I submitted a double columned paper to a journal and the editor returned my email with requests such as:

  1. Several formatting changes including making the paper single column, no automatic features such as paragraph, figure or reference numbering.
  2. Two referees to review the paper.

I assumed the referees would be selected by the editor for the peer review process.

  • Is it my responsibility to provide referees?
  • Since the editor is asking for big changes to the formatting, is it reasonable to ask for a template?
  • I am not sure what this means:

    no automatic features such as paragraph, figure or reference numbering

    Does it mean that I shouldn't be using a template? Since IIRC a template does these things automatically.

I already used a template for the paper but it doesn't seem like it can be adapted to suit the editors requests.The request for single columns is also a bit problematic as I would need to sink time into resizing and re-organising the images and paragraphs to fit a whole page (i.e. single column), which is undesirable due to time constraints.

  • 4
    No automatic reference numbering?! What century do they think we're in?
    – Anyon
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


The editor knows the requirements of the layout system they use. Apparently you are giving them something that they will have to try to undo without completely understanding the consequences. You are, by far, the best person to do this. They want to do their own flow, etc. So do that if you want to deal with them. Don't use a template at all, if that is what they prefer.

As to the referees, it may be a bit unusual, especially for a reputable journal (is it reputable?) but it may be that your paper is outside their normal expertise. It may also just be that they want more options for reviewing your paper (and maybe other papers as well). Some editors might just look at your citations to find reviewers, of course, but perhaps they can't do this in your case.

  • I'm going to ask the editor to confirm if single column is mandatory. Is this okay? The journal is: JBIS
    – meta truth
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:41
  • 1
    @metatruth I'm just going to guess that it is mandatory or it wouldn't have been suggested. This isn't the sort of argument you can win. You can ask, but I would probably just assume I needed to change it.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:44
  • How do you find out if a journal is reputable? Obviously we know journals like Nature, Science are reputable through media exposure and word of mouth but is there a more direct way of finding this out, perhaps an internet tool?
    – meta truth
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:50
  • 1
    @metatruth That is a separate question, which has been answered in How do you judge the quality of a journal?.
    – Anyon
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:51
  • 1
    Most ecology journals I submit to ask for recommended reviewers. Perhaps this is field specific. For example, see this ecology blog post on the topic dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/… Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 0:22

I got curious and visited the journal website (JIBS) you linked in a comment. I won't comment on the reputability of the journal in question, but two things stand out

  1. The publication process seems rather outdated, and

  2. The journal appears to be a small operation, possibly run as a passion project. (Note that individual issues are sold for a reasonable £10, and that the website doesn't appear to be up to date.)

To me this raises the question of whether the journal has sufficient readership to provide visibility for your work. If it doesn't do that, why go through with the arcane submission requirements? This is something you might want to discuss with others in the field, which also helps gauge the journal's reputation.

If you want to go through with publishing in the journal, then you likely will have to work on their terms. The submission guidelines seem clear on how they want things (not) formatted:

d. JBIS requires papers to be submitted in an electronic form compatible with PC formats. We can handle Microsoft Word for Windows up to version Word 2010. A PDF version of the paper would also be helpful to aid formatting. Authors are asked not to use auto-formatting, footnotes, headers, footers and other advanced features and keep the manuscript as close to a pure text file as possible. The exception to this is that it is helpful if mathematical equations are formatted in an equation editor. Please note that any formatting you introduce will have to be removed by the Editorial team for our own formatting process, so using your own formatting does not assist the process.

Suffice to say, the highlighted parts are not the hallmarks of a modern, somewhat automated publication process. Then again, if it is a small operation it's hard to judge them for not spending frivolously on software licenses and updating their processes.

As for suggesting referees, this is common in some fields, uncommon in others. Generally they shouldn't be from the same organization, or a direct collaborator. Avoid suggesting referees that, if acting ethically, might have to disclose a conflict of interest. Again, there is some discussion of this in the journal's submission guidelines. There is no guarantee that the editor will use either/both of the suggested referees.

  • Your breakdown is very detailed. I'm having second thoughts since removing all formatting like they are requesting would be difficult especially when I have several dozen references. Also thanks for confirming my question in another comment about possible conflict of interest from naming a referee from my institution. I am now considereing Acta Astronautica instead. Since it is owned by Elsevier, I believe it is more modern with a wider audience.
    – meta truth
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 17:58

This kind of request is normal especially at engineering journals. Providing names and addresses of two reviewrs would help the associated editor to find a reviewer for your manuscript. However..the editor may not choose them. With respect to editing of manuscript...i think..but not very sure...you have to use single col...and put figures and tables at the end of paper so that one figure per page. Captions should be texted before figures. If your paper will be accepted, the production office of journal will re edit the manusctipt according to their templete. This what i know is science direct. However..you can send email to editor asking for more calrifications.

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