This blog turned 15 (years old) this month

This blog turned 15 (years old) this month
Photo by Becky Fantham / Unsplash

The first post on this blog was published on August 3, 2007 (Open access may become mandatory for NIH-funded research). This is post number 465, and in the past 15 years the blog has seen changes in technology and hosting location – but I wrote all posts (with the exception of a few guest posts). The overall theme remained unchanged: technology used in scholarly communication.

Instead of a detailed analysis of recurring themes, or how scholarly communication has changed in the last 15 years, I want to pick one topic that continues to worry me, and has been the subject of multiple posts on this blog and elsewhere: the over-reliance on PDF as publishing format for scholarly articles.

This week I read two interesting articles related to climate change. One of them (Over half of known human pathogenic diseases can be aggravated by climate change) did an impressive systematic review of the literature on the impacts of ten climatic hazards sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions on each known human pathogenic disease (in short: very scary). The second paper (Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products) tried to estimate the environmental impact of more than 50K food products in the United Kingdom and Ireland (no big surprises, but again stressing that meat, fish, and cheese have a significant environmental impact).

Both articles are available online as full-text, but they come in PDF format. Fine for printing and then reading them (which I did), but in 2022 I expect to read papers on a tablet (which I use for almost all my reading) where the PDF letter or A4 size doesn't quite fit on the 10-inch screen. There are other problems with PDF (e.g. access to metadata such as references and using PDF as submission format, e.g. with preprints). These problems are not new and there are workarounds, but in the 15 years of writing this blog – despite a lot of progress – scholarly communication continues to have an uneasy relationship with technology and is often stuck in the past. In contrast to many (but of course not all) other sectors.

This means there are many reasons to continue writing this blog. And since 2012, when I gave up my job as a medical doctor in a university hospital, I am working full-time on scholarly infrastructure, after recovering from the health issues I described in the last post (I spent the last five months in the hospital) with a focus on research data management.

Incidentally, August 3 saw another anniversary as Retraction Watch, the wonderful service tracking paper retractions turned 12 (years old). Congratulations Ivan and team!

Copyright © 2022 Martin Fenner. Distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.