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Formatting doormatting: How much time (and money) do academics actually spend formatting their articles for journal submission?

We teach effective journal selection in our Charlesworth Author Services education workshops, including how to submit to a publisher to maximise your publication potential. We present a number of rules to follow when selecting target academic journals, including always aiming high, submitting your work to publications with a high Impact Factor (IFs) where possible. It’s a good idea to make a list of ten to 15 academic journals in your field where you’d like to see your work published, rank them by IF, and then preferentially submit to ones higher up the list first. This approach will mean that you maximise your academic readership and drive up your H-index; a journal's IF is basically just a measure of readership in any case.

Following the 'aim high' rule will mean, however, that your work will sometimes get rejected. How you manage this experience is important: take on-board constructive comments from peer reviewers and editors, incorporate them into a revision, re-format, and re-submit to the next academic journal down in your IF-ranked list.

But manuscript re-formatting is one of the pain points of any working researcher’s life. Re-working, re-jigging, and changing headings and the structure of reference lists can take huge amounts of time. Have you ever considered just how much time you might spend doing this?

A recent internet-based self-report survey carried out between September 2018 and January 2019 and published in PLoS ONE provides some very interesting insights on the hugely time-intensive manuscript re-formatting process. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first ever survey of its kind, encompassing 372 participants from 41 countries around the world.

Results show that, on average, researchers surveyed formatted four papers per year for submission and that each of these required at least two attempts before it was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The median formatting time was 14 hours per manuscript, or 52 hours per person, per year. Based on salary survey information provided voluntarily by participants, this translates to a median calculated cost of US$477 per manuscript or US$1,908 per person, per year.

The results of this survey are greatly important, because they highlight for the first time these hidden costs associated with scientific publishing. We've all been there: hours spent ensuring our manuscripts have all the commas, hypens, and em dashes in the right places to match with the strict guidelines enforced by a particular journal, only to get the paper back after a few weeks, rejected, and have to start it all again for a second attempt.

Luckily, Charlesworth Author Services can help: our editing services include formatting for target academic journal submission. Why not let one of our expert PhD-level native English speaking editors do the hard work for you? Indeed, we provide a wide range of expert English language editing services, all designed to improve your chances of being successfully published in your preferred journal.

Paid for a package and been rejected? We will work to get the resubmission correctly formatted. Why not get in touch with a member of our Charlesworth Author Services team for more information, and get your writing edited and polished by one of our specialists, currently working in your research field? To find out more click here.

Our academic writing and publishing training courses, online materials, and blog articles contain numerous tips and tricks to help you navigate academic writing and publishing, and maximise your potential as a researcher. More details can be found here.

Maximise your publication success with Charlesworth Author Services.

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