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STM journals' online existence hits two decades

Online STM publishing has been going on for two decades and is a mature model.

Academic publishing has changed a great deal in the past few years, and ignoring the progress that has been made thus far could be a mistake for content creators and their publishers alike. Getting research in front of the scientific community has taken on new wrinkles, and leaders no longer have to work on models that correspond to physical publishing models, in both the way information is presented and the money-making strategies in place. The desire and need for new science, technology and medical (STM) knowledge has not changed, while the method of delivery has. This contradiction is the new face of academic publishing.

"It's up to publishers to offer an ideal experience."

The big anniversary
This may be the ideal time to think about where STM publications have come from and where they are going, as BMJ recently boasted that it has now spent 20 years online. This is a remarkable statistic and shows how much publishers are missing out on if they don't take advantage of features that came in with the Internet age. In the world of technology, each year is worth several. The progress from rudimentary Web pages to rich HTML5 content is contained in those two decades, and many developments worth investigation by STM publishers have occurred on a global scale.

Taking a look at some of the milestones mentioned by BMJ could convince leaders that online publishing holds useful additions to their respective lists of offerings. The journal pointed out, for instance, that it has opened an online archive of its entire history, stretching back to 1840. This type of access is one of the perks of being online. Others come from the interactive features possible when content shifts to the Internet. The source indicated that readers have commented on its research articles over 100,000 times. Beyond that, multimedia is available for researcher perusal, including audio and video.

STM online publishing has 20 years of development companies can build on.
STM online publishing has 20 years of development companies can build on.

The BMJ's capsule history includes launching a version specifically meant for iPads and curating geographically specific versions delivered digitally. With scientists consuming content in ways that are convenient to them, it's not surprising to see alternative viewing devices such as tablets gaining popularity. The importance of having access to good research data is constant, and it's up to publishers to ensure they are offering an ideal experience.

"The arrival of the Web was one of the biggest things that happened in the past few decades; it was certainly the biggest thing that happened to this journal," explained BMJ sources in an editorial.

Next steps
With the importance of the Internet to STM publishing becoming clearer, what can scholarly journal publishers do to ensure they are pushing the envelope? These companies can opt for interactive STM journal models instead of a rigid, PDF-based standard that is still tied too closely to the era of print-first publication. With such a new approach, they can release documents that work on both conventional computer screens and tablet displays. They can also integrate more advanced feedback mechanisms and allow researchers to interact with their fellows' work and perform peer review, pressing on in search of new hypotheses or discoveries. With the online world fully entrenched, it's worth pushing the envelope.

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