• Case Study: Genetics Society of America—How Overleaf Streamlines Editorial Processes

    Posted by Mary Anne on June 30, 2017

    70% of all accepted \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions coming into the The Genetics Society of America’s GENETICS journal are now written and submitted using the Overleaf template and platform.


    In this Case Study we are delighted to share some of the Genetics Society of America’s experiences of using Overleaf and how it has made a very tangible and positive contribution to their publishing operations—and been welcomed by their author community. Today, 70% of all accepted \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions coming into the the Genetics Society of America's GENETICS journal are now written and submitted using the Overleaf template and platform.

    The Overleaf team are grateful to the GSA for their assistance during preparation of this Case Study.

    Cover of GENETICS journal

    Executive summary

    The Genetics Society of America (GSA) editorial team was looking for a way to simplify and ease the \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submission process for authors and editorial staff. The team wanted:

    1. To simplify the \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submission and publication process:
      • to improve the consistency of formatting for newly-submitted articles prepared with \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)—minimizing the time required to review articles;
      • to improve completeness of file submissions by helping authors to consistently submit all necessary files—decreasing the time required to chase authors for missing files and information;

      • to receive \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) files which were technically up-to-date and able to compile without errors—reducing time required to debug files and/or pass files back to authors for updates.

    2. To outsource \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) author support.
    3. To be seen as a technology innovator—by authors and within the GSA.

    Key results and conclusions

    Here is a short summary of the main outcomes from the partnership between the GSA and Overleaf:

    1. 70% of all accepted \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions coming into the The Genetics Society of America’s GENETICS journal are now written and submitted using the Overleaf template and platform.
    2. The GSA gained a deeper understanding of their author-base through data and analytical information provided by Overleaf services.
    3. There was greater use of, and compliance with, GSA’s published guidelines and templates.
    4. The GSA’s editorial team observed considerable time savings when processing \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)-based article submissions produced via Overleaf.
    5. Articles prepared and submitted via Overleaf contain significantly fewer \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)-related errors than those prepared outside of Overleaf.

    Overleaf can also make a significant contribution to the peer review process by enabling authors to easily produce well-prepared papers—Professor Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of GENETICS, noted that:

    “I’m always glad when I open up a new submission and see that the authors have used Overleaf to prepare their manuscript. It makes it easier for me to evaluate the manuscript, and I know reviewers appreciate the easy-to-navigate format. I wish all authors would use Overleaf to format their submissions.”

    Challenges

    Prior to partnering with Overleaf, the Genetics Society of America’s editorial team dreaded seeing \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions come into their system. Most authors used a range of local \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) installations—which often differed from GSA’s own \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) setup. This resulted in \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions that consistently had formatting issues, missing files and a multitude of errors which prevented successful compilation by the GSA. Those inconsistencies and errors added hours to the time required to process and move those submissions through the GSA publishing workflow.

    Furthermore, authors were contacting the GSA with \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) support requests which were difficult to handle because the GSA did not have specific in-house resources dedicated to answering such questions or helping with \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)-related issues.

    Overleaf proposed as a solution

    Professor James Bull of The University of Texas, and former Editor of the GENETICS journal, discovered Overleaf and saw the potential benefits—both for the GSA and their community of authors. He showed the Overleaf platform to GSA’s editorial team and explained how it could save time and streamline their current \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) workflow.

    Professor Bull said:

    “…there is a new \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) interface that uses journal-specific templates and allows direct submission to journals…

    I’m using it for the first time… it looks pretty amazing, both for allowing collaborators to edit the manuscript and for avoiding the hassles of finding all the journal-specific forms. I suspect that something of this ilk will be increasingly common, and indeed the journals could implement templates themselves.”

    How Overleaf helped

    Overleaf is a cloud-based \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) and Rich Text authoring and document-management platform which, via a web browser, can be used to write anything from journal papers to books, theses, reports or other document type—collaboratively too, if you have co-authors. There’s nothing to download or install: Overleaf provides immediate access to the full power of a comprehensive \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) installation, right there in the browser, complete with thousands of \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) packages to choose from. Think of it as Google Docs™ for users of \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)—particularly, but not exclusively, researchers, scientists and engineers.

    Overleaf is also incredibly intuitive and simple to use: just go to the website, open a document template and start to write—there are over 3000 pre-prepared templates to choose from, covering books and journals from many leading publishers. Authors who are new to, or aren’t familiar with, \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) can switch Overleaf’s editor into its Rich Text mode which provides a ‘word processor’-like environment—authors can, at any time, switch back to directly editing \(\mathrm \LaTeX\). Overleaf also provides real-time typesetting—automatically as the author writes: the text editor to the left of the screen and the typeset result, based on the chosen template and \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) packages, is composed and displayed on the right. Getting feedback on drafts, requesting fact-checking or inviting collaborators and editors is extremely easy: choose the type of access you wish to provide and send colleagues a link to your Overleaf project—with read-only or full editing access: the choice is yours.

    In addition, Overleaf has Publishing Services which allow publishers to streamline their workflows, provide authors with an innovative author writing experience, greatly simplify the authoring and publishing submission process, and offer \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) author support.

    GSA and Overleaf

    Partnering with Overleaf provided a comprehensive solution for the Genetics Society of America—it allowed their authors to continue using \(\mathrm \LaTeX\), while providing them with an innovative authoring template, a reduction in compilation issues, and full-time \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) support via Overleaf's dedicated in-house experts. Thanks to Overleaf, \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) authors can now use a single, consistent and state-of-the-art \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) installation—not only does this minimize compatibility issues but, at the same time, gives authors the freedom to fully utilize the power and flexibility of \(\mathrm \LaTeX\)) with the added advantage of a common platform through which authors can easily collaborate to write their papers.

    Overleaf and the GSA also collaborated on the development of new \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) templates for the GENETICS and G3 journals. Each template provides authors with multiple article-type options to account for the different formats of articles published within each journal (for example: Investigation, Genomic Selection, Genetics of Immunity, etc.). Authors can easily find links to these templates within the GSA journal websites or on Overleaf, and simply click the link to open the template on the Overleaf platform—immediately ready for authors to start writing their paper. The templates also provide examples, guidelines and instructions within the templates themselves—directly where the author is writing—which not only increases compliance with GSA’s guidelines but also eases the writing process for authors. These benefits enable authors to have more time to focus on the most important aspect of their work: the content of their article.

    To provide a further consistency of working environment for the authors, the Overleaf platform is co-branded, with a journal’s logo and information clearly visible to the author while writing in the journal’s customized template. This visual element acts as confirmation to the author that the Genetics Society of America is working with Overleaf to provide a state-of-the-art authoring experience. Each template includes a simplified submission link that provides a streamlined submission process for the authors. When the author is finished writing (and collaborating!) they simply click a button at the top of the template to submit their article and supporting files to the journal. This simplified submission button provides journal-specific instructions related to the submission process, a link to download all necessary files (including all necessary supplementary files) and a link to the journal’s submission web portal.

    Overleaf: \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) support for the GSA

    Overleaf’s in-house “\(\mathrm\TeX\text{perts}\)” provide fast and effective \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) support—quickly answering questions about the Overleaf platform, \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) templates or on \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) itself. \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) questions that would have been sent to the GSA can now be redirected to the Overleaf support team—enabling the GSA to focus on their core activities whilst remaining assured that their authors will continue to receive outstanding support and advice. Overleaf is honoured to be entrusted with this critically important aspect of supporting the GSA’s community.

    Results

    The GENETICS and G3 journal templates were developed and announced to authors within 1–2 months of the initial collaborative discussions between the GSA and Overleaf. Since that time, over the course of 2 years, the templates have been viewed over 15,000 times, with over 1,800 articles worked on and an estimated 214 articles completed or close to completion via the Overleaf platform. 70% of all accepted \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) submissions coming into GENETICS are now written and submitted using the Overleaf template and platform. Those submissions take significantly less time to process and review than non-Overleaf submissions, and Ruth Isaacson, Managing Editor, GSA Journals, adds that:

    “Things are coming in in the proper order and format. We would previously always have to chase authors for additional files (e.g. .sty files). But now we’re getting all we need, we don’t have to chase authors as much. It’s much faster and easier for us to process submissions now.”

    Professor Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief, GENETICS also comments:

    “It’s much easier for me to go through the manuscript and get all the key points out that I need. It’s much easier for me to get to these quickly with an Overleaf manuscript.”

    As an author writes and edits in Overleaf, the typeset version of their article is compiled in real-time in a separate window pane on the right-hand side of the screen. This allows the author to see what their finished file will look like, as they’re writing—note that Overleaf’s automatic typesetting/updating can be switched off, for example during periods of heavy editing, and switched on again once it is desirable to do so.

    The Overleaf Workspac
    Figure 1: The Overleaf workspace showing a newly-opened GENETICS journal article \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) template—ready for the author to start writing. Note the project window on the far left, showing the folders and files in your project, and the editor window next to the preview pane that shows your typeset document.

    Automatic typesetting/updating helps in two ways:

    1. Real-time typesetting \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) compilation) helps to ensure that files are correct and error-free. If an error is introduced by the author, and the file won’t compile, the \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) error is immediately directed into Overleaf's editing environment to alert the author. This early notification allows authors to very quickly detect and correct any errors as they write or edit their paper—thus significantly reducing \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) errors within the final version submitted to the GSA.
    2. It allows the author to continually monitor and visually check the appearance of the typeset document, ensuring that, as far as possible, it adheres to the publisher’s template requirements and generally looks the way it is intended to—for example, tables and figures display correctly. Consistency of article preparation, and adherence to template specifications, allows the GSA to reference author files when composing the finished pages and can also result in authors receiving fewer questions when reviewers and editors review and inspect their paper.

    The increasing usage of GSA’s templates, via Overleaf, has reduced the number of questions received from \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) users—the instructions and requirements are readily available and it’s very clear what is required. When \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) questions do arise they can be redirected to Overleaf’s in-house \(\mathrm \TeX\text{perts}\).

    Ruth Isaacson, Managing Editor, GSA Journals:

    “Overleaf decreased the amount of questions we receive and the amount of processing time required from \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) users—with Word users we still have to answer a lot of questions, and it takes a lot more of the editorial staff time.”

    Unexpected benefits

    The Genetics Society of America realized a few unexpected benefits from their partnership with Overleaf, including:

    • encouraging more authors (including non-\(\mathrm \LaTeX\) authors) to use the Overleaf \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) workflow and templates;
    • gaining a deeper understanding of their author-base;
    • improved data and analytics on author writing and template usage.

    The GSA is an organization that listens to the needs of their authors and adopts new tools to help them with those needs. Recognized as a technology innovator, the GSA were one of the first publishers to implement Overleaf to support their authors—and the response has been excellent. The GSA understood that Overleaf is positioned as a \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) technology leader within researcher and institutional communities and acknowledged the importance of implementing this leading technology.

    Tracey DePellegrin, Executive Editor of the GENETICS and G3 journals, commented that:

    “It’s exciting to work with Overleaf to provide our authors with this innovative writing, reviewing and submission tool, which offers a faster and simpler \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) writing and submission process. Overleaf has helped us to add value to our journals, improving our submission process for both authors, and our editorial office/team.”

    An author from the GENETICS journal said:

    “I’m very happy to see GENETICS providing this option. I’ve been very pleased with Overleaf and am using it to collaborate with a number of people on different projects. I've recently become so tired of dealing with Word, that I now choose journals for submission based in large part on whether they allow \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) and ease of the submission process... ”

    The GSA is now looking to encourage more authors (especially non-users of \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) to use the Overleaf \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) workflow and templates. They now have clear evidence that this will further streamline the editorial workflow and save time for the editorial team.

    Since one of Overleaf’s distinctive and developed features is the option to write in either Rich Text mode or \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) mode, writing in Overleaf makes it easier for authors who aren’t traditional \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) users to open customized templates and begin writing. Rich Text mode looks and feels more like a standard word processor and the GSA intends to promote use of this writing mode to expand Overleaf use among all GSA authors—not just \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) authors.

    The Overleaf Workspace in Rich Text mode
    Figure 2: Using Overleaf in Rich Text mode. Note the GENETICS journal submission link, making it easy for authors to submit their paper.

    The GSA intends to further support authors through useful data and analytics associated with the Overleaf \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) templates and platform partnership. Overleaf provides publishers with a Data and Analytics Web Hub. Data on template use, edits made on documents, collaboration numbers, geographic locations of authors, and other information allows the GSA to get a deeper understanding of their author-base and better feedback on their marketing initiatives.

    About the GSA

    The Genetics Society of America (GSA), founded in 1931, is the professional membership organization for scientific researchers and educators in the field of genetics. Their members work to advance knowledge in the basic mechanisms of inheritance, from the molecular to the population level.

    The GENETICS journal

    GENETICS is published by the Genetics Society of America, a scholarly society that seeks to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing our understanding of genetics. Since 1916, GENETICS has published high-quality, original research presenting novel findings bearing on genetics and genomics. The journal publishes empirical studies of organisms ranging from microbes to humans, as well as theoretical work.