Exploiting the advances of multimedia technology in medical publishing

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Articles in medical and scientific journals have long been beset by restrictions on the type of figures that can be incorporated into the main manuscript file. For example, three-dimensional (3D) images are likely to be relegated to supplementary files, hindering the reader’s understanding and analysis of critical information. However, advances in multimedia technology mean that it is now possible to integrate complex multimedia data into a single PDF document, bypassing the need for supplementary files. In a commentary for BMC Medicine, Alexander Ziegler and colleagues describe this advance in electronic publishing, and how these developments can be exploited in medical and scientific reports in particular. The authors give examples to demonstrate how and why embedding interactive 3D imagery and audiovisual content into publications offers huge potential for medical publishing in terms of information dissemination and user interaction.

From the perspective of article production, we had significant debate about whether the multimedia files should be included as figures or ‘additional’ (rather than supplementary) files. At BioMed Central, we have taken the view that readers and indexers currently expect figures to be 2D graphical images suitable for printing, which is not the case with these files. The multimedia files are embedded into the PDF version of the article, and downloadable from links in the HTML version of the article. This article may act as a catalyst for Publishers to agree on the best way to present multimedia content.