I manage a research group and need to track, for all manuscripts I am going to submit soon, things like funding agency I need to add for that manuscript, authors for the other, potential journals for submission, etc, etc. Currently I build an excel sheet but things are getting very complicated due to all details I need to add, and wonder whether you have the same problem and which solution did you find, if you can share it, or if you use any other software for this.
I've found that a carefully formatted spreadsheet (Excel or otherwise) is extremely useful and effective for managing my publication workflow.
To illustrate how I organize myself, here is a screenshot of a de-identified snapshot of my spreadsheet from late last year (there are also some removed columns, e.g., regarding internal processes):
In particular, this is organized as follows:
- Each entry begins with the title, venue where it is submitted and type of publication (My type key is: J=Journal, C=Conference, W=Workshop, A=Abstract, BC=Book Chapter, TR=Tech Report, Tut = tutorial, E=Editorial, P=Patent)
- I sort by date of initial submission, adding a new sheet each year. When a manuscript is rejected, revised, and resubmitted elsewhere, it gets a new entry.
- The main workflow is submission, revision, final; each gets two columns, one for date and one to mark completion. After that, I track when it appears and if I've put it where it needs to go.
- For an easy "at a glance" understanding of the sheet, I color things green when complete, orange or yellow when I've got an impending action (depending on urgency), purple when I'm awaiting action from the other side, and blue for rejection.
All together, this lets me see at a glance where I stand in the publications process for a potentially large number of active manuscripts, and what I need to deal with most urgently at any given time.
I would consider looking at what project management tools there are which might meet your needs.
Trello is one free tool I am very fond of. I do not use it for keeping track of paper submissions, however I do use it for managing course development.
Trello divides work up in to separate boards (which can be named for a specific topic or type of activity) and then each board is divided into a number of lists. Then you can create cards which you can add a title and content to, and move between different lists.
'Lists' isn't really the best name of it, I think of them as stages. Most of my boards are divided into 'Ideas', 'To do', 'Doing', 'Done' and 'Backburner'. Once I complete a task, I will move it's corresponding card from 'Doing' to 'Done', for example.
Another invaluable aspect is that you can add checklists to each card, so you can break the task down into manageable chunks. You can also collaborate with other people, set deadlines to calendars and its used in your browsers, so you can login anywhere.
One approach you could take is to have a 'Research papers' board and divide it into lists 'Ideas', 'Planning', 'Researching', 'Final draft', 'Peer-review', 'Edits' and 'Presented/published.' Then you could create a card for an idea of a paper and move it along each list until published.
Why not consider using source control through something like bitbucket? I use it for personal writing and coding projects as well as for a few small collaborations.
Features which it offers that meet your use case:
- Unlimited private repositories (where each would correspond to a particular manuscript) with up to 4 collaborators per repository (Free tier).
- Per repository issue list, each of which is a running dialogue that can be assigned to one or more collaborators, to which files can be attached, with task type, importance and resolution status built in. Issues can be cross-referenced. Custom filtering can be made for the issue list.
- Unified issue list for all repositories, similarly searchable/usable. Good for overview of which manuscripts are at which stage and what tasks are most urgent.
- Draft versions and revisions are submitted as 'source code' changes, and revisions can be submitted with comments. Diffs between drafts readily available to compare language in sections of manuscript.
Interaction with bitbucket can be through a web interface, the command line or their client application, depending on which is easier to integrate into your existing workflow.
Well, there might be a middle ground between spreadsheets and relational DBs. A couple years ago I signed up as a trial user for a tech startup called Fieldbook, which aimed at making data storage and manipulation in RDBs simpler and more intuitive.
Admittedly, I didn't have the time or need to play around too much so I don't know if it's good enough for your use case (for that matter you haven't really given any detail specs) but give it a go if you like (I believe they have a free trial).
The advantage here that it appears to be easily scalable and always available through online access, so no other software besides a web browser is necessary.