accessible from any computer, anywhere in the world.
You can write your paper from your browser, no installation of TeX required.
You can write in LaTeX or in markdown. Advanced LaTeX and tables are now supported.
Collaboration is made easy. No need for endless emails threads with multiple draft revisions.
Every Authorea paper is a Git repo, version controlled. Again, no installations required.
Want to work offline via Github? You can. Authorea becomes the rendered version so that your coauthors can still work with you without having to learn Git.
Adding citations has never been easier. One click and done. Believe me, you will never want to go back.
You can include data and code in your paper, like IPython Notebooks. This allows for transparency and reproducibility of results.
Export to any journal format with just one click. We support all the usual suspects, from ApJ to AJ, from MNRAS to A&A. Switch back and forth between these styles in one click.
Powerful commenting system. For internal or even external review.
Authorea has templates to get you started fast with your next Astronomy grant proposal or d3.js paper.
Did I say deluxetables? Well, here’s the same deluxetable posted on Astrobetter a while back, as it is rendered on Authorea: https://www.authorea.com/38778_deluxe.
Ok, enough with the list of fancy features. Here’s my personal experience as an astrophysicist using Authorea. I switched to writing papers with Authorea about a year ago and I noticed a number of immediate improvements: first of all my papers get written faster. Then I noticed that I have no need to exchange emails with collaborators concerning the paper. All the action happens (and it’s logged) on Authorea, including discussions about revisions and suggestions for improvements.
This said, I didn’t really expect the most important upturn. By getting rid of the overhead I had previously considered a messy unavoidable part of the scientific writing process, something remarkable happened. I actually started enjoying writing more!
And I don’t mean just publishing; I had experienced that joy before. The difference is I now cherish the time I spend putting my science into words. It might sound crazy, but Authorea did something amazing: it made me discover the pleasure of writing science together with my collaborators.
So if you ask me ”Why should I write my next paper with Authorea?” my honest answer is ”Because you will love it!”. My suggestion is that you take Authorea for a spin and make up your own mind.
The Astronomical community has a lot of experience with early adoption and innovation, so your feedback can help to substantially improve this tool. Do you think Authorea is on the right track? Is there a particular feature missing that would improve substantially your workflow? Share your reviews and suggestions in the comments!