We’ve been thinking a lot about publishing lately here at Dynamic Ecology, including issues such as whether to sign reviews (I generally don’t), changes in authorship practices, whether all reviewers should be satisfied before a paper is accepted (Jeremy says reviewers advise, the editor decides), and whether reviewers are gate-keepers or editors (Brian thinks that, unfortunately, it’s increasingly the latter). But now I want to tackle two truly weighty topics related to the publication process: whether figures should go at the end of a manuscript and whether figure legends should appear on the same page as the figure. Two polls are below, along with some of my thoughts.
First, a poll about where to place figures:
I prefer having the figures at the end of a manuscript, since then I know where to find them. If a figure is referenced multiple times in a manuscript and it appears in line where it was first referenced, I need to do more scrolling/flipping to find the figure. Some of this may be because I developed habits about how to review manuscripts back when they pretty much always appeared at the end of a manuscript. I either print off the figures and have them all in front of me while I read a file, or I have two versions of the file open, one where I’m editing the text, and one where I’ve scrolled to the bottom to the section with the figures, allowing me to easily move up and down to get between them. I think I will end up in the minority with my preference for figures at the end.
Now, moving on to figure legends:
On this one, I’m strongly in favor of them being on the same page as the figure. I don’t see a reason (given current publishing practices, at least) for them to be together on an earlier page. I think that having them all on a page preceding the figures might be a holdover from the days before electronic publishing. I seem to recall that, for my first paper (which I mailed in), there were guidelines about how much white space needed to be around a figure. Given that everything is electronic now, I don’t see a reason not to have the figure legend right on the page, since that’s where I need that information. (I realize that some people will make this exact same argument regarding whether figures should be in line. I would agree with it if figures were only ever referenced once in a manuscript.)
I’ll be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts in the comments!