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Editorial and Peer Review Process

Manuscript Status

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. 

Criteria for Publication

Within the scope of the journal, manuscripts should represent a substantial advance in medical science or medical practice in terms of:

  • Originality and novelty
  • Importance to researchers or practitioners in the field
  • Interest for researchers or practitioners outside the field
  • Rigorous methodology with conclusions justified by the evidence presented
  • Adherence to the highest ethical standards

Editorial Process

Our aim is to provide all authors with an efficient, courteous, and constructive editorial process. To achieve its required level of quality, PLOS Medicine is highly selective in the manuscripts that it publishes and rejection rates are high.

To ensure the fairest and most objective decision-making, the editorial process is run as a partnership between the PLOS Medicine professional editors and the editorial board, which comprises leaders in all fields of medicine.

New submissions

It is essential that authors submit a presubmission inquiry before submitting a full paper. Presubmission inquiries allow authors to quickly find out whether their paper is likely to be broadly suitable for PLOS Medicine. Read the guidelines for presubmission inquiries.

Responses are normally provided within 3 calendar days. If the full-length submitted manuscript is invited in, it will be assigned to one of the PLOS Medicine professional editors. If the paper is deemed to be within the scope of the journal with regard to content and of adequate quality standard, an Academic Editor with expertise in the relevant area, usually one of our editorial board members, is then also assigned to the paper.

The professional editor and Academic Editor will promptly assess the manuscript and will decide if it is likely to meet the requirement of providing a major advance in a particular field and describing a sufficient body of work to support that claim; if so, it will be sent for external peer review.

Peer review

All articles, with the exception of Editorials and some Perspectives, are externally peer reviewed before a final decision is made about acceptance for publication. Expert reviewers are asked to assess the technical and scientific merits of the work. Where relevant, work presented in a manuscript undergoes a rigorous review of the statistical methods used. 

How are reviewers selected?
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.

Will authors know who is reviewing their manuscript?
Reviewers’ identities are anonymous unless a reviewer indicates otherwise.

Can authors exclude Academic Editors or reviewers?
Upon submission of a manuscript, authors are asked if they wish to exclude any specific Academic Editors or reviewers from the peer review of their article. The editorial team will respect these requests so long as this does not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of the article.

Once all reviews have been received and considered by the professional and Academic Editors, a decision letter to the author is drafted.

Editorial decisions

Several types of decisions are possible. If after peer review a manuscript is considered potentially appropriate for PLOS Medicine, a major revision is generally requested. A minor revision is generally requested as a final step before acceptance.

Manuscripts that are rejected generally do not fit the criteria outlined above in terms of originality, importance to the field, cross-disciplinary interest, or sound methodology.

Revisions

Revised manuscripts will be assessed by a professional editor and the same Academic Editor. Manuscripts that undergo major revision may require re-review or additional statistical review. There is no guarantee of acceptance after major revision.

Read the guidelines for revised manuscripts.

Transferring to Other Journals

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. 

Appeals

There are two major reasons why we consider articles to not be appropriate for publication in PLOS Medicine:

  • The article is not broadly felt to be an appropriate topic for the journal, e.g., not a sufficient advance or too specialized. We are often able to identify such papers at the presubmission inquiry stage, although sometimes we need to invite the full paper in before making that judgment. We normally aim to make such decisions quickly and without external advice so that authors can seek publication elsewhere. However, the lack of an adequate level of advance sometimes only becomes clear after we have obtained in-depth reviews. We may suggest other PLOS journals for these articles.
  • The topic of the article is potentially of interest but, through either editorial or peer review, substantial methodological concerns are identified such that even after revision the article is unlikely to be appropriate for PLOS Medicine.

If you wish to appeal a decision you should contact the editor who handled the presubmission inquiry or full manuscript, explaining in detail your reasons for the appeal. Please note that editors are not able to prioritize appeals above the initial evaluation of newly submitted manuscripts, but aim to respond within two weeks of receipt to let you know whether or not we are able to proceed with a formal appeal.

All appeals on full manuscript submissions will be discussed with at least one other staff editor or academic editor. We may or may not seek external advice on the appeal.

We do not consider second appeals.

Accepted Manuscripts

If your manuscript has been accepted, read about what to expect and how you can expedite the publication process.

Contact

If you have questions at any stage in the process, please email us.

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