QuickTip #1: converting files to TIFF

It can be extremely frustrating - not to mention time-consuming - formatting papers to meet journal requirements. That's why we provide free templates to help you make sense of the author instructions and speed up the submission process. Please let us know if you need a specific template creating for you.

Image processing and conversion can be equally frustrating, especially when you are doing it for the first time. We thought it might be useful to pass on some of the resources and techniques we use when preparing images for journals. Here, we deal with the commonest scenario we encounter when preparing images for biomedical journals - converting image files into high-resolution TIFFs (usually of minimum 300 dpi resolution).

The usual method involves two steps: converting the (non-TIFF) image into a PDF, then converting the PDF into a TIFF file. Check the journal's author instructions first though, since some journals accept PDF files.

Step 1: Convert to PDF

You can convert your file into a PDF by either "printing" as a PDF (select "print to PDF" in the "print" dialogue box) or by "saving as" a PDF (go to "File" >> "Save As, then in the pull down “Format” or “Save as type” menu select “PDF").

Step 2: Convert PDF into TIFF

If you use an Apple computer, there is a very easy way to do this:

1. Simply open up your PDF in Preview and select "Export…" from the file menu.
2. In the "Format" dropdown at the bottom of the dialogue box, select "TIFF".
3. Many journals (especially PLoS family) prefer you to use LZW compression, so select "LZW" from the "Compression" dropdown.
4. Set the resolution to 300 pixels/inch and "Save".

If you use standalone graphics editing software, such as the excellent open-source program GIMP, then:

1. Open the PDF in your graphics software (GIMP will allow you to set the resolution on import, so set it to 300 pixel/inch at this stage).
2. Crop and re-size the image if necessary.
3. Save the file using LZW compression: in GIMP, use “Export” and select TIFF as the format with LZW compression; in Photoshop, select “LZW compression” and “Discard Layers, and Save a Copy.”

If you are having problems or need advice, why not drop us a line. We are always happy to help.

Where can I find the latest cancer statistics?

We receive quite a few cancer research papers to edit, and it is not uncommon for authors to set the scene by presenting a few ‘critical’ cancer facts (such as incidence, prevalence, and mortality) in the opening lines of the introduction. There is nothing wrong with this (although we wouldn’t necessarily advise it if you are submitting to a highly specialised cancer journal), but it is important that the figures are correct. We often find that the ‘facts’ are, more often than not, wildly out of date, inaccurate, or incompletely referenced. Given the easy accessibility of online data, there really is no excuse for glaring inaccuracies and any sloppiness could irritate a reviewer.

That’s why we suggest that you visit GLOBOCAN, an online resource established and maintained by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the WHO). The GLOBOCAN project provides current estimates of the incidence, mortality, and prevalence of major cancer types for 184 countries. The data can be separated by sex, and 1-, 3-, and 5-year prevalence data are available for the adult population.

The database is particularly useful since it can be queried using online analysis tools, which allow you to produce graphs, tables, and maps to illustrate data. These tools are likely to be particularly useful for theses and dissertations, where there is often a need to provide more comprehensive background to the subject and provide basic data.

For instance, let’s say that you need to prepare a graph that compares age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of female cancers in ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ regions. Easy!


The graph clearly highlights those cancers that persist as first-world problems, such as breast cancer, and those cancers that more commonly affect women in the developing world (such as cervical cancer). This might provide an excellent starting point for a discussion about the epidemiology of these diseases.

GLOBOCAN can be referenced in your manuscript, and there is a useful glossary of terms, just in case you tend to get your ‘incidences’ and ‘prevalences’ mixed up. Of course, there are other excellent statistical resources available to cancer researchers, such as CRUK’s Cancer Stats resource in the UK or the NCI’s tools in the US. Please let us know if you know of any other resources that you find useful by commenting below!

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Our new resource to help you find funding

We just wanted to give you a sneak preview of a new resource we are putting together - again, at no cost - to help you find relevant funding opportunities. We are compiling an up-to-date and fully searchable database of available grant, fellowship, and other funding opportunities offered by a range of organisations. Each entry is annotated with the funder, type of funding, broad area of research, and application deadline, and we also provide links to the specific funding details. We have started with funders in the UK and Europe, mainly within the biomedical sciences, and we already have over 200 individual entries. We aim to expand the database to provide a complete, one-stop resource for scientists to find funding opportunities, and we will try to keep it carefully curated.

We think that this will be phenomenally useful, not only for keeping on top of deadlines, but also for exploring other funders or funding opportunities you may not even be aware of. This is just one more way in which we are trying to make life a little easier for scientists (check out our free templates for your manuscript preparation, too). Remember that we can provide professional help with your applications (and see our take on Horizon 2020), and since the next two months are packed with deadlines, we are offering a 10% discount on all grant and fellowship editing until the end of April - see our Facebook page and Twitter feed for details and to find a discount code.

Finally, if you know of any funding opportunities that we have yet to include, please let us know - we can provide an even better and more complete resource with your help.

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Free templates to help with your paper writing

Those of you who regularly follow us will know that we feel very strongly about reducing barriers to scientific publishing. Manuscript preparation (author) guidelines vary wildly between different journals, from the sublime (see Cancer Medicine’s guidelines here, which only demand ‘a clear, generic and readable layout’) to the ridiculous (PLOS One being a notable culprit). We had considered naming the best and shaming the worst but decided against it - there are many sensible reasons for prescriptive manuscript preparation, not least to raise scientific standards (such as with guideline-driven statistical or clinical trial reporting) and improve accountability and transparency (such as full reporting of conflicts of interest or ethical statements). Not all journals have the editorial budgets they would like, and it is perhaps inevitable that some of the editorial burden is passed on to authors. Some are unnecessarily onerous, but we’ll leave that for another day.

However, complex author instructions remain a barrier, particularly if English is not your first language. Even well-seasoned scientists will have their papers returned from editorial offices from time to time for technical reasons. We therefore thought that, instead of complaining, we could be more solution-focussed and do something positive. That is why we have started to prepare a collection of free MS Word templates to help authors prepare their manuscripts for their target journal. We know that Thomson Reuters provide similar templates on their Endnote website, but these are very basic and many have not been updated for several years.

Our templates are journal specific and aim to contain all the required manuscript information under the correct section headings. Any additional information, such as conflicts of interest statements, are pre-filled at the correct point in the document. We have included example references (formatted using Endnote) in each file and provided links to Endnote style files - and a reminder that the wonderful Mendeley is a great free alternative for citation management. Additional web links are embedded in the templates where we believe them to be useful. These templates are free to use and share, but not for commercial purposes please.

This is a start and not a finish and if there is a template you would like to see, please just contact us using the request form - we will try to get that made as quickly as possible and post it for all to share. If there are errors or omissions, please just let us know. If you have a template you would like to share, you can upload it and let us know using the same form.

We hope that you find these useful - please spread the word via the usual social media channels (Facebook and LinkedIn) if you do or click here to tweet - our hashtag for this is #simplifyscience

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