Science isn’t mobile friendly
Research papers aren’t mobile friendly, and therefore not as accessible as they could be.
All content published in science and research is published in PDF format, sometimes accompanied with code and other material. None of which is usable on mobile.
PDF files are not readable on smartphones. They are more readable on a tablet, but the discoverability and multitasking are poor.
Code examples and simulation resources are unusable on both smartphones and tablets.
Accessing research material requires a PC, and preferably a printer to read papers.
The “mobile revolution” in science and research isn’t happening yet.
- Thomas Geijtenbeek, Animating Virtual Characters using Physics-Based Simulation, 2013.
The PDF file of this very interesting thesis crashes on my dear old iPad 3, a device bought for more than $1100 in 2012 in Morocco.
- Michael A. Nielsen, A visual proof that neural nets can compute any function, Chapter 4 of “Neural Networks and Deep Learning”, 2015.
Great interactive essay on neural networks based computing. The text is readable on mobile, but the interactions aren’t touch friendly. I don’t blame the author, only the poor tooling we have to publish universally accessible content.
- Bret Victor, Scientific Communication As Sequential Art, 2011.
This is a proposal of what scientific communication could look like. It is composed of text and images in web format, so they are accessible on mobile. In addition, the document is interactive, since the computer can be more powerful than paper and is able to run simulations for deeper insight. Unfortunately, I think such effort is unrealistic to maintain for most content publishers. Given the current state of content publishing tooling, such effort requires computer skills that most people do not possess. We can dream of a world in which such literacy is as expected as it is to write long prose for scientific publications. This will probably require new kinds of tools to “express with computers”.
- Arxiv Vanity: experimental tool that converts Arxiv PDFs into responsive web pages.