- With article-based publishing, articles may be discoverable and citable earlier than in an issue-based workflow
- In-progress issues can close when they reach a certain threshold of articles or when they reaches a set date
- Linking articles (i.e. editorials with original articles) should be considered carefully
- Collaboration with your publishing partner and editor team is key
A journal’s workflow dictates how articles make their way through production and into an issue, and how those issues are compiled and released. Through my career in scholarly publishing, I’ve worked on journals that followed two types of workflows. Many journals use the more traditional issue-based publishing workflow, but increasingly, journals, especially online-only journals, use an article-based workflow. The information presented in this article is based on my experience working on two journals that follow an article-based workflow, both of which are published by Elsevier. Specifics may vary by publisher. This article is intended to offer some insight to editorial office professionals about article-based publishing and is not intended to suggest or imply that article-based publishing is inherently better or worse than an issue-based workflow. Speak with your publishing partner if you think an article-based workflow may be a good fit for your journal.
What is Article-based Publishing?
Article-based publishing is a workflow in which journal articles are given final publication and citation data as the articles are accepted, without waiting to be compiled into an issue. Often, journals that follow an article-based workflow will have an in-progress issue on their website where accepted articles are placed upon acceptance. Depending on the specifics of the journal’s workflow, the in-progress issue closes when it reaches a certain threshold of articles or when it reaches a set date. The issue then becomes locked and is published as the next issue.
Articles that are posted online as accepted manuscripts or uncorrected proofs are still housed in an Articles in Press section. Once the corrected proofs are processed, the article is then given page numbers in the order it’s processed and posted to the in-progress issue. For our journals that followed article-based workflows, these numbers were contiguous from the earlier issues within the same volume. Other journals may treat page numbers differently or may use an article ID rather than page numbers on their final articles. Note that as long as the page number or article ID information is finalized on a per-article basis rather than being applied to the articles only when they’re compiled into an issue, it is still considered article-based publishing. The inclusion of volume, issue, and page number (or article ID) information at this stage allows the article to be more easily citable, as researchers have all the information they need for the citation and don’t need to list the article as “in press” in their reference lists. Publishers often state that this workflow improves the discoverability of the articles as well, however I am not aware of any independent data to quantify this improvement.
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The items in this section may vary by publisher, but I wanted to note a few of the things that we had to consider when working with our article-based workflow with Elsevier. You’ll want to be sure to discuss these factors with your publisher ahead of launching or converting to an article-based workflow. One thing to note about article-based workflows is that articles are assigned page numbers in the order they are accepted. In the final issue, you can still group articles together—for example, you can have your editorials first, followed by review articles, followed by original research articles, etc. But the order the articles will appear within each section will be determined by their order of when they were finalized. Additionally, the page numbers will be assigned in the order the articles are finalized, regardless of what section they’re in. So you very well might end up with an editorial on page 300 for an article on page 115, even though the editorial might appear first in the journal’s Table of Contents. In an online-only journal, that’s not going to be a problem, but for a journal that has a print version, that might be a little strange.
The biggest consideration we had when our online-only journal started publishing on an article-based workflow was linking editorials to original articles. It was important to our editors that original articles and their related editorials (which were invited content) be published in the same issue. With an article-based workflow, the article will enter production immediately upon acceptance. If there is a delay securing the editorial, it’s possible that the article could reach the in-progress issue stage and be locked into the issue before the editorial is ready. And depending on the timing of when the in-progress issue closes, this could either delay the release of the whole issue (and add additional articles to the issue that aren’t wanted) or the issue could close before the editorial is ready, thereby separating the editorial from the linked article.
To the best of my understanding, the workflow used by a journal should not affect the journal’s embargo, which may be set by the publisher or the society that owns the journal. For the journals I worked on, we were able to set an embargo to a particular publication stage (posting online, uncorrected proofs, corrected proofs, etc). In our case, the ability to embargo to a publication stage was not impacted by the article-based workflow, but your publisher will have more information regarding your journal’s embargo.
Before moving your journal to an article-based workflow, it’s important to discuss the changes with your publishing partners and any other stakeholders. Be sure to discuss the specifics of the workflow with your publisher, including what is or isn’t possible. For example, our publisher was able to keep an eye out for articles that would have editorials. The linked article was held outside the workflow until the editorial was ready to be processed, therefore ensuring that the two linked articles always appear in the same issue. This approach might not be possible with every publisher. It’s also important to ensure that your editors are aware of the benefits and limitations of an article-based workflow. If your editors are accustomed to being able to rearrange an issue line-up to place articles together by topic, you’ll need to make it clear that they won’t be able to do that once the journal moves to an article-based workflow. While the workflow can streamline some of the steps involved in finalizing an issue line-up, some editors may be uncomfortable at first with the sudden lack of fine-tuning ability.
The article-based workflow can provide articles with their final citation data, including volume, issue, and page numbers, sooner than traditional issue-based publishing, which can help articles be discoverable by researchers and more easily citable. However, page numbers are assigned as articles are finalized, which could potentially be problematic for print journals, as the articles wouldn’t appear in numerical order within the printed issue. Because article-based workflows can allow in-progress issues to close either by a certain date or when a predetermined number of articles have been assigned, the workflow can work well for journals with low, variable, or consistent submissions. Be sure to discuss specific processes and implications with your publishing partners and other stakeholders before embarking on a change from an issue-based to an article-based workflow.
Conflicts of Interest
None to declare