(This posting reviews a presentation entitled "Beyond Articles: non-standard publishing" given by Toby Green, OECD's Head of Publishing, at the Ingenta Trends event held in London in December 2007).

In this digital era, argues Toby Green, publishers should be doing a lot more with content than simply posting it online in static, print-inherited formats. And sure, we've made some concessions to the additional functionality offered by online publishing (e.g. interlinking articles with DOIs), but generally the content being linked is still static and two-dimensional. Users may expect scholarly articles to adhere to a fairly dry, traditional format - but we can begin to introduce data and functionality around them that have no need of such restrictions. A table within an article could link to a spreadsheet of the full dataset. This in turn could link to an entire database - giving the user the opportunity to manipulate existing data in pursuit of their own research goals. And the loop could be closed with a further link - "do you want to see analysis of this data?" - back to the original article.

The Center for Global Development is taking just such a progressive approach to its data with web services like its Commitment to Development Index. Clean, contemporary visualisation is combined with mouse-over functionality to enable users to interact easily and effectively with datasets that in their raw form would be dauntingly dense.

The appeal - and potential - of this approach is demonstrated by the success of Gapminder ("taking information that's 'dry as dust' and making it visible through animation. Making sense of the world by having fun with statistics!"), which which was snapped up by Google last March. In allowing users to quickly and easily access and compare data sets it enables powerful penetration of that data to reveal otherwise unheeded truths - for example, comparing time periods, countries and mortality rates in its simple interface highlights reduced life expectancy in
post-AIDS Botswana.

A final example, Seed Magazine's Science in Silico, harnesses the greater flexibility of online publishing formats to publish messages which
simply could not be communicated in traditional two-dimensional formats.

OECD is responding to this vision of multi-dimensional data as it develops its publishing platform. The organisation is also collaborating with CrossRef to expand the types of data that can be deposited to CrossRef and thus cited independently of the articles to which it relates.

Toby's session prompted a number of questions from the audience, ranging from restrictions that apply to DOI application (currently, submission to CrossRef requires metadata to be supplied in a schema designed for journals) to the business models under which additional data could be made available to users (OECD's is, effectively, free to subscribers) and the copyright/IP concerns of publishing data that has been produced within a research institution.