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Over the past year, journals enrolled in the Your Paper, Your Way pilot have been allowing their authors to do just that – submit their papers without strict formatting or referencing requirements. Your Paper, Your Way was the brainchild of Sir Kelvin Davies, PhD, DSc, Editor-in-Chief of Free Radical Biology & Medicine. He introduced the concept in mid-2011 and, in 2012, we extended the option to a further 41 journals across all disciplines. Their experiences have proved so encouraging that, as of this July, all Elsevier journals will have the opportunity to join this exciting project.

Your Paper, Your Way – the origins

Anthony Newman

Anthony Newman, a Publisher for Elsevier’s Life Sciences journals, was present at the annual editors’ meeting of Free Radical Biology & Medicine, when Davies came up with his unusual suggestion. In an article on Elsevier Connect, Newman recalled: “We were sitting around the table talking about what’s good and what’s bad. We’ve had a lot of push-back from authors who say, ‘I know you have a high rejection rate, but I have to spend a lot of time just to submit a manuscript’. We talked about the fact that we are forcing them to put it into our format when the chance of it being accepted is just 20%. It was at that point that Kelvin suggested we try allowing contributors to submit their manuscripts without the formatting.”

Davies highlighted the benefits of Your Paper, Your Way (YPYW) in both a video editorial (above) and a post on the Editors’ Update Short Communications board back in March 2012. He explained: “Although standard formats do make it just that little bit easier for editors and reviewers to see everything in the correct style, the reality is that the advantage is very small, and we should really be focusing on the quality of science and not the format. For authors the difference is very significant… an easier submission process not only saves time and effort but may also allow authors to achieve faster publication speeds.” That easier submission process could also help to alleviate one of authors’ key concerns - when Elsevier’s Research & Academic Relations team surveyed researchers about what they find most frustrating, nearly one in three chose ‘preparing manuscripts’.

Feedback from editors

Once the YPYW pilot was underway, we asked the editors involved to share their thoughts on the project - 33 responded. Their feedback proved very positive, with the majority of editors reporting no increase in workload (see Figure 2).  In fact, 95.5% of editors agreed that the new Your Paper, Your Way author instructions were clear and easy to follow. Their comments included: “Great feature and very helpful for authors.” “Highly recommend to do this and to in fact extend this to all submissions.” “Much easier submission process - if you have 10 figures you can easily see them in the right order.”

Your Paper, Your Way – the statistics

  • 80% of editors surveyed found that YPYW manuscripts require less or the same amount of time as standard submissions.
  • 70% of editors surveyed found that YPYW manuscripts are either the same or easier to work with than standard submissions.
  • 87.5% of authors surveyed believed that YPYW reduces the amount of time typically taken to format and submit their paper
  • 85% of authors surveyed found YPYW easy or extremely easy, compared to 51% of authors who chose traditional submission

Editors participating in the pilot were asked a series of questions related to the YPYW process. Their answers are captured in the pie charts below:

Figure 1. Manuscript quality.

Figure 2. Time required.

Figure 3. Author friendliness.

Becoming more author-friendly

Papers submitted via the Your Paper, Your Way route still need to include the following key elements:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and methods
  • Results and discussion
  • References
  • Figures and figure legends

Kelvin Davies

Any important ethical requirements, e.g. the Conflict of Interest declaration, are also still mandatory. As long as the references have all the necessary information, the author need not format according to a specific style because Elsevier will take care of that after acceptance.

Reflecting on Free Radical Biology & Medicine’s experiences since they launched the pilot in July 2011, Davies said his journal had not received any complaints from reviewers, and many authors had sent letters of thanks and praise for the system.

Author uptake so far

From December 2012 to date, the 42 pilot journals have received around 51.5% of submissions via the Your Paper, Your Way route. We expect this figure to increase as more authors become aware of the service. Authors who chose the Your Paper, Your Way submission route commented: “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 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.” We also asked authors to let us know which submission option they intended to use in the future - 80% said they will either always use, or mostly use, YPYW when it is available.

Feedback from reviewers

The pilot data suggests that Your Paper, Your Way is an author-friendly initiative that simplifies researchers’ lives. However, it is also important to ensure that the resulting papers do not complicate the review process. To evaluate the impact on reviewers, 165 responses from the Reviewer Feedback Programme (RFP) were analysed: 77 of these responses related to a YPYW submission, the remaining 88 to a traditional submission. There were no significant differences in reviewer satisfaction based on any related criteria: "The review format and structure for review submission was helpful"; "I am very satisfied overall with my experience of reviewing"; "I could read the manuscript and figures clearly with no technical problems".

July 2013 - upscale to all journals

Based on the positive researcher feedback we have received, invitations are currently being sent to all journals to participate in Your Paper, Your Way. If you haven’t already heard from your Publisher, they will be in contact shortly to discuss this further.

Author biographies

Catriona Fennell

Catriona Fennell
DIRECTOR PUBLISHING SERVICES
Following graduation from University College Galway, Ireland, Catriona 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.


 

Daniel Gill

Daniel Gill PROJECT MANAGER, JOURNAL DEVELOPMENT Daniel joined Elsevier in January, working on web-driven, content innovation projects alongside a small team based in Amsterdam, New York and Dayton, Ohio. Daniel has a publishing degree and has publishing project management experience mainly centered around science publishing within the educational, postgraduate and professional arenas. Prior to Elsevier, Daniel worked at John Wiley and Sons Ltd and Pearson Education UK.