The "Paper" of the Future

A 5-minute video demonstration of this paper is available at this YouTube link.


A variety of research on human cognition demonstrates that humans learn and communicate best when more than one processing system (e.g. visual, auditory, touch) is used. And, related research also shows that, no matter how technical the material, most humans also retain and process information best when they can put a narrative "story" to it. So, when considering the future of scholarly communication, we should be careful not to do blithely away with the linear narrative format that articles and books have followed for centuries: instead, we should enrich it.

Much more than text is used to commuicate in Science. Figures, which include images, diagrams, graphs, charts, and more, have enriched scholarly articles since the time of Galileo, and ever-growing volumes of data underpin most scientific papers. When scientists communicate face-to-face, as in talks or small discussions, these figures are often the focus of the conversation. In the best discussions, scientists have the ability to manipulate the figures, and to access underlying data, in real-time, so as to test out various what-if scenarios, and to explain findings more clearly. This short article explains—and shows with demonstrations—how scholarly "papers" can morph into long-lasting rich records of scientific discourse, enriched with deep data and code linkages, interactive figures, audio, video, and commenting.