The eLife online journal has published its first “computationally reproducible” article, where figures are integrated with the software, data and computational environment required to produce them. In such an article, journal readers can change the code and modify figures to better validate or build on the work within.

While journals including F1000Research and GigaScience already let writers embed executable “compute capsules” from Cloud platform Code Ocean into their articles, eLife is the first journal to make the code a native part of the actual article.

In the future, such technology could make it much easier for researchers to re-use one another’s code. While users cannot upload their own data and add them to figures, eventually such articles will be able to be downloaded and run on individuals’ computers to, among other things, analyse their own findings using the authors’ code.

In the past, reusing this type of software has been difficult, and requires researchers to download and use different sets of interdependent tools. eLife’s article, on the other hand, requires no installation – the code can be viewed and executed within the body of the article itself.

Currently, while the new article allows researchers to recreate plots in another style to reveal trends more effectively, they cannot yet share their modification with other readers.

The journal claimed this was a prototype for the type of articles and features it intends to use in the future. Authors who wish to use similar features can contact the journal for consideration.