Posted by benoitbruneau, on 19 August 2010
It seems that following on the tracks of Cell Press, which is reducing the maximum number of supplemental figures to one per manuscript figure, now J. Neuroscience is doing away with it altogether. Hooray?
I agree that it is not a very good thing at times that the amount of Suppl Figs has risen (or sunk) from useful to occasionally ridiculous (20+ figures!). Yes, it is useful to be able to add a few control experiments, or the validation of a mouse knockout, and a good place to put especially large datasets, but now it’s become an excuse to either bury data that isn’t super solid (in hopes that reviewers won’t pay too much attention), or from the other side, an open invitation for reviewers to ask for more (It’s like a reverse Oliver Twist: “Can I have more please?”; “MORE!?”).
And for the most part, it’s a rather annoying exercise to have to go download the suppl materials. Why can’t journals not put the supplementary pdf together with the main paper pdf? I do it all the time, it’s a simple feature in Acrobat, so is that so much to ask for from a publisher? Cell Press does it, Nature Cell Biology does it, but that’s about it.
So, Supplementary/Supplemental figures/data? Good, bad, ugly? Discuss. Perhaps we can help influence some journals that are paying attention.
4 thoughts on “Supplementary?”
+1 to Pablo’s comment (and Jane’s response) re: methods. When I read a paper, I do not want to have to go digging to find out exactly how they came up with the results displayed in figure 1.
Also +1 to Benoit’s suggestion of rolling everything into one PDF, although I might suggest providing both versions on a publisher’s website. Sometimes I don’t really need the 60-page version with the supplemental information, the three-page paper will do. But I’d really like it to be available.
Supplemental figures are wonderful! How frustrating life was when papers were limited to the distilled bullet points (…Nature, Science…), never knowing how things were done because of a publishers word limits! The number of times I have found gems of technique, expression patterns, sequences, and informative control experiments in the supplemental materials leads me to disagree with reducing their use. Reviewers comments used to be answered by a private showing of additional data. Nowadays, these data can be viewed (and reviewed) by all. Hands off my sup. mats!
There is an important distinction between the casual reader and the specialist: reading a paper in my field, the more information the better! That can only encourage research as it disseminates data that are useful within the specific field. The casual reader might get a bit annoyed, but a good paper will communicate the story through the main body.
Obviously the issues of logistics (being able to download one PDF with everything, limiting the number of supplemental figures) are valid, but I would not support eliminating them.