Why does it take so long to submit a manuscript? This is the question posed by Professors Robert Montgomerie and Tim Birkhead in a recent opinion piece in The Scientist. In theory, the online submission systems employed by most journals should make the whole process more efficient. However, as these systems often differ between journals, with each requiring a separate profile and the input of information usually contained within the manuscript separately onto the submission site, the authors question who exactly these systems make life easier for. The authors suggest its certainly not those submitting the papers and express their many frustrations with what they consider a flawed process.
The authors highlight recent developments that could alleviate some of these frustrations, such as the acceptance of format-free manuscripts and the proposal for use of a standard format across journals. This would avoid the time-consuming restyling that can be necessary when resubmitting a paper to a new journal. The authors conclude with their vision of an online, centralised, streamlined process, where a single PDF of a manuscript is uploaded, only essential additional information is required, and the target journal is simply selected from a drop-down menu for submission. As these systems are currently designed by the publishers that run them rather than the end-user, the authors call upon journals and societies to push for change in order to address this issue.