Academics ‘lose a week a year’ to formatting journal papers

First analysis of economic cost of manuscript formatting highlights need for more flexibility from publishers, say authors

October 9, 2019
Jenga
Source: Getty
And again… formatting a paper for a journal takes an estimated 14 hours

Most academics will be familiar with the laborious task of formatting their research articles to meet the requirements of peer-reviewed journals – multiple times over in the case of papers that are rejected by one periodical before finding a home elsewhere.

Now a study has attempted for the first time to quantify the cost of this painstaking activity, and it doesn’t appear to come cheap, either in terms of time or money.

Drawing on responses to an online poll from 458 researchers in 41 countries, a paper published in Plos One claims that scientists lose an average of 52 hours a year to formatting manuscripts – the equivalent of about one working week – either before submission to peer-reviewed titles or after they have been accepted.

That figure is based on results suggesting that respondents formatted an average of four papers a year – each of which took an estimated 14 hours to process, having typically been submitted to two publications before being accepted. Tasks involved in formatting included altering figures, tables, supplementary files and references to meet journals’ requirements.

With the median annual income of respondents falling between $61,000 and $80,999 (£49,460 and £65,675), the wage costs for each manuscript were estimated at $477 – or $1,908 per researcher each year, according to the paper.

It recommends the “elimination of strict [scientific] formatting guidelines, at least prior to [a paper’s] acceptance” to “alleviate [an] unnecessary burden on scientists”.

Four out of five scientific papers are rejected at least once before publication, according to recent research.

The authors of the latest paper – who are based at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and the University of Prince Edward Island, both in Canada – say that repeatedly formatting papers is often regarded as one of the most frustrating and time-consuming tasks in academia.

Allana LeBlanc, the study’s lead author, told Times Higher Education that the investigation was inspired by a “particularly onerous systematic review” of a previous paper that led to changes to more than 200 references.

“We joked often about how frustrating formatting references, tables, font size and headings was, and how incredible it was that this duty fell to the authors,” she said.

Dr LeBlanc acknowledged that the self-reporting nature of the poll – promoted on Twitter and completed mainly by those in health sciences – meant that the $1,908 annual cost figure could not be regarded as definitive.

However, the “problem is clear”, she added. ”Formatting to random standards set by various journals has no impact on the scientific value of the work; it just costs scientists both time and money,” she said. “Given the scarcity of grant funds in academia, there needs to be a change in role whereby the publishers take on some of this burden themselves.”

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

后记

Print headline: Formatting is a fount of trouble

登录 或者 注册 以便阅读全文。

请先注册再进行下一步

获得一个月的无限制地在线阅读网站内容。只需注册并完成您的职业简介.

注册是免费的,而且非常简单。一旦成功注册,您可以每个月免费阅读3篇文章。:

  • 获得编辑推荐文章
  • 率先获得泰晤士高等教育世界大学排名相关的新闻
  • 获得职位推荐、筛选工作和保存工作搜索结果
  • 参与读者讨论和公布评论
注册

相关文章

Reader's comments (2)

Interesting to see that this topic is now the subject of a research project. I blogged about this very thing for the Copyright Licensing Agency earlier this year: https://cla.co.uk/blog/higher-education/referencing It does seem ludicrous that we have to format and reformat when the journal in question might not even want our papers. I would be more than happy to ensure the formatting requirements are addressed post-acceptance.
Good bibliographic software has been around for at least 25 years so a couple of mouse clicks reformats the references. As the majority of science journals stick to the IMRAD structure preceded by an abstract, I can't see where the 52 hours go. Or am I missing something here?

欢迎反馈

Log in or register to post comments

评论最多

Recent controversy over the future directions of both Stanford and Melbourne university presses have raised questions about the role of in-house publishing arms in a world of commercialisation, impact agendas, alternative facts – and ever-diminishing monograph sales. Anna McKie reports

3 October