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Authorea – a good collaborative tool for academia, finally!

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For some time I was looking for a good collaborative tool to write academic articles. And at this time, I cannot imagine anything better than Authorea – an on-line service co-founded by Nathan Jenkins and Alberto Pepe, two research scientists with a background in physics. Authorea is a very well designed tool, offering almost every possible facility for the article writing process. The service is free, as long as you keep your articles public. Anyone can sign up to Authorea (no verification is needed, so all independent researchers can also enjoy this tool).

After you log in, you have the possibility to add an article. If you do not use one of the paid plans offered by Authorea, your work will be visible for all Internet users. You can start from the beginning, using the Authorea on-line editor, or import work from a LaTeX file. The service also supports bibliography import from BibTeX files. On-line editing can be done using LaTeX (loved by STM authors), but also using a Markdown format, which should be more friendly for those not familiar with markup languages in general. What is really helpful, is that you have the possibility to use one of the few ready article templates, designed to meet various publishers’ requirements, concerning manuscript composition.

You can allow everyone to add comments on your text (login is not required to post comments), which makes your article more open for community input, or keep this privilege for co-authors only. Comments are added to every paragraph separately, which organizes the discussion around your content. Your voice in the discussion might be private (visible for co-authors only) and/or anonymous.

As an article creator, you are allowed to invite co-authors, which can be done using their e-mail addresses. Co-authors may edit the text, and when one of them edits a paragraph, it is blocked for others. Edition history is visible for all users. The ready article can be exported to .pdf, .doc or LaTeX file format, and again there is a possibility to use one of the export templates that are prepared to meet the requirements of different publishers.

You may also use the website as your final place of publication, although Authorea does not have its own search engine, or article-centered navigation system, thus accessing articles on the platform is very hard. In fact, Authorea is a very good collaboration tool, but not a “better ArXiv”, which is said to be its goal. Authorea is not a good way for your article to reach a broad audience, but it is a great collaboration tool, which may foster Open Notebook Science.

Those who want use it to only facilitate the work of their research team, without taking advantage of its openness, have to remember that creating and storing private articles is a paid option.

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