How to annoy submitters to your scientific conference or journal
Jul 11, 2017
It can sometimes seem like conference organisers and publishers are working hard to impose on authors as many pointless rules as possible. So, I decided to compile a list of my favourite ones.
Updated on 11 July 2017
- Change your submission deadlines many times with no advance notice, preferably after the previous deadline has already passed. Everyone loves scrambling to meet a deadline, then learning that they could have avoided working on their holidays.
- Tell submitters to your conference that the best papers will be published in a high-profile journal. Only after the conference you tell them that the papers will have to be extended and go through additional rounds of reviews.
- Limit the use of excerpts from other people’s work. Fair use be damned, that’s the way to go!
- Force a standard list of sections. All work is basically the same, so it all fits the same format. This in no way undermines the ability of authors to explain their work.
- Ask authors to spend hours looking for obscure bibliographical details for each of their sources. Everyone needs to know a defunct publisher’s old address.
- Journal names should be abbreviated according to a list. This is in no way a ridiculous practice. Every character saved counts!
LaTeX vs. Word
- Don’t provide a LaTeX template. E-mailing Microsoft Word files back and forth is the best form of collaboration. Merging the changes of multiple people is always great fun.
- If you don’t have technical expertise to deal with LaTeX files, just tell people you accept LaTeX but then ask for a .doc file once a paper is accepted! Sunk costs will ensure that authors will painstakingly do the conversion at no cost to you.
- Implement a live-building LaTeX system rather than doing PDF uploads. Spending a day debugging a LaTeX file in 15 minute increments is a great use of researchers’ time.
- Provide a LaTeX template that doesn’t match the Word template. Then ask authors to play with their manuscript until it does.
Language and formatting
- Require a specific variety of English. British English and American English are mutually unintelligible, so it makes sense for your readers to only understand one of them. Besides, no one is more capable of dealing with this than a non-native English speaking scientist!
- Don’t allow subfigures. It’s much better to have authors merge them into a single makeshift figure with awkwardly sized labels and mismatched fonts.
- Rasterised text in figures is always great. Forcing users to put it there by limiting what people can put in a caption is just smart thinking.
- Force authors to submit their figure files named according to their figure number. Everyone knows their figures by number rather than by their content, right?
- Limit colour figures. Who cares if it makes your figures much harder to read. Readers always use the printed versions of a journal or prints a paper on dot-matrix printers, right?
- Limit file sizes to a few MB. Low-quality graphics are far preferable over a largish PDF file.
- Tell authors to push all their figures to the end of the paper. Going back and forth while reading is best.
- Limit image file formats to cutting-edge EPS or TIFF.
Submission, reviews and publishing
- Charge a few thousand dollars/euros for open access publishing. Professional editing and hosting are all super expensive. There’s clearly no hint of monopoly pricing there. None whatsoever.
- Force submitters to suggest a few friendly reviewers. Surely this in no way undermines the impartiality of a review!
- Allow reviewers to force authors to cite the reviewers’ own work. Editors are obviously in no position to stop this bad practice.
- Reject papers without a review for no obvious reason. Bonus points if you do so using a generic letter with a list of potential reasons for the authors to guess which one applies to them.
- Don’t accept zip files. Instead, make authors upload every figure separately. Just click on add file, browse and upload each time. Piece of cake!
- Force authors to anonymise the paper but don’t scrub the author information from the file metadata. It’s just fun to leave it there for technically-inclined reviewers to find!