Open collaborative writing with Manubot

PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Jun 24;15(6):e1007128. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007128. eCollection 2019 Jun.

Abstract

Open, collaborative research is a powerful paradigm that can immensely strengthen the scientific process by integrating broad and diverse expertise. However, traditional research and multi-author writing processes break down at scale. We present new software named Manubot, available at https://manubot.org, to address the challenges of open scholarly writing. Manubot adopts the contribution workflow used by many large-scale open source software projects to enable collaborative authoring of scholarly manuscripts. With Manubot, manuscripts are written in Markdown and stored in a Git repository to precisely track changes over time. By hosting manuscript repositories publicly, such as on GitHub, multiple authors can simultaneously propose and review changes. A cloud service automatically evaluates proposed changes to catch errors. Publication with Manubot is continuous: When a manuscript's source changes, the rendered outputs are rebuilt and republished to a web page. Manubot automates bibliographic tasks by implementing citation by identifier, where users cite persistent identifiers (e.g. DOIs, PubMed IDs, ISBNs, URLs), whose metadata is then retrieved and converted to a user-specified style. Manubot modernizes publishing to align with the ideals of open science by making it transparent, reproducible, immediate, versioned, collaborative, and free of charge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Manuscripts, Medical as Topic
  • Publishing*
  • Software*
  • Writing*

Grant support

DSH, DH, VR, and CSG were supported by Grant G-2018-11163 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Grant GBMF4552 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. VSM was supported by Grant RP150596 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.