Article production has long been one of the most arduous parts of publishing academic journals. After copyediting accepted manuscripts, many journals follow a production process for each article, either internally or via external services, that looks something like this:
- Layout/typeset article (usually from a Word doc) into a formatted printable PDF using a desktop publishing system like InDesign
- Convert article into partial (front-matter) or full-text XML for scholarly indexes — depending on if the publisher has the technical resources to do so
- Convert XML article file into responsive HTML for the journal’s website — or skip HTML because it’s too much additional work
Alternatively, some journal publishers start typesetting articles in XML and then create PDFs from there (and HTML articles if they’re able to). While this scenario is better because the journal is sure to get the XML it needs for indexing, it still has its downsides. Many editors and authors are unfamiliar with XML code, and if journals want to avoid working directly in XML, they generally have to adopt/learn how to use a special XML text editing system. If PDF articles are formatted separately from the XML, it can make it more likely for the two file types to get out of sync resulting in extra rounds of proof revisions.
In processes like the ones described above — where journals format their articles upwards of three times before publishing them — the costs of time and resources associated with production can really add up. And if publishers skip formatting articles in XML or HTML due to resource constraints, they miss out on opportunities to make their content more discoverable via online browsers and indexes.
At Scholastica, we saw an opportunity to use technology to make the production process faster and easier, so journals can get all the file types they need without hassle. We’ve developed a digital-first production process that uses advanced software to generate HTML, PDF, and full-text XML articles all at once from original unformatted manuscript files. And our Chicago-based team manages the entire production process for journals from the time they send us their copyedited manuscripts — including layout, typesetting, reference checking, and proofing — with a 1-week turnaround from typesetting request to proof review.
Scholastica’s production service can also easily integrate with copyediting service provider workflows, and we have great copyediting partners we can help journals get set up with if needed. So publishers don’t have to worry about coordinating production work at all. Journals can use Scholastica’s production service on its own or in conjunction with our other products.
Whether you need to typeset 500 articles a year or 5, Scholastica has you covered. We have no minimum requirements or contracts.
How does Scholastica’s digital-first production service work? Let’s go behind the scenes:
Today, most journals have an online presence, but many are struggling to produce articles in digitally optimized formats. As noted above, many journals use the PDF as their canonical article type, and it’s seriously hindering their online discovery and usage potential. While PDFs are useful for downloading and printing articles, they aren’t conducive to digital search or reading. PDFs are often difficult for online search engines and indexes to parse because they interpret content in computer-based formats. And PDFs are cumbersome for online readers as compared to HTML webpages because they generally aren’t mobile-friendly.
Have you ever tried reading a traditional PDF on your phone? It’s not an enjoyable experience.
In virtually every other type of online publication, HTML has become the canonical format, yet somehow journals remain stuck with PDFs circa 1990. Frankly, we think this is backward. That’s why we designed a software-based production process to generate beautiful PDF and HTML articles, as well as full-text XML for deposit-based discovery services, simultaneously from original unformatted DOCX or LaTex manuscript files. So journals get all the article types they need without file preparation or conversion hassles on the part of their authors or editors. We even automate citation checks and normalization, so authors and editors don’t have to worry about manually reviewing citations or updating styles (i.e., switching MLA to APA) — we do all of that. And we use machine learning to enhance article citations where possible.
Because Scholastica generates PDF, HTML, and XML article files all at once via a software-based process, the different file types always stay in sync during proof review. Any updates made to one version of an article automatically apply to all other file types in real-time. For journals, that means getting all the article formats they need in less time and with less room for error — no more wrestling with different file types and/or text editing systems.
Sending articles to Scholastica for production is easy. Once a journal has a Scholastica account, all they have to do is log in, navigate to the typesetting request page, and upload their copyedited DOCX or LaTex manuscript files and any accompanying tables or figures. Or, if they work with a copyediting partner, they can have that service provider submit typesetting requests directly to Scholastica (we’ll even help your copyeditors get set up in our system!). From there, Scholastica’s production team uses advanced technology to convert the manuscripts into beautiful HTML and PDF articles (with your choice of single- or two-column PDF themes designed for a clean, modern reading experience), as well as full-text XML files. We format XML in the Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS) standard, so it’s ready to be submitted to scholarly discovery services.
Since Scholastica uses a software-based process for layout and typesetting, we’re able to ensure beautiful PDF and HTML article outputs with greater accuracy than manual approaches. For example, a challenge we know many journals face is formatting data tables to render properly in different types of files. In traditional production processes, data tables are prepared in word processing systems and then inserted into articles as images, which can cause breaks in pages if they’re too large. Or, if journals resize the data table images to fit pages, they can appear squished. Using Scholastica’s production service, journals don’t have to worry about any of this because we use machine-readable tabular data to generate tables within articles. Our software prepares tables to fit PDF and HTML article pages perfectly every time.
Using Scholastica’s production service, journals can also be sure that their articles will be optimized for online readers and web-based search engines, including Google Scholar. Scholastica produces responsive HTML articles that are easy to read from any mobile device. HTML articles are optimized for online search with meta tags that provide descriptive metadata to search engines in machine-readable format.
Scholastica also enhances the online discoverability of HTML articles by linking each work cited in the references section of an article to its Google Scholar listing (where applicable). This helps search engines understand the kinds of content the article relates to and makes it more likely for that article to show up in relevant search queries. You can learn more about this feature here.
Scholastica’s production service also provides journals with the machine-readable XML metadata they need for deposit-based abstracting and indexing databases (A&Is), like Web of Science, as well as digital archives such as Portico. All XML article files have rich metadata, including:
- Cited references
- Complete funding information
- Copyright license information
- Persistent identifiers (e.g., ORCID, DOI)
In addition to creating machine-readable metadata for all articles, Scholastica formats the full-text of articles into structured JATS-compliant XML. For journals and their readers, this means greater article discovery and usage potential. Full-text XML articles can be used for text and data mining, wherein online scripts or machine-learning tools analyze article information for purposes such as language or data analysis.
If you’re trying to find an easy way to produce full-text XML article files that are correctly formatted for PubMed Central (PMC) and upload them to that database, we can also help you there. The XML articles generated by Scholastica fulfill all of PMC’s technical criteria. And we offer journals that have been admitted to PMC the option to have their articles automatically deposited into the database via our PMC integration.
Once articles have been typeset, it’s time for proof review! Scholastica manages the entire proofing process for journals. We send authors a link to their unpublished HTML article, which also includes a link to access the PDF version. So authors have the opportunity to view both file types and can choose which format they’d prefer to review. As noted above, authors only have to proof one article file because any updates made to that article will automatically apply to the others.
Authors are given a chance to proof their articles and can submit any questions or update requests to Scholastica right within the Scholastica platform, via Discussion messages. Journal publishers and editors can see Discussion messages and will receive updates about them, so they always know where manuscripts are in the production process. Scholastica then applies any necessary changes to articles so they’re ready for publication.
Once proof review is complete, Scholastica sends all final article files to the journal. From there, the journal can download article files to publish on its external website. Or, journals that use Scholastica’s open access publishing platform, can publish articles to their Scholastica website from their publishing dashboard in a few clicks.
That’s it! Article production complete! We hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes of our software-based production process.
Update note: This post was originally published on June 7, 2018 and updated with new feature information on December 12, 2021.