Researchers are increasingly making use of 3D modelling as a professional tool. Aside from their primary research use, these models are inherently visual and can therefore give you a unique way to engage with your audience.
Publishing 3D models in Taylor & Francis journals
Taylor & Francis has recently partnered with the online 3D viewing platform Sketchfab. This has now enabled us to embed a new interactive 3D viewer within our online journals.
The viewer is fully integrated into Taylor & Francis Online and so it does not require the reader to open a new window or navigate away from the main body of the article to interact with the 3D model. Taylor & Francis is the first major publisher to incorporate 3D models within the HTML version of online journal articles.
You can now use this facility to publish your project’s 3D outputs just as you would any other form of data (e.g. tables, charts or illustrations).
Any 3D outputs published with Taylor and Francis Online will also be available to view via the Taylor & Francis Sketchfab page, offering an additional route to reach the people who will be interested in your work.
Why publish 3D models?
Publishing in 3D offers readers the opportunity to interact with your data in a new way. The inclusion of an integrated 3D model enables a much richer interaction with the subject material that really resonates with the nature of the research.
From an impact perspective, the inclusion of a relevant 3D model can provide a completely independent access point to your research. This opens up the potential for engagement beyond traditional academic communities; in particular offering a highly shareable visualization that is accessible to the wider public, practitioners and non-English language speakers.
A link to your article will be associated with the Sketchfab version of your model. This can increase the discoverability of your research and allow anyone who is interested the opportunity to learn more.
How to make the most of publishing 3D models
1. Follow best practice
There is an increasing number of ‘best practice’ guides and guidelines available. These are frequently tailored to a specific field so relevant professional bodies are often a good place to start. For example, both Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland have put together detailed guidance on the use of 3D modelling and geospatial imagery in heritage and associated fields.
2. Try and be as transparent as possible
No matter the method you use to build your models, or their primary purpose, it is essential that the reader can be confident in their accuracy. It’s therefore good practice to specify the hardware and software that you used along with a basic workflow of any important processes that may have impacted on the final output.
The London Charter is often used by cultural heritage professionals working with computer visualizations and 3D models and lays down a concise framework regarding documentation of methods and practice.
It is especially important to clarify whether your model has been optimized for publication. That way your readers will not equate a reduced visualization with the actual output of your work.
3. Think about the way you present your models
Consider the purpose of your model. Are you trying to show the results of a specific metric test, present an artifact for comparison, or exhibit a reconstructed building or interior?
- Different uses will need differing methods of presentation. Have a look at other Sketchfab users via the ‘explore’ tab, such as archaeology and heritage focused Getinsitu, for some ideas on how to present different model types.
- Some level of formatting will likely be possible within the software you have used to build the model, but it might also be worth refining your model in a separate package such as Meshlab or Blender. Both are free to use and open source but there are also lots of paid options available such as ZBrush.
Make sure you clearly caption your model, as you would any figure, so as to allow users to get the most out of their interaction. For instance, pointing out features or specific points that might not be at first evident.
Consider adding a scale bar. It is sometimes difficult for people who are not familiar with the object or structure to visualize its relative size. As this is not always straight forward, you could alternatively describe the scale in the model’s caption. For example, give the object or building’s total length.
4. Get the word out
- Share a link on social media. Direct people to your model’s Sketchfab page (where there will also be a link to your article). Have a look at the post on using Twitter to share your research for some more tips.
- Adding a video clip of your model or even a still image may help to grab people’s attention.
For more information on publishing 3D content please see the journal’s Instructions for Authors on Taylor & Francis Online, or if the journal in which you are looking to publish does not currently support 3D publishing then contact the academic journal Editor and let them know that you would like to make use of this capability.
There’s a full list of the Taylor & Francis journals that currently support online 3D publication, along with links to their relevant Instructions for Authors pages below.
If you’re looking for some advice on building 3D models, then the best practice guides are a great place to start (see links above). For more specific advice, the Sketchfab Blog publishes useful articles and the Sketchfab Forum is an active community of modelers (both professionals and amateurs) with threads that often relate to specific 3D applications or subject areas.
Journals publishing 3D models
The option to feature 3D models within articles is currently available on the following titles. Visit the Instructions for Authors page of your chosen journal for more details about how to submit a model:
- Cartography and Geographic Information Science
- Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering
- Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering: Imaging & Visualization
- Connective Tissue Research
- Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites
- Danish Journal of Archaeology
- Digital Journalism
- International Biomechanics
- International Journal of Heritage Studies
- International journal of Neuroscience
- Journal of Coordination Chemistry
- Journal of Field Archaeology
- Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
- Journal of the Institute of Conservation
- Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation
- Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
- Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine
- Journalism Practice
- Journalism Studies
- Studies in Conservation
- Supramolecular Chemistry
Sam is a WRoCAH funded PhD researcher in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield. He is currently working with Taylor & Francis to better understand the scope and potential of 3D publishing for archaeology and heritage.