Kelvin J A Davies, PhD, DSc | Editor-in-Chief, Free Radical Biology & Medicine

Imagine if contributors could submit their papers to a journal without worrying about formatting the manuscript, including those pesky references, to exacting specifications? Well that’s precisely what we at Free Radical Biology & Medicine have invited authors to do. Since July of 2011, we have encouraged contributors to submit ‘Your Paper, Your Way.’

As fellow scientists, I and my associate editors of Free Radical Biology & Medicine wondered why journals make people spend so much time and effort formatting their entire paper for submission, especially when it’s a journal with extremely high rejection rates. 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. Just think of all the time contributors spend doing secretarial formatting work on a paper, only to have it rejected immediately and be forced to repeat the whole process again for the next journal to which they submit their paper. An easier submission process not only saves time and effort but may also allow authors to achieve faster publication speeds.

In initiating ‘Your Paper, Your Way,’ Free Radical Biology & Medicine decided to invite all authors to submit their manuscripts as single PDF files, including all figures, figure legends, and references.  Of course, all scientific papers need to include the following key elements: title, abstract, introduction, materials & methods, results, discussion (or results and discussion combined), references, and figures and figure legends. Contributors can use whatever layout style suits them best, however, including references.  All we ask is that the paper has all the key elements, is legible, and that all figures are of sufficiently high quality to permit proper review.  If we don’t accept a paper, the authors will have saved valuable time and effort. If we do accept a paper we then have the authors format their work to fit the Free Radical Biology & Medicine style, but they really don’t mind at that point. Elsevier automatically actually converts any reference style to that of our journal at the time of acceptance, as long as the references contain all the normal information, including the paper title.

In addition to creating a ‘friendlier’ journal for scientists, ‘Your Paper, Your Way’ also allows us to capture scientifically excellent papers that almost made it into one of the top flight generalist journals, but were considered too specialist to be accepted; the authors don’t have to re-format their paper to then submit it to our specialist Free Radical Biology & Medicine journal.

As of January 2012, half a year after initiating ‘Your Paper, Your Way,’ approximately 50% of all the papers we receive now take advantage of this simplified submission system. We have not had any complaints from reviewers about the new system, and many authors have sent us letters of thanks and praise for the ease and simplicity of Your Paper, Your Way.’ The editors of Free Radical Biology & Medicine think that ‘Your Paper, Your Way’ represents a return to common sense and a genuine renewed focus on the rights and needs of authors. It also benefits our journal in numerous ways.  We look forward to seeing others try the ‘Your Paper, Your Way’ approach.