Wednesday 19 July 2023

Spotlight on: Schol-AR

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of four for the ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing 2023. We also invite ALPSP members to take part in the judging process before the closing date of 31 July. Vote online

The finalists will be showcased in a lightning presentation session at the ALPSP Conference on 13 September, with the winners announced at the ALPSP Conference Awards Dinner on 14 September in Manchester.

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists.

Tell us about your organization

Ardist Inc. is a California-based startup dedicated to enhancing the distribution of scientific data. Our team comprises talented individuals focused on providing technological tools to support the next generation of scientific communication for publishers, authors, and readers. Founded in 2019, Ardist received the University of Southern California Stevens Technology Commercialization Award in 2021 for our academic-rooted developments. In 2022, our first paper on the Schol-AR project was published in Nature Scientific Data (View Augmented at As of 2023, we have been fully integrated into numerous journals, publishers, and international conference venues.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

Schol-AR transforms standard scientific PDF articles into fully digital entities, enabling the inclusion of interactive digital media and scientific data directly into manuscripts. Schol-AR is designed specifically to provide full digital integration in a manner that benefits the publishers, authors, and readers of the research community. An introductory video can be seen at

Readers can use Schol-AR to view any scientific data associated with an article, poster, or other communication via simple “point to view” mobile access or “click to open” browser access, which opens both an article and its data simultaneously. With Schol-AR readers don’t need to find URL links, gain access to databases, or install software to view specific types of data. Instead, we provide data intuitively and immediately, through the preferred medium of the reader. 

Authors can quickly and easily augment data and digital media into their publications through an accessible web interface at Creating augmentations does not require any technical writing like XML, programming knowledge, or any other technical capabilities. Instead, authors simply upload the figures they would like to augment, and the data they would like to augment them with. Once done, authors immediately receive a QR code that when included in their document converts it into a fully digital augmented paper. The augmentation creation process is designed to take less than five minutes and allow authors to continue writing standard PDFs with the tools they are accustomed to. A demonstration of the process can be seen at

Publishers can integrate Schol-AR with no technical requirements whatsoever, entirely averting the costly and risky technical overhauls otherwise needed to provide their readers and authors modern digital capabilities. Simply stated, if a publisher can distribute a PDF, then all Schol-AR’s capabilities are already fully available to them. This design spares publishers the time and effort necessary to develop, deploy, and maintain complex digital systems as well as providing technical support for authors who utilize those systems. Instead, publishers receive fully digital-inclusive augmented articles from the first stage of the submission process. Schol-AR augmented articles also streamline the editorial process, as the augmentations are seamlessly accessible to editors and peer reviewers throughout submission, just as they are to all readers after full publication.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

Schol-AR was developed by the Ardist team to enhance scientific communication through fully accessible digital integration. Our system utilizes augmented reality (AR) and computer vision (CV) technologies to seamlessly layer data onto figures for easy viewing. Instead of attaching data to specific submission systems, we directly attach it to the figures, making the data viewable wherever the images are seen. The framework supporting these capabilities encompasses technologies across iOS, Android, webGL, web server, and cloud computing. Despite the complexity of Schol-AR's infrastructure, the resulting product offers simple and intuitive access for both readers and authors.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation? 

Schol-AR provides an entire digital overhaul to the journal article in a way that is seamlessly integrated into the existing publishing system. Instead of attempting to replace the PDF with a fully digital standard, we augment the PDF with the simple addition of a QR code. This approach removes the considerable barrier of requiring every publisher to implement a new technology into their systems in order to provide digitally inclusive documents, ultimately enabling immediate global accessibility across all journals everywhere. This does not only benefit publishers, but also authors who no longer need to consider if a particular submission system will accommodate their specific form of data. Once augmented through Schol-AR, a document can be submitted anywhere and data will automatically accompany it. Additionally, Schol-AR provides dramatically improved accessibility to readers in both digital accessed and printed articles, facilitating intuitive data inclusion across mediums. Lastly, Schol-AR is broadly supportive of multiple discipline-spanning media formats including interactive 3D models, image stacks, videos, and volumetric data. 

What are your plans for the future?

The Schol-AR project has been implemented across numerous journals, publishers, and conference venues to improve the data accessibility of journal articles and posters. However, the project is still new, and we have many plans to expand both the general adoption of Schol-AR as well as the services we provide. For example, while augmentations can currently be automatically created from numerous types of media, we plan to expand support across a much wider range of data formats and associated visualization styles. Further, our digital architecture is well suited to provide additional capabilities, such as communication between authors and readers and access to numerous additional article-related digital services. This project is just getting started, and we are eager to continue advancing digital scholarly communication with Schol-AR. 

About the author

Tyler Ard is the CEO of Ardist Inc., and Assistant Professor at the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. Dr. Ard has decades of experience in cutting edge data visualization, publication, research, and digital distribution. 

More information

No comments:

Post a Comment