Industry initiative on manuscript exchange gathers momentum

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Members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) have approved the ‘Manuscript Exchange Common Approach’ (MECA) – a major new academic publishing initiative. The project will see the industry’s leading technology providers work together on a more standardised approach to the transfer of manuscripts between and among manuscript systems, such as those in use at publishers and preprint servers.

The organisation describes the 'outdated, time-intensive way authors currently submit and re-submit manuscripts to different publishers' as 'a major productivity killer for researchers globally', estimating that a 15 million hours of researcher time is consumed each year, simply repeating reviews. But NISO says the problem, described by one expert as ‘publishing’s nasty secret’, could be solved if journals and publishers were able to transfer manuscripts between publications using different submission-tracking systems.

The MECA project will work towards a number of key goals:

  • Vocabulary: providing a standard nomenclature;
  • Packaging: a simple, flexible, standard way to assemble files;
  • Tagging: being able to pass submission information from system to system;
  • Peer review: being able to pass review information from system to system;
  • Transfer: enabling the transfer of information from system to system;
  • Identity: a unique, consistent identity across systems; and
  • Transmission: a simple, consistent way to send the information across systems.

John Sack, founding director at HighWire, has co-led the initiative alongside other leading technology providers. 

He said: 'While much of the recent industry conversation has focused on opening up easier access to existing knowledge, we still have work to do on streamlining how that insight is published in the first place. Too much time is wasted on the manuscript transfer and submission processes – so it’s great to be working alongside other systems providers on a solution that will benefit everyone in the industry.'

The project was first presented by Sack at the 2017 SSP Annual Meeting in Boston, with the first use case for the project now live.

In addition to HighWire and eJournalPress (eJP), MECA's leading participants are Aries, Clarivate, and PLOS.