Challenges In Journal Publishing Workflow And How To Mitigate Them


By: Impelsys, Posted on: 17/04/2017

Publication of scientific journals first began around 350 years ago and since then millions of articles have been published globally, keeping the scientific community informed on developments and reports about the continuously unfolding mysteries of science. The global journal publication industry is as big as $10 bn and there are tens of thousands of active journals worldwide currently.

The journey from authoring of an article to distribution of a journal is unbelievably slow and long and it consists of multiple processes. Peer-reviewing is as important as authoring itself and it takes weeks for an article to be peer-reviewed, any article that gets published would have on an average 6-7 authors behind it. Authors, peer-reviewers and editors work hand-in-hand during the review and submission process, despite the availability of software interface that streamlines the entire submission process, it takes months (~100 days) for an article to be ready for publication. The readers on the other hand demand faster and better products, only a consistently reliable journal that produces authoritative and relevant content can maintain reader loyalty in this age of rapid information proliferation. Also, readers want to access the articles wherever they are, in different devices and formats, and of course at lower prices.

Acquiring authored works is the first process in journal production, since scientists are not regular authors, a lot of them are not familiar with the software and publication rituals. Most of the files acquired are messy and take an additional work for editors to put them in place and form. As a first step toward workflow optimisation authors can be requested to work on XML or HTML right away or get them to write in a consistently formatted Word files with styles to distinguish components of the article. Optimised source files also make it simpler for typesetting as the styles in InDesign get automatically synced with the XML structure or word styles. This reduces the friction between authoring, editing, and composition.

PDFs are the preferred file formats for journal reading. PDFs are rigid but their functionality can be extended in ways, PDF files can be generated with XML content comfortably. XML tagged content is central to journal publishing, this complex and powerful markup language dictates format and structure of the content. XML tagged content also supports semantic discoverability – an advanced search system to discover the most relevant information.

After the production, distribution is another challenge – it’s a challenge because any content that is not discoverable by intended audience is pointless. The distribution strategy must factor the fact that readers access the content through multiple channels. As the trends indicate mobile access of scientific content is growing every year and this has to be considered as part of the strategy. Mobile optimised user interface makes for comfortable reading and is fundamental for successful transition for the readers to new devices.

Metadata is central to discoverability of any content on the web, the information about the content has to be comprehensively communicated through metadata for the search engines to render the most relevant results. Google Scholar is a dedicated platform for discovery of academic resources on the web, it allows users to maintain a personal library of journals which can be accessed via Google account.

Optimisation of processes in a workflow is an all pervasive approach, it needs a broad vision in which all aspects of the entire production are considered, a change in one process should not have negative impact on the next or the previous one. It’s wise to identify which processes can be automated and which have to be worked on manually. Publishing houses can form partnership with organisations which offer technology services that help streamline the processes. Quite often it happens that we realize the need for change only when it becomes inevitable, smart organisations keep an eye on what can be improved and what changes could benefit the whole system.

Impelsys, a leading provider of technology services to content publishers and learning providers works with well-known STM publishers and provides platforms and services that help create and deliver scientific content in most efficient and cost-effective ways. It offers publishing workflow optimisation services through iPublishCentral Gears which helps create and manage processes that elevate the mechanism of digital product development to the most current level.