PLOS Biology publishes original research articles of outstanding scientific significance. We will consider manuscripts of any length; we encourage the submission of both substantial full-length bodies of work and “Short Reports” that document novel biological findings that might be based on a more limited range of experiments. The key criteria are that the work clearly demonstrates its novelty, its importance to a particular field as well as its interest to those outside that discipline, and conclusions that are justified by the study.
PLOS Biology also considers outstanding methods and resource papers. We will consider manuscripts that report novel methods or improvements to current methodologies that significantly out-perform the state-of-the-art or that show the potential to address, for the first time, a pressing biological question. The reported method should be thoroughly validated, and while presenting new biological insights is encouraged, this is not a requirement for consideration. Resource papers should provide an exceptionally valuable tool for the community that could spur future research.
The journal also considers primary research that would be of interest to the clinical and pre-clinical research communities. To be appropriate for PLOS Biology, translational biological research should demonstrate the potential to advance our insights into the understanding, detection, diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of human disease.
In addition to studies offering biological insight, the journal also features data-driven meta-research articles of broad relevance to the biological sciences. The meta-research section addresses issues related to the design, methods, reporting, verification, and evaluation of research. It also encompasses research into the systems that evaluate and reward individual scientists and institutions. We welcome both exploratory and confirmatory research that has the potential to drive change in research and evaluation practices in the life sciences and beyond. This includes experimental, observational, modeling, and meta-analytic research. Themes include, but are not limited to, transparency, established and novel methodological standards, sources of bias (conflicts of interest, selection, inflation, funding, etc.), data sharing, evaluation metrics, assessment, reward, and funding structures.
The writing style should be concise and accessible. Editors will make suggestions for how to achieve this, as well as suggestions for cuts or additions that could be made to the article to strengthen the argument. Our aim is to make the editorial process rigorous and consistent, but not intrusive or overbearing. Authors are encouraged to use their own voice and to decide how best to present their ideas, results, and conclusions.
Our initial submission process allows you to quickly submit your work to the journal and obtain rapid feedback from the editors. An initial submission requires only your manuscript, cover letter, figures, and supporting information files. If the editors decide that the work is suitable for peer review, you will be asked to provide additional information needed for the peer review process. You may submit your manuscript in either Word or PDF formats at this stage.
- Submissions in PDF format:
For initial assessment, you can choose to provide a single PDF that contains your manuscript and all figure and supporting information files. If preferred, you may also upload any submission files alongside your PDF file.
Submissions in Word format:
Uploading a Word document will allow you to make use of Aperta’s automated figure placement and version comparison features. Figure files should be uploaded separately to the Figures card. Please do not include figures in your Word file; any figures embedded in your Word document will not be retained during the upload process. See our figure guidelines.
The Style and Format criteria listed below will be required for all full submissions, where you've received an initial decision from the journal committing to peer review. Unless indicated otherwise, it will not apply to initial submissions.
Creating an initial submission is the most efficient way to obtain feedback from the journal, but if you have not yet prepared a manuscript and have a general inquiry as to whether your study would be appropriate for submission to PLOS Biology, please email the PLOS Biology staff editors. Please note that if you email a full manuscript with your inquiry you will likely be asked to submit the manuscript officially as detailed above.
The initial submission process applies to research articles, meta-research articles, short reports, methods, and resource papers. If you are submitting to the PLOS Biology magazine, you will be asked to provide information customized for each article type.
Submit the manuscript file in DOC, DOCX, or PDF format. Your file should not be locked or protected.
If you have written your manuscript in LaTeX, please submit as a PDF. Read the LaTeX guidelines.
|Manuscripts can be any length. There are no restrictions on word count, number of figures, or amount of supporting information.
Use a standard font size and any standard font, except for the font named “Symbol”. To add symbols to the manuscript, use the Insert → Symbol function in your word processor or paste in the appropriate Unicode character.
|Limit manuscript sections and sub-sections to 3 heading levels. Make sure heading levels are clearly indicated in the manuscript text.|
Manuscript text should be double-spaced.
Do not format text in multiple columns.
|Include page numbers and line numbers in the manuscript file. Use continuous line numbers (do not restart the numbering on each page).|
|Footnotes are not permitted. If your manuscript contains footnotes, move the information into the main text or the reference list, depending on the content.|
Manuscripts must be submitted in English.
You may submit translations of the manuscript or abstract as supporting information. Read the supporting information guidelines.
Define abbreviations upon first appearance in the text.
Do not use non-standard abbreviations unless they appear at least three times in the text. List all non-standard abbreviations (with definitions) in alphabetical order in a separate section at the beginning of the manuscript.
Keep abbreviations to a minimum.
PLOS uses “Vancouver” style, as outlined in the ICMJE sample references.
We recommend using MathType for display and inline equations, as it will provide the most reliable outcome. If this is not possible, Equation Editor is acceptable. Please do not embed equations as images.
Avoid using MathType or Equation Editor to insert single variables (e.g., “a² + b² = c²”), Greek or other symbols (e.g., β, Δ, or ′ [prime]), or mathematical operators (e.g., x, ≥, or ±) in running text. Wherever possible, insert single symbols as normal text with the correct Unicode (hex) values.
Do not use MathType or Equation Editor for only a portion of an equation. Rather, ensure that the entire equation is included. Avoid “hybrid” inline or display equations, in which part is text and part is MathType, or part is MathType and part is Equation Editor.
Use correct and established nomenclature wherever possible.
Most manuscripts should be organized as follows. Instructions for each element appear below.
- Title page with author list and author affiliations
- Materials and Methods
- Figure files: Upload separately. Do not put figure files in the manuscript body.
- Figure captions: Insert immediately in the manuscript text after the first paragraph in which the figure is cited.
- Tables and boxes: Insert immediately in the manuscript text after the first paragraph in which the table or box is cited.
- Supporting Information files: Upload separately.
- Supporting Information captions: List captions at the end of the manuscript file.
Include a title page as the first page of the manuscript file with the title, authors, and affiliations.
Include a full title and a short title for the manuscript using the following format:
- Titles should be written in sentence case (only the first word of the text, proper nouns, and genus names are capitalized).
- Avoid specialist abbreviations if possible.
- For clinical trials, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses, the subtitle should include the study design.
|Full title||250 characters||Specific, descriptive, concise, and comprehensible to readers outside the field||
Impact of cigarette smoke exposure on innate immunity: A Caenorhabditis elegans modelSolar drinking water disinfection (SODIS) to reduce childhood diarrhoea in rural Bolivia: A cluster-randomized, controlled trial
|Short title||70 characters||State the topic of the study||
Cigarette smoke exposure and innate immunitySODIS and childhood diarrhoea
All authors must meet the criteria for authorship as outlined in the authorship policy. Those who contributed to the work but do not meet the criteria for authorship can be mentioned in the Acknowledgments. Read more about Acknowledgments.
The corresponding author must provide an ORCID iD at the time of submission by entering it in the user profile in the submission system. Read more about ORCID.
Author names and affiliations
During initial submission, enter author names on the title page of the manuscript. If your manuscript is selected for peer review, you will also add author details to the submission system.
On the title page, write author names in the following order:
- First name (or initials, if used)
- Middle name (or initials, if used)
- Last name (surname, family name)
Each author on the list must have an affiliation. The affiliation includes department, university, or organizational affiliation and its location, including city, state/province (if applicable), and country. Authors have the option to include a current address in addition to the address of their affiliation at the time of the study. The current address should be listed in the byline and clearly labeled “current address.” At a minimum, the address must include the author’s current institution, city, and country.
If an author has multiple affiliations, enter their full list of affiliations on the title page. In the submission system, enter only the preferred or primary affiliation. Author affiliations will be listed in the typeset PDF article in the same order that the authors are listed in the submission.
Designate at least one corresponding author on the title page. Include an email address for each corresponding author listed on the title page of the manuscript.
We do not restrict the number of corresponding authors that may be listed on the article in the event of publication. Whoever is designated as a corresponding author on the title page of the manuscript file will be listed as such upon publication.
You can only designate one corresponding author that will communicate with the journal about the manuscript during editorial consideration. The submitting author is automatically designated the corresponding author in the system upon submission. If you need to change the corresponding author during editorial consideration, email the journal.
Upon full submission of a manuscript, all authors listed on the manuscript will be emailed a link to confirm their authorship.
If you are the submitting author, it is your responsibility to provide your co-authors with updates and information about your submission. If you are a co-author, contact the corresponding author if you need information about a submission. Read the full list of corresponding author responsibilities in our authorship policy.
Consortia and group authorship
If a manuscript is submitted on behalf of a consortium or group, include the consortium or group name in the author list, and include the full list of members in the Acknowledgments. If the full member list is too long to include in the Acknowledgments, add it to a supporting information file. Read the group authorship policy.
You will enter all author contributions in the submission system if your manuscript is selected for peer review. Provide at minimum one contribution for each author, and use the CRediT taxonomy to describe each contribution. Read the policy and the full list of roles.
Contributions will be published with the final article, and they should accurately reflect contributions to the work. The submitting author is responsible for completing this information at submission, and we expect that all authors will have reviewed, discussed, and agreed to their individual contributions ahead of this time.
Help entering author details
See step-by-step instructions for indicating group authors, designating author order, and supplying author affiliation and contribution details.
Upload a cover letter as a separate file in the submission system. The length limit is 600 words.
The cover letter should address the following questions:
- What is the scientific question you are addressing?
- What is the key finding that answers this question?
- What is the nature of the evidence you provide in support of your conclusion?
- What are the three most recently published articles that are relevant to this question?
- What significance do your results have for the field?
- What significance do your results have for the broader community (of biologists and/or the public)?
- What other novel findings do you present?
- Is there additional information that we should take into account?
You may enter requests to exclude specific reviewers from the evaluation process in the submission system. If you choose to enter opposed reviewers, please provide a reason for doing so. Please also read our policy about competing interests before submitting your inquiry.
The Abstract succinctly introduces the manuscript. It should mention the techniques used without going into methodological detail and mention the most important results.
The Abstract is conceptually divided into the following three sections: Background, Methodology/Principal Findings, and Conclusions/Significance. However, the Abstract should be written as a single paragraph without these headers.
Do not include any citations in the Abstract. Avoid specialist abbreviations.
The Introduction should put the focus of the manuscript into a broader context. As you compose the Introduction, think of readers who are not experts in this field. Include a brief review of the key literature. If there are relevant controversies or disagreements in the field, they should be mentioned so that a non-expert reader can delve into these issues further. The Introduction should conclude with a brief statement of the overall aim of the reported research and a comment about whether that aim was achieved.
Manuscripts should not include priority claims. For example, “the first demonstration of this” should be changed to “the first demonstration, to our knowledge, of this.”
The Results section should provide details of all of the experiments that are required to support the conclusions of the paper, including information on the number of replicates (if relevant to ensure replicability). There is no specific word limit for this section, but details of experiments that are peripheral to the main thrust of the article and that detract from the focus of the article should not be included. The section may be divided into subsections, each with a concise subheading. The Results section should be written in past tense.
PLOS journals require authors to make all data underlying the findings described in their manuscript fully available without restriction, with rare exception.
Large data sets, including raw data, may be deposited in an appropriate public repository. See our list of recommended repositories.
For smaller data sets and certain data types, authors may provide their data within supporting information files accompanying the manuscript. Authors should take care to maximize the accessibility and reusability of the data by selecting a file format from which data can be efficiently extracted (for example, spreadsheets or flat files should be provided rather than PDFs when providing tabulated data).
For more information on how best to provide data, read our policy on data availability. PLOS does not accept references to “data not shown.”
The Discussion should spell out the major conclusions and interpretations of the work including some explanation on the significance of these conclusions. How do the conclusions affect the existing assumptions and models in the field? How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done? The Discussion should be concise and tightly argued. If warranted, the Results and Discussion may be combined into one section.
The Materials and Methods should provide enough detail for reproduction of the findings. Submit detailed protocols for newer or less established methods. Well-established protocols may simply be referenced.
Details of algorithms and protocol documents for clinical trials, observational studies, and other non-laboratory investigations may be uploaded as supporting information. These are not included in the typeset manuscript, but are downloadable and fully searchable from the HTML version of the article. Read the supporting information guidelines for formatting instructions.
We recommend and encourage you to deposit laboratory protocols in protocols.io, where protocols can be assigned their own persistent digital object identifiers (DOIs).
To include a link to a protocol in your article:
- Describe your step-by-step protocol on protocols.io
- Select Get DOI to issue your protocol a persistent digital object identifier (DOI)
- Include the DOI link in the Methods section of your manuscript using the following format provided by protocols.io: http://dx.doi.org/10.17504/protocols.io.[PROTOCOL DOI]
At this stage, your protocol is only visible to those with the link. This allows editors and reviewers to consult your protocol when evaluating the manuscript. You can make your protocols public at any time by selecting Publish on the protocols.io site. Any referenced protocol(s) will automatically be made public when your article is published.
Those who contributed to the work but do not meet our authorship criteria should be listed in the Acknowledgments with a description of the contribution.
Authors are responsible for ensuring that anyone named in the Acknowledgments agrees to be named.
Any and all available works can be cited in the reference list. Acceptable sources include:
- Published or accepted manuscripts
- Manuscripts on preprint servers, if the manuscript is submitted to a journal and also publicly available as a preprint
Do not cite the following sources in the reference list:
- Unavailable and unpublished work, including manuscripts that have been submitted but not yet accepted (e.g., “unpublished work,” “data not shown”). Instead, include those data as supplementary material or deposit the data in a publicly available database.
- Personal communications (these should be supported by a letter from the relevant authors but not included in the reference list)
References are listed at the end of the manuscript and numbered in the order that they appear in the text. In the text, cite the reference number in square brackets (e.g., “We used the techniques developed by our colleagues  to analyze the data”). PLOS uses the numbered citation (citation-sequence) method and first six authors, et al.
Do not include citations in abstracts or author summaries.
Make sure the parts of the manuscript are in the correct order before ordering the citations.
PLOS uses the reference style outlined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), also referred to as the “Vancouver” style. Example formats are listed below. Additional examples are in the ICMJE sample references.
Journal name abbreviations should be those found in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) databases.
Hou WR, Hou YL, Wu GF, Song Y, Su XL, Sun B, et al. cDNA, genomic sequence cloning and overexpression of ribosomal protein gene L9 (rpL9) of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Genet Mol Res. 2011;10: 1576-1588.
Devaraju P, Gulati R, Antony PT, Mithun CB, Negi VS. Susceptibility to SLE in South Indian Tamils may be influenced by genetic selection pressure on TLR2 and TLR9 genes. Mol Immunol. 2014 Nov 22. pii: S0161-5890(14)00313-7. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2014.11.005
Note: A DOI number for the full-text article is acceptable as an alternative to or in addition to traditional volume and page numbers.
|Accepted, unpublished articles||Same as published articles, but substitute “Forthcoming” for page numbers or DOI.|
|Web sites or online articles||
Huynen MMTE, Martens P, Hilderlink HBM. The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework. Global Health. 2005;1: 14. Available from: http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/1/1/14.
Bates B. Bargaining for life: A social history of tuberculosis. 1st ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
|Book chapters||Hansen B. New York City epidemics and history for the public. In: Harden VA, Risse GB, editors. AIDS and the historian. Bethesda: National Institutes of Health; 1991. pp. 21-28.|
|Deposited articles (preprints, e-prints, or arXiv)||Krick T, Shub DA, Verstraete N, Ferreiro DU, Alonso LG, Shub M, et al. Amino acid metabolism conflicts with protein diversity; 1991. Preprint. Available from: arXiv:1403.3301v1. Cited 17 March 2014.|
|Published media (print or online newspapers and magazine articles)||Fountain H. For Already Vulnerable Penguins, Study Finds Climate Change Is Another Danger. The New York Times. 29 Jan 2014. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/science/earth/climate-change-taking-toll-on-penguins-study-finds.html. Cited 17 March 2014.|
|New media (blogs, web sites, or other written works)||Allen L. Announcing PLOS Blogs. 2010 Sep 1 [cited 17 March 2014]. In: PLOS Blogs [Internet]. San Francisco: PLOS 2006 - . [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://blogs.plos.org/plos/2010/09/announcing-plos-blogs/.|
|Masters' theses or doctoral dissertations||Wells A. Exploring the development of the independent, electronic, scholarly journal. M.Sc. Thesis, The University of Sheffield. 1999. Available from: http://cumincad.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?2e09|
|Databases and repositories (Figshare, arXiv)||Roberts SB. QPX Genome Browser Feature Tracks; 2013 [cited 2013 Oct 5]. Database: figshare [Internet]. Available from: http://figshare.com/articles/QPX_Genome_Browser_Feature_Tracks/701214.|
|Multimedia (videos, movies, or TV shows)||Hitchcock A, producer and director. Rear Window [Film]; 1954. Los Angeles: MGM.|
Authors can submit essential supporting files and multimedia files that are auxiliary to the main content of the article. All Supporting Information will be subject to peer review. These files are published exactly as provided and are not copyedited.
List supporting information captions at the end of the manuscript file. Do not submit captions in a separate file.
Prepare and upload each figure to the submission system as an individual file. Do not include figures in the main manuscript file.
Insert your figure captions in ascending numerical order after their citations in the manuscript.
See step-by-step instructions for uploading your figures to the submission system.
As part of our efforts to improve published figure quality, we routinely and thoroughly check all main and supporting figures for all papers editorially accepted for publication in PLOS Biology. In doing so, we not only ensure that all figure files meet our requirements for publication and are available to publish under our CC BY license, but also that we remain vigilant to image manipulation of photographic images.
Image files should not be manipulated or adjusted in any way that could lead to misinterpretation of the information present in the original image. For full details on best practices regarding your figures, read our figure guidelines.
If evidence is found of inappropriate manipulation, we reserve the right to ask for original data and, if that is not satisfactory, we may decide not to accept the manuscript, and may also contact the authors' institutions to ask them to assist with investigation.
In checking for manipulation, we may request higher resolution versions of your images, or the original images, so that we can efficiently and accurately check all figures.
If you ever need to email files to the journal office, our system has a 10 MB attachment limit, meaning that we will not receive any emails larger than this size. If your files are larger than 10 MB, please either send them one email at a time, or look into reducing the size of the files. If you are having problems sending us large files, please contact the journal office for details of how we can help you transfer your files.
Cite tables in ascending numeric order upon first appearance in the manuscript file.
Place each table in your manuscript file directly after the paragraph in which it is first cited (read order). Do not embed your tables as images or submit them in separate files.
Tables require a label (e.g., “Table 1”) and brief descriptive title to be placed above the table. Place legends, footnotes, and other text below the table.
To better illustrate your results and to improve the reader's understanding and interpretation of your data, we discourage the use of bar graphs and line plots for continuous data, particularly for studies with small sample sizes (n≤9 independent observations per group).
Weissgerber TL, Milic NM, Winham SJ, Garovic VD (2015) Beyond Bar and Line Graphs: Time for a New Data Presentation Paradigm. PLoS Biol 13(4): e1002128. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002128
We recommend that continuous data is presented in such a way that the reader can evaluate the distribution of the individual data points. Scatterplots, boxplots, and histograms are more informative than bar or line charts.
If there is a particular reason that bar or line graphs are preferred, these must include inferential error bars:
SD - standard deviation of the population, or CI - confidence intervals.
Paired or non-independent data should be presented to include information about whether changes are consistent across individuals.
Figures presenting small sample size data (n≤9 independent observations per group) should show the full distribution of the data, as opposed to summary statistics.
All numerical values used to generate graphs must be provided as per the PLOS Data Availability policy.
Bloom T, Ganley E, Winker M (2014) Data Access for the Open Access Literature: PLOS's Data Policy. PLoS Biol 12(2): e1001797. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001797
All data and related metadata underlying the findings reported in a submitted manuscript should be deposited in an appropriate public repository, unless already provided as part of the submitted article.
Repositories may be either subject-specific (where these exist) and accept specific types of structured data, or generalist repositories that accept multiple data types. We recommend that authors select repositories appropriate to their field. Repositories may be subject-specific (e.g., GenBank for sequences and PDB for structures), general, or institutional, as long as DOIs or accession numbers are provided and the data are at least as open as CC BY. Authors are encouraged to select repositories that meet accepted criteria as trustworthy digital repositories, such as criteria of the Centre for Research Libraries or Data Seal of Approval. Large, international databases are more likely to persist than small, local ones.
To support data sharing and author compliance of the PLOS data policy, we have integrated our submission process with a select set of data repositories. The list is neither representative nor exhaustive of the suitable repositories available to authors. Current repository integration partners include Dryad and FlowRepository. Please contact email@example.com to make recommendations for further partnerships.
Instructions for PLOS submissions with data deposited in an integration partner repository:
- Deposit data in the integrated repository of choice.
- Once deposition is final and complete, the repository will provide you with a dataset DOI (provisional) and private URL for reviewers to gain access to the data. Insert these details into the Data Availability section of the submission system.
If you have any questions, please email us.
All appropriate data sets, images, and information should be deposited in an appropriate public repository. See our list of recommended repositories.
Accession numbers (and version numbers, if appropriate) should be provided in the Data Availability Statement. Accession numbers or a citation to the DOI should also be provided when the data set is mentioned within the manuscript.
In some cases authors may not be able to obtain accession numbers of DOIs until the manuscript is accepted; in these cases, the authors must provide these numbers at acceptance. In all other cases, these numbers must be provided at submission.
As much as possible, please provide accession numbers or identifiers for all entities such as genes, proteins, mutants, diseases, etc., for which there is an entry in a public database, for example:
- Entrez Gene
- Mouse Genome Database (MGD)
- Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)
Identifiers should be provided in parentheses after the entity on first use.
Research Resource Identifiers are unique Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) for citing resources used in the research. We encourage authors to use RRIDs within the text of their papers to identify their model organisms, antibodies, or tools.
PLOS is a part of the Research Resource Identification Initiative (#RII), a cross-publisher effort to enable effective tracking of the utilization of particular research resources across all biomedical literature and promote reproducibility in science. RRIDs are found via the RRID portal.
If an RRID does not exist, you may create a new one as needed through the RRID Portal. The Research Resource Citation guidelines provide instructions on how to cite the resource in the manuscript.
You can choose to upload a “Striking Image” that we may use to represent your article online in places such as the journal homepage. All striking image files that are submitted are also eligible to be chosen as the monthly Issue Image, which is chosen by the editorial staff.
The striking image must visually represent the article in a striking and eye-catching way. This could be derived from a figure or supporting information file from the paper, i.e., a cropped portion of an image or the entire image. Alternatively, you may create or source an image which represents the article, as long as this image adheres to our CC BY license.
Striking images should ideally be high resolution, eye-catching, single panel images, and should ideally avoid containing added details such as text, scale bars, and arrows.
Should your manuscript be accepted for publication, you will be asked to provide a caption describing the image and a full image credit that details who should be credited with the creation of the image. We are unable to use striking image files that do not include an accompanying caption and credit.
If no striking image is uploaded, the journal team will choose an appropriate image, which may be a figure from the submission or a separately sourced CC BY image.
Read step-by-step instructions for uploading striking images to the submission system.
Declare any funding received for this study including details such as funder name, grant numbers, and the funder’s website in the submission system.
In the submission system, declare on behalf of all authors whether there are any financial, personal, or professional interests that could be construed to have influenced the work.
Any relevant competing interests of authors must be available to editors and reviewers during the review process and will be stated in published articles.
When submitting a manuscript, all authors are asked to indicate that they do not have a related or duplicate manuscript under consideration (or accepted) for publication elsewhere. If related work has been or will be submitted elsewhere or is in press elsewhere, then a copy must be uploaded with the article submitted to PLOS. Reviewers will be asked to comment on the overlap between related submissions.
PLOS does support authors who wish to share their work early and receive feedback before formal peer review. Deposition of manuscripts with preprint servers does not impact consideration of the manuscript at any PLOS journal.
If you are submitting content other than a research article, read the guidelines for other article types.