Monday, 5 January 2015

Time for a Modern Era Format Change For Scientific Research Papers - No More Multi-Columns

Well, we all have pet peeves when it comes to our education, and if you are someone who is out of school, and no longer attends a college or university, perhaps you've committed yourself to a lifetime of learning, as I have. No longer do I have to worry about boring lectures, socialist indoctrination, or outrageous textbook costs, but there are still some things that bother me. One of my pet peeves today is to look up a research paper which is written in a format that has two or three columns. Why you ask?
You see, if you try to do this on a modern computer device you have to increase the font size to read it, and then you have to read paragraph by paragraph, when you get to the bottom of the page you have to scroll back up to the top again. This gets really hard if you're reading from a PDF file with three columns, in fact it's so aggravating, that you find yourself skimming all columns at once to find what you are looking for, rather than actually reading, which gets very difficult when the research paper goes into new mathematical equations that you've never seen before, and you have to keep reverting to the top to recall what all those symbols mean.
It's not that I dislike the Oxford style research papers, they actually look good and present the proper whitespace, that is to say they are pretty, and it is a decent format, however it is not suited for today's technological devices, especially things like iPads and modern-day tablets. In fact, even on a laptop these types of formats that are multicolumn research papers are very hard to read.
Further, if you use the "text-to-speech" feature, it often messes things up, because tables and forms are often straddling two different columns. That is to say you might have a table with a graph which is two wide for one column, and therefore the text-to-speech feature can't figure out what to read next. Now then, I realize there is a lot of tradition behind the academic authoritarian use of these multicolumn research paper formats.
However, academia always tells us we shouldn't be afraid of change or innovation, in fact they tell us that they are the leaders of innovation and on the scientific edge of the future. If so, rather than living in hypocrisy, it's time for them to get with the program, and innovate by changing these formats so they work on the devices that everyone is using today. Further, they ought to go back and take all of those research papers, many of them going back many decades, and upgrade them all to the new format, then putting them online for everyone to read.

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