The Death of the Scientific Paper

The scientific manuscript as we know it has outlived its usefulness. Here's how to move forward.

Michael Seringhaus and Mark Gerstein
Sep 1, 2006
<figcaption> Credit: © RAIMUND KOCH/GETTY</figcaption>
Credit: © RAIMUND KOCH/GETTY

Although the basic currency of science is the research article, the fruits of modern laboratory research are often incompatible with the aliquot suitable for publication in a scientific manuscript. Genome-scale inquiry and high-throughput experimentation yield enormous data sets, straining the established article framework; meanwhile, isolated findings or negative results are seldom published at all. Further, it has become obvious that preserving data in its native digital format - with search, annotation, and update capabilities - is desirable. Databases are already the primary form of information storage and access for genomics and protein structure research.

The various shortcomings of the article format have been quietly patched with other modes of communication. The typical reader scans general information first - press coverage, textbooks, and high-level descriptions - before exploring in greater detail through PubMed abstracts, conference presentations, and online data sets.

Scientific information is exchanged in a multi-tiered...