Use and mis-use of supplementary material in science publications

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Supplementary material is a ubiquitous feature of scientific articles, particularly in journals that limit the length of the articles. While the judicious use of supplementary material can improve the readability of scientific articles, its excessive use threatens the scientific review process and by extension the integrity of the scientific literature. In many cases supplementary material today is so extensive that it is reviewed superficially or not at all. Furthermore, citations buried within supplementary files rob other scientists of recognition of their contribution to the scientific record. These issues are exacerbated by the lack of guidance on the use of supplementary information from the journals to authors and reviewers. We propose that the removal of artificial length restrictions plus the use of interactive features made possible by modern electronic media can help to alleviate these problems. Many journals, in fact, have already removed article length limitations (as is the case for BMC Bioinformatics and other BioMed Central journals). We hope that the issues raised in our article will encourage publishers and scientists to work together towards a better use of supplementary information in scientific publishing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number237
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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