Scientific illustrations have two sorts of identifiers. One appears in public - the table titles and figure legends that identify them in the printed material and explain their importance. The other is their private label, a code assigned to travel with them to be sure they end up in the right place. Mistakes occur when the identifiers do not correspond well.
This can be a particular problem with conventional printed journals that require paper ("hard copy") submissions, because they tend to store and process illustrations separately from text. Tables and figures can be misplaced during handling and are particularly vulnerable to loss, a costly situation. As soon as an illustration is prepared, photograph or scan it, and identify both the original and the copy with your name, a short version of the article or report title, and a unique number. Check the Instructions to Authors for the mechanics involved; some journals require adhesive labels whereas others prohibit them, for example. To avoid the embarrassment of an incorrectly oriented figure, include the word top, accompanied by an arrow. Never write on the illustration itself; the writing can show through on the front. When it comes time to send your paper off to an editor or publisher, you will place hard copies of figures in a separate oversized envelope, and label the envelope with your name and a short title for the paper. These will be put into a larger envelope that also contains your typescript. You should plan to keep any original artwork and at least one duplicate set of all illustrations.
With digital submissions, it is easier to become complacent about these safeguards because the illustrations exist as electronic copy that can be included in the text file. However, in addition to the computer file that contains the illustrated text, it is still good form to include a separate file with a copy of each illustration.
Label each digital illustration with both its number and a short identifier, and append the file type. Unless the Instructions to Authors specify another format, here is an example to consider:
Figure legend: Fig. 2. Outcomes of 158 courtship pairings of Melittobia digitata males with females of the long-winged form. Hardcopy label: Gonzalez, Courtship ms. Fig 2. Pairing flowchart. Digital file label: Gonzalez Courtship Fig2.jpg
Was this article helpful?