It began when this Kat was asked to write a modest piece for a non-IP, on-line journal. He dutifully penned the text and sent it off to the editors/publishers. Let’s already pause here. For some time, the very act of article submission is done solely on-line. No more the days when one sent the manuscript by post or fax. Now, an author must navigate a website with instructions how to log-in, fill-out various fields, and submit the text. Sometimes these instructions are intelligible, sometimes they read like they were drafted in Fortran. Of particular anxiety is the asterisk—failure to comply the instructions with a field indicated by an asterisk, and one is simply unable to complete the submission.
After a bit of struggle, this Kat managed to successfully upload his text. Sometime later, he received the reviewer’s comments: change a word here, add a word there, and consider including a new paragraph on a certain point. No problem—that is the time-honored task of a reviewer and an author’s work is the better for it. But the reviewer’s comments also advised this Kat that he had to completely re-format the piece to meet the journal’s house style-- footnotes, end notes, text notes, the text itself, all needed to be redone. Ouch. Not only this, because this Kat took more than the number of days fixed in the system to complete the changes, when he tried to upload the revised text, it was treated as a new submission, which meant that in principle he had to deal with all of the fields anew and go through the review process once again. Some back and forth later, the number of required fields were reduced and the review process was waived. This Kat dutifully reentered the information and the revised text was submitted.
Here is where “the Machine’ really took over. Proofs were sent to this Kat for final review, but the proofs were made on the original, rather than the revised text. That’s right-- the proofs had been based on the wrong version. Not only that, but the “Key Words” on the proofs had been generated using a text-reading algorithm, yielding wholly irrelevant terms, despite the fact that the Key Words had been submitted with the original text. Not only that, but the production editor advised that, upon reflection, there had been no reason to have requested the reformatting of the article from the outset! As such, I could complete my review of the proofs based on the text as initially submitted (meaning 10 man-hours had been wasted).