In December, David Crotty, Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press, published a piece in Scholarly Kitchen lamenting the shutdown of Aperta, the workflow solution created by Public Library of Science (PLOS), giving voice to the disappointment of the research community which has had “high hopes for much-needed improvements in the manuscript submission process.”
More than a decade ago, when journals and their submission process became digitized, researchers rejoiced at the speed and ease at which their work could be published and how that would change the future of scholarly publishing. What they had not anticipated was how unnecessarily complicated the submission process could become.
As Crotty notes, PLOS ran into trouble when working with different editorial teams. Each publisher has their own format and style, and submissions from researchers come in a variety of formats, with new media being added to submissions all the time — from charts to photos to videos. Publishers have their own individual workflow systems, and scientists and researchers want to publish their findings in an effort to further discovery and don’t have time to figure out each individual, often labor-intensive, process. Plus, once you do figure out the submission process, as Phill Jones, Director of Publishing Innovation at Digital Science, notes in an article inScholarly Kitchen, “People complain about slow upload speeds and poorly designed workflows that mean they have to babysit a submission for several hours.” This is unsurprising considering every effort to create a uniform, efficient submission process across all publishers has been unsuccessful.
As Jones suggests, “My advice would be for publishers to try out their submission systems themselves (under realistic conditions, with large files and multiple authors) and see how much of a pain they are to use. If you do this, you’ll probably see some easy wins.”