Continuous Publication


FAQs for Editors and Authors

Royal Society Publishing is converting its journals to a continuous publication model.  This new initiative emphasizes the online version as the authoritative record and ensures peer-reviewed papers can be cited immediately.  

  1. Why is Royal Society Publishing switching to continuous publication?

  2. When will the changes take place?

  3. How do I cite my paper using the new model?

  4. What happened to FirstCite?

  5. What happens if I spot a mistake when my paper is published online?

  6. What will continuous publication mean for publication times?

  7. What about print issues?

  8. The cover image doesn't seem to relate to a paper within that issue. Why is that?

Why are you switching to continuous publication?


The Royal Society currently publishes peer-reviewed journals that are now primarily found and downloaded from the internet. The online version is also the most complete and includes the most up-to-date information of the status of a research article (see CrossMark below). With the introduction of systematic digital archiving and curation, it has become clear that the future of published research will almost exclusively be online and the printed version will rapidly lose its significance. Therefore we are taking steps now towards removing altogether the constraints that print production places upon its publication. For institutions that require the print version, we will continue to supply this although the frequency of production may change over time.

At present, we follow a traditional print-production workflow with the addition of an online 'publish-ahead-of-print' step (known as FirstCite), which allows for rapid publication of articles. This workflow, along with high submission and acceptance rates, has lead to a build up of FirstCite articles awaiting publication in print issues. It is only at print publication that volume and page details can be added, and these are essential for an article to be fully citable and counted towards citation metrics, such as a journal’s Impact Factor.

To combat the (often long) delay between FirstCite and issue publication, we have decided to implement a new workflow, known as continuous publication, from 2013. This will give rapidly-published articles full citation details from first publication, whilst maintaining the frequency and number of issues per volume.

The benefits are clear: researchers will have full citation details available to them immediately, and librarians should not see any changes to the subscription packages they are familiar with. Our journals’ Impact Factors should also be more accurate, as they won’t be skewed by articles whose FirstCite and issue publications span two different years. The journals themselves will be able to better support the Royal Society’s mission 'to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science' by doing so in a more timely fashion.

When will the changes take place?


Open Biology has followed the continuous publication workflow since its launch in September 2011. For the majority of our titles, the opening issue of 2013 will be the first to be published under the new model. This is true for:
Biology Letters
Interface Focus
Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Philosophical Transactions A
Philosophical Transactions B
Proceedings A
Proceedings B

Depending on the journal, the first 2013 issue will appear online between the start of November and the end of December. FirstCite web pages will be switched off two weeks prior to the first 2013 issue publication date.
(Notes and Records and Biographical Memoirs will continue to follow their current publication workflow for the time being.)

How will I cite my paper using the new model?


A citation to one of the Royal Society’s articles in the new continuous publication format will look like this:

     C Goldblatt and AJ Watson 2012. The runaway greenhouse: implications for future climate change, geoengineering and planetary atmospheres. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 370: 20120004; doi: 10.1098/rsta.2012.0004

So, instead of using page numbers to cite an article within a volume, a unique article identifier will be used. This identifier uses the last eight digits of the DOI (or “digital object identifier”, see, and will be easily visible on every page of the article near the top of the right-hand margin.

Several journals, such as BMJ, PLoS ONE and Physical Review Letters, already use this style of citation, so we hope our readers will be able to adopt the new notation easily.

What will happen to FirstCite?


The FirstCite web pages are being removed completely – instead, articles will be published directly into an online issue with complete citation details. Any FirstCite content not yet published in an issue will be published before the end of the year in a 2012 issue, or will be republished into a 2013 issue under the continuous publication model

What happens if I spot a mistake when my paper is published online?


Continuous publication means that when your paper is published online it is being published as the final and complete version of record. As such, we cannot correct electronically-published papers for typos or minor errors. Major errors that affect the data and/or overall conclusions of a paper need to be addressed by a second paper, with a new DOI and citation details, published as a correction to the first. Readers can click on the CrossMark logo on each paper to check if any corrections have been published (see for further details).

What will continuous publication mean for publication times?


We are committed to disseminating scholarly work as quickly as possible whilst maintaining high publication standards. It is still our intention to publish accepted papers as soon as we can, and we expect that continuous publication will have no impact on our turnaround times. The transition phase to continuous publication from our current model will be the most high-risk time in terms of publication speed – we will do our best to maintain our quick turnaround times, but authors publishing papers between late October and mid December may experience a delay of 1-2 weeks at most.

What about print issues?


In the scientific community most information is now accessed online and many libraries no longer require print issues. In the interests of sustainability we are therefore seeking to reduce our print output to zero in the coming years. With the exception of Open Biology, we will continue to publish print issues alongside their online counterparts in the short term.

With continuous publication, the issue is effectively being compiled 'live' online; once the online issue is complete then the print issue will go to press. The print issues will not have traditional pagination – each article will start at page 1. The table of contents will list articles by their identifier rather than by page number.

You may also see some variance in the size of printed issues – because we are committed to publishing research as soon as we can, the ebb and flow of the acceptance cycle means that some issues will contain more papers than others.

The cover image doesn’t seem to relate to a paper within that issue. Why is that?


With continuous publication, we need to have the cover ready to publish online at the same time as the first paper(s) for that issue. This means that we have to select a suitable cover image before we know exactly which papers will appear in an issue and occasionally, the papers in a given issue will not correspond to the cover image.