Starting this July, all academic journals published by Elsevier will adopt the “Your paper, your way” policy that has been piloted since mid-2011. The policy is pretty much what the name says: contributors to any journal are welcome to submit papers in any format they choose, rather than have to adhere to the preferred styles of the journal.
The new editorial policy means that authors do not have to waste time on the detailed formatting of a paper when it is submitted for review. Authors will still have to format their paper according to journal specifications if it is accepted, but don’t have to duplicate the effort for every submission that is eventually rejected. This is particularly important when submitting to the top-tier journals, which have very low acceptance rates.
In the video editorial below, Sir Kelvin Davies , Editor-in-Chief of Free Radical Biology & Medicine, whose brain-child this policy is, talks about the benefits of this new approach. In his words: “‘Your Paper, Your Way’ represents a return to common sense and the genuine renewed focus on the rights and needs of authors”.
Although the benefits of this new policy are self-evident, some concerns have been expressed regarding the increased workload it means for reviewers (e.g., this discussion thread). While such concerns are sometimes warranted, in my experience as a reviewer at least, there does not seem to be any substantial increase in the workload required to read a paper that is not formatted in the style arbitrarily specified by whatever journal I am reading for. As I noted on that discussion, it does annoy me when a paper is inconsistently formatted (e.g. alternating MLA and APA styles), or uses idiosyncratic citation styles that make me search for the information I need. I also take exception to papers that are formatted without regard to reader-friendliness (small margins, dense spacing , tiny fonts etc.). Other than that, formatting doesn’t seem to make a difference to me when reviewing. This seems consistent with the data Elsevier have collected (link no longer active), according to whom manuscripts submitted under the Your Paper, Your Way policy are not more difficult to process than articles that adhere to the journals’ prescribed style.
In all, I think this was a very welcome development and I can only hope that other mainstream publishers follow Elsevier’s example.
Image Credit: “Writing” by omcoc @ flickr | CC BY-NC-SA