Thinking about it simply, supplementary materials can be defined as all the “detailed work” a scholar does to prove the science in a study, paper or journal article. These additional relevant assets can include things like datasets, methods information, chemical drawings, video clips, audio files, large data tables, and more.

Because the range of supplementary materials is vast (anything from a text file to computer simulation code), publishers often have different approaches to make them available to users.

Copyright Clearance Center works closely with both publishers and researchers, so we’ve seen firsthand the benefits these materials provide across the scientific spectrum. Read on to learn why supplementary materials are important, and how we’re making them easier to access in RightFind.

Benefits of Supplementary Materials Throughout the Spectrum of Publishing

Supplementary materials are critically important for scientific progress and their benefits can be seen across the spectrum of research. Here’s a look at the value they can provide:

For Researchers: 

Supplementary material helps other scientists to reproduce results, and replicability and reproducibility is one of the golden standards of the scientific method. An R&D documentation specialist we spoke with recently noted that she needs supplementary materials to provide concrete evidence to regulators. Another R&D scientist indicated that supplementary materials often contain important details about experimental setup that are necessary to his work. He also mentioned the value of added data provided in the supplements.

For Publishers: 

Publishers strive to advance science by making research available and accessible. It’s important that articles are readable and discoverable. Supplementary material help contextualize an article in much the same way that appendices and footnotes streamline a book. Authors can place additional details that might not fit into the body of the article (such as an audio recording or a large data table) into the supplementary material.

For Authors: 

Supplementary material highlights the author’s research by making the details of that process available to readers. Scientists who are interested in the author’s research area can find articles more easily because supplementary material creates additional discovery points for the article through backlinks. Many funders require the use of supplementary materials. Plagiarism detectors are now reviewing supplementary materials, supplying an added layer of protection to the work and the author.

Accessing Supplementary Materials in RightFind

Supplementary materials are handled in very different ways across publishers, especially around available metadata indicating that the files exist and whether they can be fetched automatically. However, because supplementary materials are utilized across the R&D pipeline, CCC has focused on improving processes within RightFind to offer easy access. Several years ago, there was no way to order supplementary material without putting in a custom special instruction on the order or contacting customer service. Users had to know how to do that, and those requests weren’t an intuitive or automated process.

Today, RightFind Enterprise makes it easy to get access to the supporting materials vital to the user’s research. Here’s how it works:

  • When a user opens a PDF delivered by RightFind from a participating publisher (currently including Wiley, Springer Nature, Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis), a Supplemental Data button at the top of the screen will automatically display the number of files available.
  • The user can simply click that button to select the files they wish to view and download.
  • CCC is working with additional publishers to automate delivery of supplementary materials for as much content as possible.

For any publishers that do not yet automatically deliver supplementary materials through RightFind, the user can use the Supplemental Data button to request the content, and RightFind will fetch the files as quickly as possible.

Interested in learning more? Explore RightFind Enterprise here.

Related Reading: Why Do R&D Intensive Organizations Use Preprints?


Author: Stephen Casbeer

Stephen Casbeer is a senior technology and business transformation specialist. He has led global organizations and advised executives on adapting to and benefiting from rapid change in the information industry, encompassing issues of business and technology strategy, process re-engineering, and organizational design.
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