The Modular Publishing Unit: Why, How, and Potential

Author: Chris Hartgerink, Liberate Science GmbH, Berlin, Germany


Publishing after-the-fact articles presents a threat to the quality and transparency of research by allowing for selective publication and questionable research practices. I evaluate whether as-you-go communication of research steps can help alleviate these issues, allow for access to become default, and help researchers make their everyday work easier.


In 1998, researchers from Elsevier suggested to communicate research in modules in order to provide a reporting standard that could recognise contributions at a more granular level [1]. I evaluate the potential of this proposal by comparing it with the goals of scholarly communication (registration, certification, archiving, discoverability, and incentives [2,3]) and meta-research that highlights the issues of how publishing articles affects the validity of science [4–6]. This provides a multidisciplinary framework to redesign scholarly communication.

Results and Discussion

The failures of the current after-the-fact articles are due to narrow interpretations of the functions of a scholarly communication system:

  • Registration is done for only a subset of all work (i.e., selective publication)
  • Work is certified at face value of the report (e.g., questionable research practices)
  • Access is available only for those with the resources
  • Bad methods are rewarded with more publications and career advancement [7].
  • Utilising the as-you-go communication of each research step provides a broader interpretation of the functions of a scholarly communication system:
  • Registration is done for all conducted work conducted
  • Chronology of research is documented
  • All work can be made accessible by default, utilising peer-to-peer Internet protocols
  • Research steps link together to form a knowledge network that can be used to evaluate the evolution of someone’s research directly

I provide some key designs for such an infrastructure [8] to make information available to everyone and lock it open. Here the scholarly content is available for everyone to build applications on, and this unlocks potential to build text and datamining services to further improve the quality of research. These designs are integrated into new tools I developed and demonstrate.


A system of scholarly communication redesigned from the ground up towards to be an as-you-go communication system makes it possible to address a lot of the issues in scholarly research and introduce a new work environment for researchers. It also allows for new ways to produce, consume, discover, and evaluate research.

Key words

modules, scholarly communication, infrastructure


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