More Support and Templates in SciFlow

SciFlow is an online editor for academics. They have recently updated and expanded the documentation, so should you ever get stuck, here’s how to. That said, the interface is pretty intuitive, so I’m not sure you’ll ever need to navigate to the support pages for basic editing.

There are some useful hints, though, like using zbib (Zotero) with Sciflow (instructions here). This gets pretty close to Authorea’s citation feature, and is also useful for collaborative texts (and doesn’t suffer from the slowness of direct Zotero/Mendeley connections if you have a large database of references).

The SciFlow team have also recently updated the Templates feature:

There are many journal styles to choose from. It’s not quite (yet) like typeset.io, but the social sciences are not well covered by typeset anyway. SciFlow offers some useful templates, but in most cases, it’s necessary to do some finishing before submitting to a journal. On the other hand, there’s a template for minutes — that’s useful for anyone working in a team, and who isn’t?

In most cases the generic templates will do, including the SciFlow templates which support many common citation styles.

How to blind your manuscript

I come across this ever so often when doing a review, and there are even journal guidelines giving bad advice on how to blind a manuscript for double-blind peer review.

A good guide can be found here at Oxford Univeristiy Press.

What gets me every time is violations of this:

Do not employ (Author 2016) and similar devices.

While it may look like a good way to anonymize, it actually encourages guessing who the author may be more than anything I know. Often it provides good clues, especially if we can read the titles in the reference list. The funny thing is that as a reviewer, typically I do not want to know who you are (at least not until I have completed the review).

The guidelines cited above are pretty clear:

  • do cite yourself if it is relevant
  • use appendices/supplements to describe methodology
  • do not use (Author 2019)
  • do not cite unpublished work

Collaborative writing in SciFlow now with Zotero

This deserves mentioning: The collaborating writing service SciFlow now supports Zotero. You can find instructions here and here; all you need is an account with Zotero for syncing. Like the Mendeley link they provide, fetching references from the connected (Zotero) account can be a bit sluggish if you have a large library. If you’re a student writing up a term paper or a Master thesis, you will probably not notice this. If you have a more substantial collection of references, you will notice this. A downside of the Zotero link is that it searches your complete library, including notes and extracted annotations if you have this. I would have liked a more selective sync to speed up things.

So I’m still waiting for a reference search like in Authorea or ZoteroBib. With the many export styles to choose from, SciFlow easily beats Google Docs, and it works in a limited way on a mobile phone (you can log in and edit the text, but formatting etc. are now disabled in recent versions).

The author(s) should also cite …

Peer-reviewing is a funny business. It’s not uncommon to receive requests to cite some work not already cited, and often these are useful pointers of where the literature is at: highlighting oversights. Sometimes they are clearly strategic, like when the editor asks to cite a vaguely-related paper recently published in the same journal, or when the reviewer asks to be cited more or less openly. Sometimes they are puzzling, like:

  • cite a 15-years old PhD thesis from a person who does not appear active in academia any more (no web presence, no hits in Google Scholar)
  • cite Smith 2008 in European Sociological Review (I’m making this example up), only to find that there is no such paper. I recently had a reviewer where all papers indicated were wrong and I was left guessing — either the author(s), year, or journal were wrong
  • cite that forthcoming paper by Smith et al. which is not yet available as “Early View”
  • cite a research report only available in Hungarian
  • the assertion that “there must be existing literature on this”