Background Crystallography is a data-rich, software-intensive scientific discipline with a community that has undertaken direct responsibility for publishing its own scientific journals. That community has worked actively to develop information exchange standards allowing readers of structure reports to access directly, and interact with, the scientific content of the articles. Results Structure reports submitted to some journals of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) can be automatically validated and published through an efficient and cost-effective workflow. Readers can view and interact with the structures in three-dimensional visualization applications, and can access the experimental data should they wish to perform their own independent structure solution and refinement. The journals also layer on top of this facility a number of automated annotations and interpretations to add further scientific value. Conclusions The benefits of semantically rich information exchange standards have revolutionised the scholarly publishing process for crystallography, and establish a model relevant to many other physical science disciplines.