24. Submitting the Final Version

© Gábor L. Lövei, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0235.24

When the content is finally found to be acceptable, the editor will send you the much-awaited message that your manuscript is now accepted for publication. She will ask you to submit the final version. I recommend that this is done before the celebration begins, and there are a few important things to remember:

No Changes

Firstly, now you have reached an agreement with the editor about the content of your paper, there is absolutely no freedom to change anything. Even if you discover a printing mistake that escaped everyone’s attention so far, you must point this out to the editor when submitting the final version. Be very conscientious about this.

Be Prompt

If you check the acceptance dates of published papers, you will realise that the publication sequence does not correspond to the acceptance dates. After acceptance, papers are handled simply on a “first come, first served” basis. Also, remember that papers are frequently not published continuously, but as a group, forming an issue. When an issue is full, all accepted papers that arrive subsequently are pushed into the next issue(s). The publication queue can be quite long; I have seen delays of up to 8 months. Your promptness may significantly affect when your paper is published.

Check any detail that may have changed during the evaluation process; update them. This means, most frequently, altering the citation details for papers that were cited as “in press” and are now published. The current address of some authors may also have changed; these need to be updated.

Send Final Copies of Figures

Now, in (the very rare) case that you have hard copies of photos or drawings, send the best-quality version at this stage; package them carefully so that they do not get damaged in the mail. You will probably have to submit electronic versions of your figures, usually in separate files, and in prescribed quality/resolution or file format. Follow the journal guidelines carefully (most publishers prefer vector-based graphical material), and always try them out on your own computer to make sure that you are satisfied with them. This, however, does not absolve you from checking the proofs very carefully (see later).

Data Access

There is an increasing trend that authors are requested to make their raw data accessible to others. This can be done by depositing your data in an open access depository (which is often supported by the journal), and/or submitting them to one of the increasing number of data journals. In many journals, access to data is a precondition for publication. Currently, authors are allowed to declare that they will provide the raw data on request, but I believe this is a temporary arrangement, and open data access will soon become the norm.

Sign Any Necessary Forms

At this stage, if not earlier, you will have to sign a copyright transfer form, probably electronically. This is necessary; without this, the publisher is not at liberty to publish the paper — you, or your team, are still the legal copyright holders. The copyright transfer form is usually a standard one, in which you agree not only to transfer the copyright to the publisher, but make a legally binding declaration of other key facts: that your team agrees with the content, that the content is new, and has not previously been published. You should read this form carefully and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.

This step will not be necessary if the journal is Open Access and uses Creative Commons licences. In this case, authors retain the copyright to their work, and anyone can freely use, cite, copy or distribute it according to the terms of the licence, providing the source is clearly acknowledged.

Make Sure Your Documents Are Readable

When submitting the final version of your paper, always check that no file is corrupted, they can all be opened, and that you have used meaningful file names. It is a good idea to indicate, in the accompanying letter, the names of the files and the program (including version number) that was used to generate the files.

Do Not Forget the Accompanying Letter

Do not send anything to the editorial office without an accompanying letter — even at this juncture. The letter should indicate the journal name, and that it is the final version that you are submitting. Include the title, authors, corresponding author’s address, again, even if it may seem redundant — consider this as an extra assurance that the proofs will be sent to the correct address. State the names of the file(s), the program used to produce them, and the version. This is especially important for graphical files. If there are any additions or errors discovered and corrected, state them and indicate their position in the manuscript. You may decide to modify the acknowledgements, for example, mentioning the reviewers if you found that their comments improved the manuscript. It is a polite gesture to thank the handling editor for her work, even if informally, in the letter — this is all too infrequent. Remember — you have been helped by many people, not machines. They may have done their (paid) work, but almost certainly, several of them were volunteers, using their own time. The world is not as large as it seems to you, especially when you start your scientific career. The whole process of publication relies upon teamwork, and team members will remember you and your general attitude. To be polite is not mere courtesy, but also a smart investment for the future. For an example of a letter accompanying the final submission, see Box 16.

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