American Astronomical Society

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Animated Figures in AAS Journal Articles

This figure shows a screen shot of an animated Figure in the AAS Journals. The screenshot is of the figure, its caption, and all surrounding buttons. A static figure is shown to the readers until the reader clicks a large blue and white arrow to begin the animation. The reader also has access to download buttons for the original video, and to high- and standard-resolution versions of the static figure.The AAS Journals would like to bring to your attention a change in how we support animations in the online (HTML) version of your final articles. Movies are no longer supplemental material, but are now "animated figures" in the final article. Animated figures are presented in an embedded streaming window, so it is no longer necessary to download the video or open a separate window to view it.

In addition to making an animation more prominent in an article, there are a number of advantages to this style, including better browser support and long-term preservation for varying video codecs and formats.

The primary impacts on authors include a few recommended changes in style. First, the caption of each animated figure must include a description of the contents of the animation. This is to improve accessibility for readers who cannot access the animation. Second, the main text should refer to "the online animated figure" by number instead of to a "movie" or to supplementary material. This is to improve interlinking in the final article. Lastly, we recommend authors present animated results separately from other graphics or plots. Authors should continue to supply a single or grid of still frames from the animation to represent the figure in the final typeset PDF version of the article.

Animated figures also support accessibility functions such as audio and closed captioning. We encourage authors who wish to make their animations accessible to the widest audience to create “narrated” videos. Narrated videos include a detailed description of the data or simulation presented in an animation through an off-camera voice-over. Authors should also supply that descriptive text as material for closed-captioning the animated, narrated figure.

The plot shows a line graph of the number of digital elements over time for the past decade (2006 to 2016). There are four lines on the graph. The first line shows that the number of videos published per year has increased by a factor of 4 in 10 years. Similarly a graph of the number of figure sets shows a similar quadrupling of these digital only elements. This occurs while the number of papers per year remains at 4000 to within 10% and the average number of figures per paper has remained steady at roughly 9 or 10. A list of all (>2400) published animations in AAS Journals can be found at the Astronomy Image Explorer by clicking on the "Videos" toggle facet on the left-hand side. As seen in the plot on the right, we now publish around 400 animations annually. More author guidance on animated figures can be found on the "Author's Instructions" webpage.