The Evolution of Our Publication Production Process

The production of our scientific publications follows a proven process with some overarching workflow milestones: copyediting, author proofing, typesetting and pagination. These have long been established and will continue to be the industry standard for the foreseeable future. A central question thus is: how can we make the workflow efficient, customer-friendly, and contemporary on the one hand, and meet current and future format requirements on the other?

Challenges and Risks

Traditionally this process has been done in MS Word and only a flat XML is extracted at the end before the manuscript is fed into a typesetting/pagination software like InDesign. XML is short for Extensible Markup Language and it transfers documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.

The challenges with this approach are two-fold:

  • In making edits: once an author submits a paper, they see it again only at the proofing stage. Any changes made here are either done directly in Word or as annotations on attached PDF files. This increases the possibility of missing errors, adding new ones, and having several versions of PDF files floating back and forth. Once the paper has been typeset, making edits to content becomes challenging and time- and resource-intensive.
  • In process consistency: in every process step of the manuscript, a different tool may be used to assist the teams. This means that the workflow ends up creating individual competence areas and there is a lack of consistency across various stages.

How XML Revolutionizes the Production Workflow

To solve those challenges, we have created an XML-first workflow for all of our journals and are now working on setting up an XML-first workflow for books as well. This means we are using XML through the whole process and not just at the end. Our publishing technologies partner – TNQ Technologies – receives the original content data for processing and creates a standard structure (unified Document Type Definition (DTD) is a catch-all for all elements of a manuscript) around it that can be read by all tools. All processes including multiple levels of copyediting, structuring, author proofing all happen in a Word/HTML programme, but on top of the underlying XML. The structural integrity of the XML is maintained throughout the process, and it remains hidden underneath the surface.

We are doing away with working on unstructured manuscripts for copyediting and author proofing in our books. Switching to XML-first enhances our efficiency, creates an improved author experience, and achieves a significantly quicker turnaround time. Not least, the final output of this process – a very granular XML – can be used as a basis for many publishing formats and distribution forms, such as HTML, EPUB, PDF, and print. As stated in the first contribution to this mini-series, “A Book Is a Book Is a Book – or Is It?” by Joachim Flickinger, “…the use – and thus the existence – of one format or the other is directly related to both the type of content and the form of use.” With the XML-first workflow, (individual) products can and will be published in exactly the formats that best suit the wants and needs of our customers.

How It All Works – Overview

XML Process

Innovation through Automation: Copy Editing Tools

Karger uses innovative automation tools to make the process of copy editing manuscripts more accurate, efficient, and scalable.

A good research paper takes hard work, dedication, collaboration, systematic study, and collation and reporting of findings – and a high-quality research paper deserves to be read by the world without errors and inconsistencies, in a clean and well-formatted presentation.

Copy editing is a critical and substantial component of the post-acceptance publishing process that ensures research papers are produced to the highest standards. Karger’s in-house editorial team as well as a dedicated team at TNQ work across Karger’s 105 journals to ensure just that.

The Copy Editing Process

Together these teams of experienced copy editors work through approximately 6,500 articles every year, forming a significant part of the work delivery to the authors who publish with us. Their work is even more consequential for papers written by authors whose first language isn’t English. They edit manuscripts according to style guides, look for grammatical errors, clean up typos, and edit language, syntax, and sentence structure as needed.

The two broad aspects of copy editing include:

  • the first review to check spacing, hyphenation, punctuation, and ensure adherence to style guides, and
  • the second and more detailed evaluation of spelling, grammar, and language.

The Need for Innovation through Automation

We found that the first aspect of editing could be automated for enhanced consistency, and the second would benefit from the assistance of a smart program. Therefore, we sought to innovate our copy editing process using automation – a real boon when implemented in the right manner!

Our goals? To improve the quality of edited manuscripts by reducing human errors, shortening the time-to-publish, and ensuring our editors are spending time adding real value to content by eliminating mundane repetitive tasks. We wanted to use automation to elevate the experience of all our stakeholders – authors, editors, and readers.

Auto and Interactive Copy Editing – ACE & ICE

Within our manuscript preparation workflow, we have implemented copy editing automation products from our publishing technologies partner – TNQ Technologies. Called ACE & ICE (short for Auto Copy Editing and Interactive Copy Editing), these products have been calibrated on data from millions of articles that TNQ has processed over the last two decades across SMT subjects.

ACE & ICE work as widgets on MS Word – an interface that editors are familiar and comfortable with.

How Do ACE & ICE Work?

Automated Copy Editing

When a manuscript goes into editing, it is passed through ACE, which looks for inconsistencies in hyphenation, capitalization, reference structure, and basic formatting, and automatically edits them. This takes away the monotonous exercise of mechanical editing, saving our copy editors precious time.

ACE has over 4,000 built-in rules across industry-standard style guides, such as the AMA, APA, ACS, CMS, etc. Because it is configurable, the journal’s editorial and style specifications are automatically applied, inconsistencies are weeded out, and the system autocorrects elements it is sure of while mapping every change to the journal’s rules.

The product delivers to 95% accuracy.

Interactive Copy Editing

In the next step, the interactive editor highlights spelling and complex grammar errors, assisting copy editors as they diligently review the entire manuscript, ensuring accuracy and consistency. Editors can accept or reject suggestions, and make their own edits over and above the work ICE has done – all in a clean, familiar Word interface.

What makes these products genuinely innovative is that they learn from every action the editors take. They are continuously learning, improving, and updating their rules.

ACE (automated copy editing) ICE (interactive copy editing) Workflow

Improved Quality of Output

With an intelligent and intuitive automation tool lending a reliable helping hand to our editors, we are on the way to achieving:

  • Consistently high-quality copy editing of research articles
  • Elimination of errors
  • Reduced time-to-publish with a significantly faster editing cycle, and happier authors
  • Increasingly satisfied editors who can spend their time adding value through the finer aspects of editing
  • The ability to scale up article processing

What Our Copy Editors Think

“The switch to using the ACE/ICE editing tools has profoundly altered our daily work in Karger’s CE department. Familiarizing myself with these tools and learning their potential has been an engaging and rewarding process, and broadened what was formerly a very narrowly focused method of working. Karger’s use of these tools is still a work in progress, with ongoing optimization and the expectation of achieving enhanced efficiency in the future. Also, the TNQ team in India are friendly, communicative, and enjoyable to work with.” – Richard Pelham

“Having used automated copyediting for almost three years now, my general impression is very positive. I believe ACE & ICE have rendered our work much more efficient. Some of the new tools we use are truly time-saving and irreplaceable. I see real potential in this system as it can progressively learn, adapt and improve, and I’m excited to see that potential exploited to the full in the future.” – Jacek Mackowiak

“While the ACE/ICE editing tools are still in the process of optimization, they are already a great help in our daily work in Karger’s CE department, making the workflow more efficient.” – Christine Frei

A special thanks goes to Swapnil Midha and her TNQ Marketing team for their input.

Are you interested in submitting your research? Find out more about the submission process at Karger.

Michael Dürst

As the Head of Publishing Operations Center, Mike and his team manage the operational side of the Karger product portfolio, thus functioning as a “turntable” between many other units and internal stakeholders as well as external service providers. Outside of work, he enjoys sports which offers physical and mental challenges that can free you to test yourself in other areas of your life.