Scholars looking to publish in one of the approximately 30,000 peer reviewed scholarly journals (per Ulrich’s) have a big problem on their hands. They have to prepare the text of their manuscript according to the style specified by the journal, process the images as specified by the journal, prepare the necessary disclosures, deposit datasets into the appropriate repositories, and do a host of other activities according to their field, and then every citation must be written in a specific format that is (often trivially) different for every one of the approximately 2000 publishers of peer-reviewed scholarly content. As if doing the research isn’t hard enough!
Slowly, ever so slowly, technology is changing this practice. Building on work started by Bruce D’Arcus, and extended by Rintze Zelle and others from the CSL project, there are now many applications that can automatically format journal-appropriate citations for you in your word processor of choice. How do you know which to choose, though? Publishers don’t (yet) specify which CSL style they require, so we’ve been working on making this a bit easier. Carles Pina at Mendeley has added “dependent styles”, essentially aliases, to the style repository for each of approximately 1500 Elsevier journals and 500 from Taylor and Francis. Sebastian Karcher has more details on his post about what this means and why it’s a good thing, but essentially what this means is that for most journals you no longer have to know what style a given journal uses, you can just pick the style by the name of the journal. The styles are available from the repository under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license and Mendeley & Zotero already include all 6376 styles. They may also be available from other academic tools that use the CSL repository (which is pretty much all of them except Endnote).
Because the CSL project has so far been run by scholars, for scholars with little official help from publishers, there may yet be one that you need that we don’t have. As a result of work done at Mendeley, you can now easily create that style by simply modifying an existing style using our visual editor, also available under an open source MIT license. If you do, we’d love it if you’d contribute the style back to the style repository. Sebastian Karcher and Rintze Zelle review and approve style submissions very often. Frank Bennett does great work on citeproc-js, which is used by Mendeley Desktop, and Charles Parnot (on the Papers team) has also contributed many styles.
Here’s a graph showing the growth of styles in the style repository. The bottom line shows the growth in unique “real” styles, and the top line shows the growth in dependent “alias” styles. Ideally the bottom line will go down, the top line will go up, and tools will handle all this for authors so you don’t have to worry about it!