Editorial and Peer Review Process
Authors can check the status of a manuscript at any time in the submission system. Authors will also be notified by email when a decision is made.
PLOS Biology is highly selective in the manuscripts that it publishes; rejection rates are high. To be considered for publication in PLOS Biology, any given manuscript must be exceptional in the following ways:
Importance to researchers in its field
Interest to scientists outside the field
- Rigorous methodology and substantial evidence for its conclusions
Our aim is to provide all authors with an efficient, courteous, and constructive editorial process. To ensure the fairest and most objective decision-making, the editorial process is run as a partnership between the PLOS Biology professional editors and the Editorial Board, which is comprised of leaders in all fields of biology.
The ultimate responsibility for the PLOS Biology content and editorial decision-making lies with the team of professional editors.
On checking the status of a manuscript in our submission system, one of several status descriptions will appear. These correspond to the steps in the editorial process as follows:
Submitted manuscripts will be assigned to one of the professional editors, who will, in consultation with colleagues as appropriate, aim to make an initial evaluation of the paper within a maximum of 7 working days.
If the editors feel the manuscript has the potential to fit within the scope of our journal, they will seek advice from an external Academic Editor, who is usually a member of the Editorial Board, and decide if the work is likely to meet the requirement of providing a major advance in its field and describing a sufficient body of work to support the main claims.
Since Academic Editors are busy working scientists, and from time to time the opinion of experts not on the Board has to be sought, there is a possibility of some delay at this stage; however, we do try to avoid this where we can and ensure that appropriate expert advice is secured as promptly as possible.
Academic Editors retain anonymity unless a paper is accepted for publication. The name of the Academic Editor is noted on each published paper.
If the Academic Editor and professional editors agree that the paper meets the standards to justify review at PLOS Biology, it will be sent out for more detailed peer review. Should a paper be sent for review, authors will be informed of this by email.
Upon submission of a manuscript, authors are asked whether they wish to exclude any specific Academic Editors or reviewers from the peer review of their manuscript. The editorial team will respect these requests so long as this does not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of the submission.
The selection of appropriate and responsive reviewers is paramount to the success of the review process. We decide on reviewers for a particular manuscript based on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations of authors and Academic Editors, and the professional editor's own knowledge of a reviewer's performance.
Expert reviewers will be asked to assess the technical and scientific merits of the work. We ask that review comments be returned within 10 days; however, this is not always possible for all reviewers, and in the interests of securing the best expert advice we do grant extensions where necessary. However, we also actively chase review comments when overdue to ensure that this requirement is balanced with that of fairness to authors.
Once all reviews of a manuscript have been received, the manuscript returns to the professional editors, who evaluate and consider the reviews. In some cases they may consult the Academic Editor for their opinion on the reviews prior to drafting a decision; in all cases, expert input from the Academic Editor is then sought on the drafted decision letter before finalizing it and sending it to the authors. Although we endeavor to make all decisions promptly, there may be some to-and-fro between editors, and it may be necessary to clarify issues with reviewers, before a final decision is made.
This status description appears where a decision on the manuscript has been finalized and sent. If authors see this status description on a manuscript but have not received a decision, they should email email@example.com.
There are several types of decisions possible:
- accept the paper as submitted
- accept it with revision
- invite the authors to revise the manuscript prior to the final decision
- reject the manuscript, but with encouragement to resubmit it after extensive revision
- reject the manuscript outright, typically because it does not meet the criteria outlined above of originality, importance to the field, cross-disciplinary interest, or sound methodology
If the decision is to allow resubmission, the author will be advised in the decision letter whether the paper is likely to require further peer review at that time. The revised manuscript in all cases will be assessed by a professional editor and Academic Editor. Sometimes, re-review will be required, but in general we aim to make decisions without involving multiple rounds of review.
Authors can request that submissions (with referee reports, if relevant) rejected from one PLOS journal be transferred to another PLOS journal for further consideration there. Manuscripts will never be transferred between the journals without an author’s consent.
We trust that reviewers for any PLOS journal are willing to have their reviews considered by the editors of another PLOS journal.
If you wish to appeal a decision, you should contact the professional editor who handled the presubmission inquiry or full manuscript, explaining in detail your reasons for the appeal. We will acknowledge receipt of your email and ask you, if you've not already done so, to provide a formal appeal letter for the editorial team to consider.
Appeals will only be considered when a reviewer or editor is thought to have made a significant factual error or when his/her objectivity is compromised by a documented competing interest, and when a reversal based on either of these grounds would change the original decision.
All appeals will be discussed with at least one other professional editor; if those editors do not agree the appeal will be discussed at a full editorial meeting. Priority is given to new submissions to the journal, and the processing of appeals will usually take longer than the original submission. We hope, however, that this will not take longer than 2 weeks.
While under appeal, a manuscript remains under formal consideration at PLOS Biology and hence should not be submitted for consideration elsewhere. We may or may not seek external advice on appeals, and we do not consider second appeals.
If your manuscript has been accepted, read about what to expect and how you can expedite the publication process.
If you have questions at any stage in the process, please email us.