One of the most gratifying times for academic journal editors is making manuscript acceptance decisions and getting ready to put out a new article or issue. It’s time for those research findings to leave the editorial nest and take flight! But before the fun part of promoting new articles can start, there is still one more phase they need to go through - production.
The production process will look different for journals depending on the size and structure of their editorial team. While some journals may have production editors, many others require editors involved in peer review to also shepherd articles from their final revised state to production for copyediting, typesetting, and proofing. Whether you have designated production editors or one core group of editors sharing the peer review and production work, you’ll need to take certain steps between peer review and production to keep manuscripts moving forward and avoid bottlenecks that could delay publication.
Among primary challenges that can arise for journals during production are difficulty transferring manuscripts from their peer review state into a production state – whether that’s moving files or changing file types among other logistics, getting caught up in back and forth edits with authors, and struggling to maintain adequate communication between authors and editors. There are a few steps your journal can take to avoid these situations.
An efficient production process must start and end on a schedule. Production schedules are necessary to ensure all members of your editorial team know what their duties are in the production process and when to fulfill them. Having a schedule will keep your editorial team on track and enable you to give authors more definitive answers to questions like, “When will I receive a proof of my article?”
Stages of production usually include:
- Copyediting phase 1 (then any subsequent copyediting phases)
- First proof check (internal)
- First proof check (author)
- Final proof check (internal)
- Final proof sent to author
- Article published
Journals should allot a set number of days for each stage of the production process aiming for no more than 10 days per stage. Once your journal has an established production timeline, apply it to each accepted article. Sticking to a schedule and not allowing additional changes after their due date will prevent any “surprise” updates after an author has given his or her approval for a proof.
Just as you should let authors know how your peer review process is structured, you should also give authors basic information about your journal’s production process so they know what to expect. Generally speaking, authors will want to know the timeline for production and what their role will be in proof review. You can communicate expectations to authors in a number of ways - from sending a quick email with basic information to adding a production page on your website. It all depends on how complex your process is and how many questions you get. For example, Oxford Academic has a Production FAQs page that answers basic questions on licensing, manuscript proof review, and online publication.
Once you’ve provided authors with an overview of your production process or answers to FAQs, you’ll also need to set clear expectations for them for their part in proof review. Be sure to provide a clear scope for acceptable suggestions during proofing, such as specifying that elective rewrites will not be accepted. You should also give authors a set number of days to review their proof and submit any comments or requested changes. Make sure you have a hard deadline, any ambiguity can lead to delays.
One of the biggest publishing bottlenecks for many academic journals is moving articles from peer review to production. If you work with a contracted publisher that handles production for you, some of this may be out of your hands. However, if production is handled in-house by your editors or institutional publisher, you may be able to find ways to bridge the gap between peer review and production.
When considering your current handoff process from peer review to production, look for ways to consolidate steps. For example, if your editors have to upload articles to one system for peer review and then send them to another set of editors to be uploaded to a separate system for production, you have a lot of handoff steps. If you also have to change article file types in the process - that’s getting into the land of possible over complexity! Look for ways to streamline your process. Much of this can be achieved by adopting integrated peer review and publishing software.
For example, journals can use software like Scholastica to peer review and publish in one place. Journals using Scholastica can pull articles right from peer review to publishing, cutting out steps like re-uploading articles to a new system and having to re-input article metadata.
Typesetting is arguably the most labor-intensive part of article production. When it comes to streamlining production, it’s important to evaluate how your journal handles typesetting and whether it’s the most efficient means possible. Journals that are not working with a publisher have a few options:
- Have members of the editorial team typeset articles using design software
- Find and manage one or more freelance typesetters
- Use a typesetting service that manages all article formatting needs
The typesetting method you choose will depend on the resources and needs of your journal. Trying to typeset articles on your own will of course be the most time consuming of the options, as it requires your team to do a lot of manual work. Outsourcing typesetting to freelancers will save your team from manually formatting articles. But, keep in mind, it can also eat up more hours than you might realize. Editors have to spend time managing either one or multiple freelancers throughout typesetting, trying to ensure that deadlines are met.
If your journal has editors dedicated to either formatting articles or managing freelance typesetters and you’re not having trouble meeting publication deadlines, then the time required for either option may be a non-issue. In that case you should be in a position to quickly produce articles. However; if your editors don’t have a lot of time to devote to typesetting, you should consider the option of typesetting services. Typesetting services can take the burden of managing freelance typesetters or wrestling with article formatting off of your editors shoulders and cut down on typesetting time. If you’re in this boat we encourage you to check out Scholastica’s new typesetting service. We use advanced technology to digitally typeset articles into PDF and HTML formats in a fraction of the time it would take to have someone manually typeset them.
We hope you find these production tips useful! Do you have any ideas to add or questions? Share your thoughts in the comments section or tweet to us at @scholasticahq!