How to Bring Science Publishing into the 21st Century

A new collaborative tool could revolutionize scientific authorship. Originally published by Scientific American

Credit: From The Graphic, June 30, 1877, p617. Retrieved from old-print.com. Public Domain

The paradox of 21st-century science is that increasingly complex and collaborative cutting-edge research is still being written and published using 20th-century tools.

The essential question—How come the internet age has yet to deliver a collaborative writing and publishing tool for research?—is what two of my physicist friends and I were thinking about several years ago while working at CERN, before we started Authorea. It didn’t occur to us then, but in retrospect it seems like CERN—the birthplace of the World Wide Web—was the perfect place to hatch our new idea.

Before we get into this particular story, take a look at Galileo Galilei’s seminal paper Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius) below. This 400-year-old piece of observational astronomy chronicles, among other things, details of the lunar terminator, the Medicean stars (which later of course became the Galilean moons), and the array of dimmer stars present in the Ptolemaic nebulae.