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Other Article Types

Non-research articles published in PLOS Biology are collectively referred to as our magazine section. While remaining scientifically rigorous, the PLOS Biology magazine is inclusive and accessible to a broad audience. Magazine articles are directed at a readership that extends beyond the traditional research community and includes scientific educators, students, physicians, patients, and the interested public. 

The majority of articles in the PLOS Biology magazine are published by invitation only, but if you have a suggestion for a topic in any of our current magazine categories, we will consider the idea. Send your suggestion via email to plosbiology@plos.org.


There is no publication fee for magazine articles.

Before submitting, consult our General Guidelines for Magazine Submissions, as well as the guidelines for the specific article type you are interested in.


If you have any questions about submitting an idea or article for consideration in  the magazine section, email our editorial office, plosbiology@plos.org.

General Guidelines for Magazine Submissions

For guidelines specific to each article type, see the individual article descriptions on this page.

Style

The audience of our magazine is very broad, including students, scientists, and the educated general reader. It is therefore important that the writing style be concise and accessible. Specialist terms, abbreviations, and jargon should be avoided or explained. Editors will make suggestions for how to achieve this, as well as suggestions for cuts or additions that could be made to strengthen the article. Our aim is to make the editorial process rigorous and consistent, but not intrusive or overbearing.

Data

If your manuscript includes original research data/analyses, you must ensure that it complies with our data policy

Figures

PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to all figures we publish, which allows them to be freely used, distributed, and built upon as long as proper attribution is given. Read more about our content license. DO NOT submit any figures that have been previously copyrighted or contain proprietary data unless you have and can supply written permission from the copyright holder to use that content. If in doubt, contact our editorial office, plosbiology@plos.org.

Read the figure guidelines for additional details on preparing your figures for submission.

Funding Statement

Describe the sources of funding (if any) that have supported the work. Include relevant grant numbers and the URL of any funder’s website. This information will be published with the article if the manuscript is accepted.

 

If no funding sources supported the work, answer No to the question. If the manuscript is accepted, the funding statement will appear on the published article as follows: “The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.”


If funding sources did support the work and the funder played a role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, answer Yes to this question and describe the role of the sponsor or funder. This information will be published in the funding statement if the manuscript is accepted. If the funders had no role, answer No to this question. The following sentence will appear with the funding statement on the published article: “The funders had no role in the conceptualization, preparation, or decision to publish this manuscript.”

How to Submit

Follow the main submission guidelines, and consult our figures, tables, and supporting information pages when preparing your manuscript.

Submit your manuscript in our submission system. When you start your submission, select the article type you are submitting in the dropdown menu. Manuscripts must be submitted as DOC or DOCX files. Do not submit PDF files, as they are not editable. 

Important information about submitting to PLOS Biology
 

PLOS Biology has switched to a new submission system, Aperta™. Read more about Aperta.

Essays

 “Essays” are opinionated articles on a topic of interest to scientists, as well as to a broader audience, including the general public. Unlike traditional review articles, which include a comprehensive account of a field, Essays take an imaginative approach to a provocative question, with an engaging though rigorous investigation of the problem. We encourage authors of Essays to select the most representative references to convey their points and avoid exhaustively covering the relevant literature.

The remit of Essays is very broad. They might:

  • take stock of progress in a field from a personal point of view
  • explore the implications of recent advances that promise to have broad-ranging consequences on a field
  • comment on a topical or controversial area of research
  • discuss key ideas or educational strategies to enhance understanding of fundamental biological questions
  • offer historical/philosophical reflections on contemporary biology

Our Essays aim to engage a broad and diverse audience—it is therefore important to ensure that they be written in an accessible, semi-journalistic style that captures the interest of both specialists and non-specialist readers. We encourage the use of figures to illustrate key concepts in a lively, easy to grasp manner; as well as the use of text boxes for background, self-contained information.

Essays are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for an Essay
Title length

Fewer than 75 characters

Abstract length

~100 words

Manuscript length

~2,000 words

There are no strict length limits, but in general our Essays are brief

References

~30-60

There are no strict reference limits, but in general Essays are meant to discuss representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

3-4

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Essay Examples

St Johnston D (2015) The Renaissance of Developmental Biology. PLoS Biol 13(5): e1002149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002149

Miller JS (2014) The Billion Cell Construct: Will Three-Dimensional Printing Get Us There? PLoS Biol 12(6): e1001882. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001882

Servedio MR, Brandvain Y, Dhole S, Fitzpatrick CL, Goldberg EE, et al. (2014) Not Just a Theory—The Utility of Mathematical Models in Evolutionary Biology. PLoS Biol 12(12): e1002017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002017

Unsolved Mysteries

 “Unsolved Mysteries” discuss a topic of biological or medical importance that is poorly understood and in need of research attention—e.g., an unexplored or challenging question, an emerging opportunity, or a recent puzzling phenomenon with potentially devastating consequences. The articles are intended to stimulate students and other scientists to think about future research possibilities outside their areas of expertise. The articles should be aimed at a very broad audience of biologists—an unsolved mystery in a neuroscience topic should be accessible to ecologists and biophysicists, for example.

The article should include a discussion of the basic science relevant to the topic, why it is biologically or medically important, what work has been done on the topic (if any), major challenges to understanding the question at hand, competing hypotheses, and what advances would be necessary to shed light on the problem. Ideally the structure of the article should reflect the mystery (e.g. subsections with questions as headings). The article should end with a discussion of possible means to a solution.

Unsolved Mysteries are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for an Unsolved Mystery
Title length Fewer than 75 characters
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~2,000 words

There are no strict length limits, but in general our Unsolved Mysteries are brief

References

~30-60

There are no strict reference limits, but in general Unsolved Mysteries are meant to discuss representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

3-4

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Unsolved Mystery Examples

Patel AD (2014) The Evolutionary Biology of Musical Rhythm: Was Darwin Wrong? PLoS Biol 12(3): e1001821. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001821

Pitt JN, Kaeberlein M (2015) Why Is Aging Conserved and What Can We Do about It? PLoS Biol 13(4): e1002131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002131

Perspectives

The “Perspectives” section provides experts with a forum to comment on topical or controversial issues of broad interest. They address issues at the interface between science and policy or science and society; present a policy position aimed at influencing policy decisions; examine and make recommendations on scientific and publishing practices.

The ideal Perspective conveys a sense of urgency—why is this topic of immediate concern?; is relevant to a pressing regional or global issue; offers a novel point of view on topical events; makes specific, practical proposals to address the issue (for example, by making recommendations or suggesting an alternative approach). Controversial articles are welcomed, but the text should acknowledge that a position is in fact controversial and provide readers with enough background on the differing views.

Our Perspectives aim to engage a broad and diverse audience—it is therefore important to ensure that they be written in an accessible, persuasive, and stimulating style that appeals to both specialists and non-specialist readers. We encourage the use of figures to illustrate key concepts in a lively, easy to grasp manner; as well as the use of text boxes for background, self-contained information.

Perspectives are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner. 

Guidelines for a Perspective
Title length Fewer than 75 characters 
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~1,500 words

There are no strict length limits, but in general our Perspectives are brief

References

~10

There are no strict reference limits, but in general our Perspectives contain few, necessary references

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

2-3

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Perspective Examples

Leyser O (2014) Moving beyond the GM Debate. PLoS Biol 12(6): e1001887. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001887

Freedman LP, Cockburn IM, Simcoe TS (2015) The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research. PLoS Biol 13(6): e1002165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002165

Nutt D (2015) Illegal Drugs Laws: Clearing a 50-Year-Old Obstacle to Research. PLoS Biol 13(1): e1002047. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002047

Community Pages

Community Pages provide individuals, networks, and organizations with the opportunity to highlight resources, tools, or initiatives of benefit to the scientific community and beyond (including science education and public engagement in science). All resources, tools, and the outputs of initiatives must be open and accessible to all.

We ask contributors to resist the temptation of self-promotion and instead focus on conveying information to a diverse audience. It is important to ensure that your article is written in an accessible, semi-journalistic style that captures the interest of both specialists and non-specialist readers. We encourage the use of figures to illustrate key concepts in a lively, easy to grasp manner; as well as the use of text boxes for background, self-contained information.

Community Pages are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Community Page
Title length Fewer than 75 characters 
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~1,500 words

There are no strict length limits, but in general our Community Pages are brief

References

~10

There are no strict reference limits, but in general our Community Pages contain few, necessary references

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

2-3

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Community Page Examples

Baden T, Chagas AM, Gage G, Marzullo T, Prieto-Godino LL, Euler T (2015) Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment. PLoS Biol 13(3): e1002086. https://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002086

Kamens J (2014) Addgene: Making Materials Sharing “Science As Usual”. PLoS Biol 12(11): e1001991. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001991

Formal Comments

Formal Comments are intended to provide a formal outlet for the discussion of significant aspects of interpretation of research findings associated with specific articles published in PLOS Biology. They are designed to ensure that readers obtain a balanced view of a scientific or meta-scientific/policy question, especially in areas of debate/controversy. Formal Comments are peer-reviewed and indexed in PubMed.

Please note that Formal Comments are not meant to address ethical issues—if you have ethical concerns about a PLOS Biology article, email our editorial office, plosbiology@plos.org.

Formal comments are considered exclusively by invitation. If you would like to be considered for an invitation to write a Formal Comment, please send your inquiry and a summary of the details via email to plosbiology@plos.org.


Formal Comments must be coherent, concise, and well-argued, and are subject to the PLOS Biology criteria for publication. Editors will as a matter of course invite a response to the Formal Comment from the authors of the original article.

Guidelines for Formal Comments
Title length Fewer than 75 characters
Manuscript length

Formal Comments:1,000 words

Formal Comment Response: 700 words

Ensure that you do not significantly exceed these length limits. You will generally be asked to reduce the text if it exceeds the limit by more than 20%

References

~10

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

1-2

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Formal Comment Examples

Formal Comment:

Rees WE, Wackernagel M (2013) The Shoe Fits, but the Footprint is Larger than Earth. PLoS Biol 11(11): e1001701. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001701

Formal Comment - Response:

Blomqvist L, Brook BW, Ellis EC, Kareiva PM, Nordhaus T, Shellenberger M (2013) The Ecological Footprint Remains a Misleading Metric of Global Sustainability. PLoS Biol 11(11): e1001702. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001702

Primers

Primers provide concise and accessible background information for a particular area in biology that is featured in a PLOS Biology research article. Primers aim to provide a concise introduction to an important aspect of biology with broad and current interest. Primers are usually commissioned and published alongside a research article that would benefit from additional context and explanation. Above all, Primers should demystify an area of biology, avoid and/or explain technical jargon, and enable the reader to appreciate the relevant primary research literature and the target research article. 

Primers are commissioned from scientists with a specific interest and commitment to teaching science. Unsolicited primers are not considered. 

Primers should provide the context and background necessary to help readers grasp the related article’s significance. To write a good Primer briefly discuss (but not exhaustively review) in the introduction what we know and what questions we have yet to answer for a particular field. Introduce the new findings about a third of the way in. Describe in roughly three paragraphs the advance represented in the related research article, highlighting its significance, not only for the discipline in question, but across disciplines. Then, explain what the findings suggest in terms of next steps: what new avenues of investigation are opened, what new experiments can be tried, what new ideas can now be tested going forward? Ideally, you would also offer insight into what big questions are likely to remain answered for many years (for whatever reasons).

We encourage you to make use of text boxes for background information, as well as informative figures to illustrate key concepts/mechanisms/conclusions in a lively, easy to grasp manner.

Primers are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Primer
Title length Fewer than 75 characters
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~1,500-2,000 words

Length limits are not strict, but in general Primers are meant to be concise introductions to a topic and target research article

References

~20

There are no strict reference limits, but in general Primers are meant to discuss key representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables)

2-3

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Primer Examples

Mano H, Seymour B (2015) Pain: A Distributed Brain Information Network? PLoS Biol 12(1): e1002037. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002037

Råberg, L (2014) How to Live with the Enemy: Understanding Tolerance to Parasites. PLoS Biol 12(11): e1001989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001989

Editorials

Editorials are written in-house by members of the editorial staff or by members of the Editorial Board.

Series

PLOS Biology also publishes themed series of articles under selected magazine sections. These series currently include:

  • The Education series aims to create an interactive, dynamic resource for educators, researchers, students, and the interested public to share and discuss key ideas, methods, tools, and activities to enhance understanding of fundamental questions in biology. The magazine section selected (Essay, Perspective, or Community Page) depends on the aims of each article.
  • The Public Engagement with Science series, which appears periodically in the Perspectives section, investigates, through specific case studies, whether, and under what conditions, it is possible to engage the public in scientific issues in meaningful ways in decision-making about the innovation pathways of biosciences. The series is edited by Claire Marris.
  • The Cool Tools Series, which appears periodically in the Community Page section, features innovative resources designed to enhance the understanding, dissemination, or practice of science.
  • The Where Next? series, which appears periodically in the Essays or Perspectives section, features articles written by leading scientists that look into the future of a field.

Retired Article Types

Book Review/Science in the Media

These short reviews critiqued books, films, plays, and other media that deal with some aspect of the biological sciences.

Historical and Philosophical Perspectives

The Historical and Philosophical Perspectives section provided professional historians and philosophers of science with a forum to reflect on topical issues in contemporary biology.

Education

Although we no longer publish Education articles as a separate article type, we continue publishing them as part of the Education Series. The format selected (Essay, Perspective, or Community Page) depends on the aims of each article.

Synopses

Selected PLOS Biology research articles are accompanied by a synopsis written for a general audience to provide non-experts with insight into the significance of the published work. They are commissioned only.

Obituaries