Faster publication

Just two ways we are speeding up production

Proofing can be a bottleneck in the publishing process. It requires input from the authors: they need to read their articles carefully and make sure there are no errors in the text, figures or tables. When the proofs arrive as PDFs, this can take time, often resulting in authors putting off proofing until later (after all, they have a DOI already).

Unfortunately, this can have an impact on a journal’s average publication times. We have been working on new approaches - Fast Proofing Workflow and our Online Proofing tool - to help make it easier for authors to check and correct their articles, and get the published, citable article out as soon as possible.

Speeding up the acceptance to proof phase

Having a paper accepted is great news for an author, but it’s not the end of the publication process. Traditionally, it would take around 19 days for an author to receive typeset proofs of their article. This is because lots of editorial tasks are going on in the background. After all, the whole cycle was set up to accommodate print publishing. Although everything is now digitized, we still deal with print to varying degrees, so we needed a way to improve speed without changing the whole approach.

To address this, we set up Fast Proofing Workflow: a project that aims to reduce the time between acceptance and first proof to 24-72 hours. When we started the project, the average time from acceptance to proof was 19 days; now, that time is down to just 3 days, and we are still chipping away at it. We are busy rolling out the new workflows to a growing list of journals, with 750 currently benefiting from faster production.

We have focused on making our administrative tasks more efficient. We have also relaxed the print layout rules a little, so, for example, we have more flexibility in terms of white space at the end of a column.

The problem with proofing

Proofing is an important part of the publishing process: by checking the article carefully, authors can pick up any small typos and mistakes that slipped through the net. While it’s not an opportunity to make big changes, or update the content of the article, it enables authors to make the article as high quality as possible.

Many years ago, authors would receive printed proofs of their article in the post, for them to mark up and send back. With digital technology, this is now done faster but there are still opportunities for typesetters to misinterpret an instruction.

Direct corrections mean fewer mistakes

To address these problems, we’ve introduced a new Online Proofing tool which lets authors look at their proofs and make changes directly in the text, reducing the opportunities to introduce mistakes and ultimately speeding up the process. After a successful pilot and some great feedback from authors, more than 1,500 journals are now using the system.

Our Online Proofing tool enables authors to see their text, showing very clearly what the copy editor has changed, in html format. It’s a bit like the Word layout of the article – you can clearly see headings, how tables are structured and the layout of the references. It doesn’t look exactly like the PDF version, but the PDF is available for reference if the author wants to check it.

Combined, both Fast Proofing Workflow and Online Proofing tool are having a significant effect on the production time of articles, helping to speed up the time between acceptance and publication, and improving journals’ performance statistics. For more information or to find out if your journal can be included, contact your publisher.

Author biography

Rachel CairnsRachel Cairns is Director – Journal Workflows and e-content for Elsevier. She joined Elsevier in 1996 as a Production Editor for journals in Materials Science, and then worked for 13 years in Supplier Management before returning to Journals Production two years ago. Rachel’s focus is on continuing to improve the post-acceptance experience for researchers publishing in Elsevier’s journals.

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