I love almost everything about my job as a science librarian at a primarily undergraduate college. The one exception is when I am called upon to teach students how to format their citations for the Reference list at the end of their papers.

I really dislike formatting citations. I dislike it so much that I have let citation style be a primary factor in which journal I publish in (I particularly hate footnotes).

Style manuals

Just a few of the citation manuals I consult

One of the troublesome aspects of citation for my students is that they will be called upon to learn multiple citation styles and formats over the course of their college career. Sometimes they will be asked to use well developed styles with thick manuals - APA, MLA, CSE. Other times, students will be asked to format their citations in the same way as a particular journal - and the journal might not provide clear directions for them.

Of course, this mimics what researchers go through as they submit manuscripts to multiple journals, each requiring different formats and citation styles.

While my students might not be off the hook, Elsevier just announced a new program which will ease the burden on researchers just a bit. Called "Your Paper, Your Way", the pilot program allows researchers to submit manuscripts using just about any format they like, as long as certain pieces of information are included. If a paper is accepted, authors will then be responsible for converting the formatting to meet the journal's style.

While I would love to see a reduction in the number of citation styles used for the final articles (Elsevier alone has 10 different styles), this is a good news for authors and will save them time. If a manuscript is accepted, Elsevier will also do the work of converting the reference list to the journal's style.

This is a very author-friendly move, and Elsevier needs some author-friendly press to ease the tensions that developed between the publishing company and researchers in the wake of the Cost of Knowledge boycott.

At the moment, this is a pilot with just one journal, but it will soon be expanded to more than 50 Elsevier journals. I hope to see it applied across all of Elsevier's publications, and I hope to see other publishers follow suit.