The Creation of an online peer review platform
20 years ago: The beginnings of Manuscript Manager
It was a unique set of circumstances that led Andy Beare to begin developing Manuscript Manager 20 years ago. Andy had just moved from his native Great Britain to Denmark. He was an engineer in Copenhagen, but could not speak Danish.
“You see, my job options were limited at the time because I could not speak the language,” explains Andy, “I had an engineering background, but took a job as a secretary in an editorial office for a medical journal, “The European Journal of Haematology.” It was this move that started his journey.
In a yellow building on an old cobblestone street of central Copenhagen, he explains the conditions that drove the platform’s creation in 1999: “In the old days we did everything related to peer review with paper, green folders and courier services. The work was expensive and inefficient, and around that time, online applications began to come into use.
We noticed that a few companies were beginning to develop manuscript-handling software, but their products seemed to be too complex and not user friendly. Furthermore they were expensive to implement, so we decided to build our own, more or less out of necessity.”
“We noticed that a few companies were beginning to develop manuscript-handling software, but their products seemed to be too complex and not user friendly”.
The Editorial Office Insider Designs the Platform
Being the insider that he was, and having the technical background necessary, it was only natural that Andy would try his hand at creating an accessible platform that could lighten the load.
His understanding of the submission, editorial and peer-review workflow, and the invaluable insight of the journal’s editor-in-Chief, Professor Niels Borregaard, ultimately led to the development of the prototype of the Manuscript Manager platform.
When asked how they began, he explains, “What we did was we mirrored what we were doing manually.” Having been both the developer and the user, Andy was in the unique position to be able to understand what the program should be able to do and also able to design it accordingly.
Around the year 2000, the prototype of the Manuscript Manager platform was mature enough that it began to sell. “We found that there was a demand for it with some of the other Scandinavian and European based journals.”
Over time, the list of clients grew, and as new journals came on board, the requests for special capabilities and features increased.
“We realized the platform needed to be flexible and adaptable in order to accommodate different workflows. We really tried to listen to our clients and incorporate their input to make Manuscript Manager as user-friendly and customizable as possible, and in fact, we still do that today.”
“So the service has essentially been designed by the user and evolving with the needs of the peer-review academic journal sector for over 15 years,” he concludes, and sips his black coffee as the rain falls outside.