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Creative ways to semantically enrich an Open Access PLoS research article

We’re always happy to learn about scientists who have added value in different ways to PLoS articles because it illustrates the power of open access.  We call this “creative re-use” and it can only really flourish when entire articles (not just abstracts) are freely accessible online with no permission required to use them in any way desired.

Imagine the delight of the PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases team when they learned that Dr David Shotton, and his team from Oxford University had invested the effort to enrich the content of one of their journal articles, the results of which can be seen online here.

The enhanced version includes features like highlighted tagging which you can turn on or off (tagged terms include disease names, organisms, places, people, taxa), citations which include a pop-up containing the relevant quotation from the cited article, document and study summaries, tag clouds and citation analysis.

With a single click you can re-arrange the reference list by number of times each paper is cited, or add in the authors’ analysis of how the reference is used in the paper (obtains background from, confirms, extends, shares authors with, uses method in). The group has also provided interactive versions of some of the figures: compare the original, static Figure 3 to the moveable, overlaying, enhanced version.

David Shotton’s group hopes that this largely manual effort will demonstrate what practical enhancements can be made to scientific papers through the application of existing technology. Once the methods employed by Dr Shotton and his colleagues become more routine, all open-access literature could be semantically enhanced and redistributed without restriction.

Whether the next steps towards semantic markup are implemented by authors, publishers or post-publication text miners remains to be seen, but we welcome your feedback on this idea. Should you be interested in how this was done, a Review article published 4.17.2009 in PLoS Computational Biology describes the process in more detail.

This post with thanks to Shabnam Sigman, Publication Manager, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and Evie Browne, Publication Manager, PLoS Computational Biology.

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