“In The big idea: should we get rid of the scientific paper?, published by the Guardian newspaper, Stuart Ritchie argues for a radical action: scientists should abandon the current format of the scientific paper, which is static and not interactive. Despite being currently published in electronic medium, they are still very similar to the printed version that dominated the scientific publishing landscape for more three centuries. In fact, the current scientific article is only an electronic version of “the physical black and white printed paper” in PDF (portable document format). This format is not friendly for reading on the screen of computers, tablets and mobile phones, which are dynamic and offer countless alternatives to interact with information. Reading a scientific article nowadays should be more than getting passive information about a subject matter, rather it should be an opportunity to think, check, review and reproduce the data and analysis presented in the article.
However, the standards of scientific publishing industry, and the rules of academic establishment as well, oppose any change in this static, passive and mostly non-transparent system of science dissemination. The Guardian newspaper article points out some alternatives to the PDF packaging of scientific articles, e.g., interactive “notebooks” that combine images, data, code, methods, and analysis into a single interactive and dynamic “article” that might be read, reviewed, reproduced, edited, and shared at any time. This format is known as “living article”.
But the problem does not lay solely on the “static scientific article”. There are the journals and the rules dictated (mostly) by the financial interests of the major commercial publishers. The predominant system for the communication of scientific results has not been developed by scientists, and they cannot freely decide what is the best “vehicle” or format to disseminate their research work. Actually, the publishers of scientific journals decide and control which format is accepted or not. A scientist today must follow the rules determined by journal editors, who are also dependent on the consensus and standards defined by the entire publishing industry.
By this reasoning, the problem is not the article itself, rather it is the vehicle that widespread the scientist’s message: the scientific journal and its rules! It is not possible to “get rid of the scientific article” without reforming the concept and practice of the “scientific journal”! ”