Your Paper, Your Way and the reviewing process

Authors: Catriona Fennell and Rebecca Barrie

Free Radical Biology & MedicineOver the past few years, researchers have frequently expressed a desire for a simplified process of preparing and submitting papers. In fact, when Elsevier's Research & Academic Relations team asked researchers what they found most frustrating, nearly one in three chose "preparing manuscripts". With every journal having different technical and formatting requirements, and many papers being submitted more than once before publication, it is not surprising this is a key area of author concern.

In response to this frustration, in mid-2011 Sir Kelvin Davies, PhD, DSc, and Editor-in-Chief of Free Radical Biology & Medicine, introduced the Your Paper, Your Way initiative, as described in his video editorial below:


Your Paper, Your Way – what it means

Your Paper, Your Way (YPYW) simplifies submission requirements so that authors can focus on what really matters: the science. Journal-specific formatting such as reference style is no longer needed and authors can upload their entire manuscript as a single PDF or MS Word file. Of course, the submission must still be structured in such a way that allows editors and reviewers to assess the science. And, just as before, all ethical standards need to be met. For further details, please visit our Elsevier.com Your Paper, Your Way page.

Following Free Radical Biology & Medicine's lead, Elsevier proceeded to test the new process with journals from a broad range of scientific fields with varying editorial workflows. Now that we have extended the concept to more than 650 titles from different scientific disciplines, we are excited to share our latest results.

What reviewers tell us

Given that the peer-review process largely depends on the goodwill of reviewers, it is, of course, vital that the simplified requirements don't hamper your role as a reviewer in any way. To evaluate the impact on reviewers, 870 responses from Elsevier's existing Reviewer Feedback Programme (RFP) were analyzed, of which 346 related to a YPYW submission. We also looked at responses to our March Reviewers' Update poll about how reviewers prefer to read and comment on a paper. If you completed either of these surveys, we heartily thank you.

We discovered that Your Paper, Your Way's simplified author requirements have had no significant impact on reviewer satisfaction. This is based on responses to the following RFP survey questions:

"The review format and structure for review submission was helpful";

"I am very satisfied overall with my experience of reviewing"; and

"I could read the manuscript and figures clearly with no technical problems".

Even better, reviewers benefit just as much as authors do from the removal of some historical submission requirements, e.g. enabling authors to leave figures and texts in their natural position in the paper, instead of adding them separately after the text. In one reviewer's words: "This practice makes the reviewer's work much more difficult and time-consuming, since when you read a paper you need to continuously switch back and forth from the text you are reading to the bottom of the paper."

We received 385 responses to the March Reviewers' Update poll and we learnt that 71 percent of you still prefer to read an article on paper rather than online. This preference has likely contributed to the fact that 96 percent of reviewers surveyed about their work on a Your Paper, Your Way manuscript said they still find page numbers in the paper "useful'' or "very useful'', while 82 percent find line numbering "useful'' or ''very useful''.

What authors say

We asked the authors who opted for the new, simpler YPYW process what had motivated them to do so. Answers included:

"We chose to spend time on content instead of the 'correct format'."

"It was simpler and faster than (the) traditional one. I think it is a good way to speed (up) the process."

"…time consuming formatting work was not undertaken unnecessarily."

"I didn't have to waste time with formatting before being sure about the acceptance."

Of the authors surveyed:

76 percent believed that YPYW reduced the time typically taken to format and submit their paper.
92 percent found YPYW easy or extremely easy, compared to 61 percent of authors who used the traditional submission process.

The editor viewpoint

After some months of experience with the new service, we asked editors to share their thoughts. Based on the 84 responses received, 80 percent of editors found that Your Paper, Your Way manuscripts require less or the same amount of time as traditional submissions, with comments such as:

"Great feature and very helpful for authors."

"Highly recommend to do this."

What's next for Your Paper, Your Way?

Already offered by 650 Elsevier journals across all research disciplines, we will continue to expand this service to more journals over the course of 2014. And, of course, we will continue to regularly survey reviewers to ensure that the new process is only making your role easier.

Author biographies

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Catriona Fennell
DIRECTOR PUBLISHING SERVICES

Following graduation from National University of Ireland, Galway (then University College Galway), Catriona Fennell joined Elsevier as a Journal Manager in 1999. She later had the opportunity to support and train hundreds of editors during the introduction of the Elsevier Editorial System (EES). Since then, she has worked in various management roles in STM Journals' Publishing and is now responsible for its author-centricity and publishing ethics programs.

issue-18-art3-img4 Rebecca Barrie
MANAGER, PUBLISHING PROCESSES

Rebecca Barrie works in the Publishing Services department within STM Journals. She has been with Elsevier since 2006 and has worked in a variety of roles in that time, including more than three years as a publisher in Physical Sciences. In her current role she focuses on improving both internal and external publishing processes to ensure that Elsevier is able to deliver the best services to our editors and authors.