Dec 09 2014 Published by under Careers

You know how some publisher's web sites let you download a pdf of a paper with supplementary material included (usually after more clicks than necessary)? And of course others don't? Why isn't the combined paper + supplementary material the default?*



* Let's set aside the asinine nature of supplementary material for the sake of this discussion.

11 responses so far

  • dr24hours says:

    Because they pay for bandwidth.

    • odyssey says:

      Strictly speaking we (or our institutions) pay. But we're talking pdf's here - not so big. Also, many of those who don't provide a combined pdf provide the supplementary material in the original formats - Word files, jpg's etc. - a lot more bandwidth there. Obviously this doesn't apply to things like movies or very large datasets.

  • the same reason they have each supplementary figure as a separate file so you have to click three times vs 1 pdf file. Which provides the answer > more clicks = page views = more advertising \(\)

  • DJMH says:

    Because the whole point of supplemental material is that the publisher doesn't want to spend a dime supporting it: not at the level of paper publication (obviously), not at the level of proofreading and typesetting (just throw any old thing up there!), and certainly not at the level of intelligent web-hosting.

  • becca says:

    Genomics. Supplementary data tables that run hundreds of pages long. They ruined it for everyone.

    • qaz says:

      Becca - Lots of other fields have supplementary data problems, even ones like neurophysiology that won't (can't) put their data online. I would argue that the larger problem is fields where there are complete papers hidden in the supplemental data.

      • drugmonkey says:

        Right. I'm less concerned about huge datasets. It's the stuff that could stand as a paper , no matter how humble, that is the concern.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Because the whole point of supplemental material is that the publisher doesn't want to spend a dime supporting it

    oh please DJMH. the real reason for demanding endless amounts of supplementary data is to squeeze out the competition by denying them the data that would otherwise be offered up to other journals as additional publications. Once that goal is satisfied, you are correct that they have no interest in what happens to it.

    • qaz says:

      Cross-commented from DM's blog:

      Although I agree with the effect you are describing, I think the order went the other direction. I remember when one of my colleagues got a faculty job in the early 1990s with a couple of cryptic Science papers and everyone was asking "where's the real paper?" The Science paper had become the real paper. The Supplementary data arrived later when reviewers started demanding that if the Glamour paper was the only one, then it had damn well better include the real data and the real controls. Because the web had become available, Glamour editors opened up the Supplementary Data floodgates.

      I do think that it is an indictment of the GlamourMag goals that they do not edit the Supplementary Materials.