Science first, formatting later

Congratulations to the Mathelier Group on the publication of their article, ‘Put Science First and Formatting Later’ in EMBO Reports’ Opinion series

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Photo: Nadia Frantsen

On average, 62% of manuscripts submitted to a scientific journal are rejected. Whilst formatting errors aren’t the main reason for rejection, they can certainly be a contributing factor. In an opinion piece published in the journal EMBO Reports, the authors Aziz Khan, Alejandro Montenegro-Montero & Anthony Mathelier put forward a strong case for universal format-free submission policies to be introduced. 

Over a million hours wasted on re-formatting each year

Each scientific journal has its own formatting rules, meaning that when a manuscript is rejected, the researcher must then spend more precious time and resource on re-formatting the paper in order to be able to submit it to a new journal. As the article in EMBO Reports points out, it is estimated that around 1,550,000 hours are wasted on re-formatting manuscripts each year. And, as the authors argue, that is unquestionably a lot of time that could be much better spent on actually ‘doing’ research.

As the piece points out, parts of the industry are starting to wake up to the issue. Services such as bioRxiv, a preprint server for the life sciences that allows authors to submit their format-free manuscripts and associated metadata directly to journals or peer review services, making their findings immediately available to the research community, are beginning to emerge. Around 120 journals and peer review services have now joined bioRxiv.

Initial format-free submissions

The authors conclude by proposing a universal “format-free” initial submission policy to save the time and resources spent on unnecessary formatting.

This includes initiatives such as:

  • Structure-free abstracts
  • Order-free sections
  • Style-free references
  • Format-free figures and tables
  • Format-free manuscript files

You can read the article, ‘Put science first and formatting later’, Aziz Khan, Alejandro Montenegro-Montero & Anthony Mathelier EMBO Reports e45731 (2018) online: or view a PDF of the article (pdf opens in new window).



Published Apr. 23, 2018 12:07 PM - Last modified May 4, 2021 11:26 AM