Manuscript files can be in the following formats: DOC, DOCX, RTF or PDF. Microsoft Word documents should not be locked or protected.
LaTeX manuscripts must be submitted as PDFs. 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).|
Insert tables immediately after the first paragraph in which they are cited.
|Upload Supporting Information (SI) files separately.|
|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.
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 or Microsoft's Insert→Equation function is acceptable.
Avoid using MathType, Equation Editor, or the Insert→Equation function 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, Equation Editor, or the Insert→Equation function for only a portion of an equation. Rather, ensure that the entire equation is included. Equations should not contain a mix of different equation tools. 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.
Prior to submission, authors who believe their manuscripts would benefit from in-depth professional copyediting are encouraged to use language-editing and copyediting services. Obtaining this service is the responsibility of the author and should be done before initial submission. These services can be found on the web using search terms like “scientific editing service” or “manuscript editing service”.
Note that if your manuscript is accepted, PLOS will not perform a detailed copyediting step. Therefore, please carefully review your manuscript, paying special attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar, as well as scientific content.
Most manuscripts should be organized as follows. Instructions for each element appear below.
- Author Summary
- Materials and Methods
- Supporting information captions
Uniformity in format facilitates the experience of readers and users of the journal. To provide flexibility, however, authors are also able to include the Materials and Methods section before the Results section or before the Discussion section. Please also note that the Results and Discussion can be combined into one Results/Discussion section.
Refer to our downloadable sample files to ensure that your submission meets our formatting requirements:
The compiled submission PDF includes low-resolution preview images of the figures after the reference list. The function of these previews is to allow you to download the entire submission as quickly as possible. Click the link at the top of each preview page to download a high-resolution version of each figure. Links to download Supporting Information files are also available after the reference list.
Include a full title and a short title for the manuscript.
|Full title||200 characters||Specific, descriptive, concise, and comprehensible to readers outside the field||
Impact of cigarette smoke exposure on innate immunity: A Caenorhabditis elegans model
Solar 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
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.
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
Enter author names on the title page of the manuscript and in the online 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 all affiliations on the title page only. 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 authors are listed in the submission.
The submitting author is automatically designated as the corresponding author in the submission system. The corresponding author is the primary contact for the journal office and the only author able to view or change the manuscript while it is under editorial consideration.
The corresponding author role may be transferred to another coauthor. However, note that transferring the corresponding author role also transfers access to the manuscript. (To designate a new corresponding author while the manuscript is still under consideration, watch the video tutorial below.)
Only one corresponding author can be designated in the submission system, but this does 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. Include an email address for each corresponding author listed on the title page of the manuscript.
If a manuscript is submitted on behalf of a consortium or group, include its name in the manuscript byline. Do not add it to the author list in the submission system. You may include the full list of members in the Acknowledgments or in a supporting information file.
PubMed only indexes individual consortium or group author members listed in the article byline. If included, these individuals must qualify for authorship according to our criteria.
Provide at minimum one contribution for each author in the submission system. 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.
PLOS Complex Systems will contact all authors by email at submission to ensure that they are aware of the submission.
Upload a cover letter as a separate file in the online system.
The cover letter should address the following questions:
- Why is this manuscript suitable for publication in PLOS Complex Systems?
- Why will your study inspire other members of your field, and how will it drive research forward?
You may recommend a suitable Associate Editor to handle your submission; however, the editors reserve the right to contact an alternative—either from the board or a guest editor.
The cover letter will only be available to the editor and the journal staff.
The title, authors, and affiliations should all be included on a title page as the first page of the manuscript file.
The Abstract comes after the title page in the manuscript file. The abstract text is also entered in a separate field in the submission system.
The Abstract should be succinct; it must not exceed 300 words. Authors should mention the techniques used without going into methodological detail and should summarize the most important results.
While the Abstract is conceptually divided into three sections (Background, Methodology/Principal Findings, and Conclusions/Significance), do not apply these distinct headings to the Abstract within the article file.
Do not include any citations. Avoid specialist abbreviations.
We ask that all authors of research articles include a 150-200 word non-technical summary of the work as part of the manuscript to immediately follow the abstract. This text is subject to editorial change, should be written in the first-person voice, and should be distinct from the scientific abstract.
Aim to highlight where your work fits within a broader context; present the significance or possible implications of your work simply and objectively; and avoid the use of acronyms and complex terminology wherever possible. The goal is to make your findings accessible to a wide audience that includes both scientists and non-scientists.
Authors may benefit from consulting with a science writer or press officer to ensure they effectively communicate their findings to a general audience.
Mosquitoes Inoculate High Doses of West Nile Virus as They Probe and Feed on Live Hosts
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 experiments and a comment about whether that aim was achieved.
The Results section should provide details of all of the experiments that are required to support the conclusions of the paper. 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 section should be written in the past tense.
PLOS journals require authors to make all data underlying the findings described in their manuscript fully available without restriction, with rare exception. When submitting a manuscript online, authors must provide a Data Availability Statement describing compliance with PLOS's policy.
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 of the work along with some explanation or speculation 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.
The Results and Discussion may be combined into one section, if desired.
The Materials and Methods should provide enough detail to reproduce the findings. Submit detailed protocols for newer or less established methods. Well-established protocols may 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.
PLOS ONE offers an option for publishing peer-reviewed Lab Protocol articles, which describe protocols hosted on protocols.io articles. Read more information on Lab Protocol articles.
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.
Do not include funding sources in the Acknowledgments or anywhere else in the manuscript file. Funding information should only be entered in the financial disclosure section of the submission system.
Any and all available works can be cited in the reference list. Acceptable sources include:
- Published or accepted manuscripts
- Manuscripts on preprint servers, providing the manuscript has a citable DOI or arXiv URL.
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)
- Submitted research should not rely upon retracted research. You should avoid citing retracted articles unless you need to discuss retracted work to provide historical context for your submitted research. If it is necessary to discuss retracted work, state the article’s retracted status in your article’s text and reference list.
Ensure that your reference list includes full and current bibliography details for every cited work at the time of your article’s submission (and publication, if accepted). If cited work is corrected, retracted, or marked with an expression of concern before your article is published, and if you feel it is appropriate to cite the work even in light of the post-publication notice, include in your manuscript citations and full references for both the affected article and the post-publication notice. Email the journal office if you have questions.
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.
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. When providing a DOI, adhere to the format in the example above with both the label and full DOI included at the end of the reference (doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2014.11.005). Do not provide a shortened DOI or the URL.
|Accepted, unpublished articles||Same as published articles, but substitute “Forthcoming” for page numbers or DOI.|
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. arXiv:1403.3301v1 [Preprint]. 2014 [cited 2014 March 17]. Available from: https://188.8.131.52/abs/1403.3301v1
Kording KP, Mensh B. Ten simple rules for structuring papers. BioRxiv [Preprint]. 2016 bioRxiv 088278 [posted 2016 Nov 28; revised 2016 Dec 14; revised 2016 Dec 15; cited 2017 Feb 9]: [12 p.]. Available from: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/088278v5 doi: 10.1101/088278
|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. 2014 Jan 29 [Cited 2014 March 17]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/science/earth/climate-change-taking-toll-on-penguins-study-finds.html|
|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 along with their manuscripts. All supporting information will be subject to peer review. All file types can be submitted, but files must be smaller than 20 MB in size.
Authors may use almost any description as the item name for a supporting information file as long as it contains an “S” and number. For example, “S1 Appendix” and “S2 Appendix,” “S1 Table” and “S2 Table,” and so forth.
Supporting information files are published exactly as provided, and are not copyedited.
Supporting information captions
List supporting information captions at the end of the manuscript file. Do not submit captions in a separate file.
The file number and name are required in a caption, and we highly recommend including a one-line title as well. You may also include a legend in your caption, but it is not required.
S1 Text. Title is strongly recommended. Legend is optional.
We recommend that you cite supporting information in the manuscript text, but this is not a requirement. If you cite supporting information in the text, citations do not need to be in numerical order.
You can include figures in the main manuscript file at initial submission. If the manuscript reaches the revise stage, prepare and submit each figure as an individual file.
Cite figures in ascending numeric order at first appearance in the manuscript file.
If you are submitting a new or revised manuscript, place captions in a group at the end of the manuscript file.
After editorial acceptance, insert captions in read order in the manuscript text, immediately following the paragraph where the figure is first cited. Don’t include captions as part of the figure files themselves or submit them in a separate document.
At a minimum, include the following in your figure captions:
- A figure label with Arabic numerals, and “Figure” abbreviated to “Fig” (e.g. Fig 1, Fig 2, Fig 3, etc). Match the label of your figure with the name of the file uploaded at submission (e.g. a figure citation of “Fig 1” must refer to a figure file named “Fig1.tif”).
- A concise, descriptive title
The caption may also include a legend as needed.
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 submit your tables 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.
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.
- Enter the given data DOI into the full Data Availability Statement, which is requested in the Additional Information section of the PLOS submission form. Then provide the URL passcode in the Attach Files section.
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 full 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.
You can upload a visually striking image alongside your submission, which we may use to showcase your article through PLOS’ online channels. The Editors-in-Chief choose the monthly issue image from the striking images submitted with articles scheduled for publication.
- Choose an image that represents the article in a striking and eye-catching way.
- It can be derived from a figure or supporting information file from the paper, and it may be a cropped portion of an image or the entire image.
- Alternatively, you can create or source an image, as long as it adheres to our CC BY license.
- High resolution: between 300-600 dpi
- Single panel
- Ideally avoid added details like text, scale bars, and arrows.
How to Submit
- Submit your striking image to the submission system using the file type “Striking Image”.
- Upload a separate file with corresponding caption.
If no striking image is uploaded, a member of the journal team will choose an appropriate image, which may be a figure from the submission or a separately sourced CC BY image.
This information should describe sources of funding that have supported the work. If your manuscript is published, your statement will appear in the Funding section of the article.
Include your statement in the Financial Disclosure section of the initial submission form.
The statement should include:
- Specific grant numbers
- Initials of authors who received each award
- URLs to sponsors’ websites
Also state whether any sponsors or funders (other than the named authors) played any role in:
- Study design
- Data collection and analysis
- Decision to publish
- Preparation of the manuscript
If they had no role in the research, include this sentence: “The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.”
If the study was unfunded, include this sentence as the Financial Disclosure statement: “The author(s) received no specific funding for this work."
The corresponding author is asked at submission to 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 encourages authors to post preprints to accelerate the dissemination of research. Posting a manuscript on a preprint server does not impact consideration of the manuscript at any PLOS journal.
Authors posting on bioRxiv can choose to concurrently submit their manuscripts to relevant PLOS journals through the direct transfer service.
We ask authors to suggest suitable editors and at least four potential reviewers when submitting their manuscript. Bear in mind any potential competing interests when making these suggestions. It is not appropriate to suggest recent collaborators or other researchers at your institution. See our policy on competing interests for more information.
Authors may choose to request that an individual is excluded from the review process and not involved in their manuscript. When making these suggestions, please provide specific reasons why each person should not review your submission in each “Reason” box. The editorial team will respect these requests so long as this does not interfere with the objective and thorough assessment of the submission.
Study design, reporting, and analyses are assessed against all relevant research and methodological technique standards held by the community. Guidelines for specific study types are outlined below.
Subjects must have been properly instructed and have indicated that they consent to participate by signing the appropriate informed consent paperwork. Authors may be asked to submit a blank, sample copy of a subject consent form. If consent was verbal instead of written, or if consent could not be obtained, the authors must explain the reason in the manuscript, and the use of verbal consent or the lack of consent must have been approved by the IRB or ethics committee.
All efforts should be made to protect patient privacy and anonymity. Identifying information, including photos, should not be included in the manuscript unless the information is crucial and the individual has provided written consent by completing the Consent Form for Publication in a PLOS Journal (PDF). Download additional translations of the form here. More information about patient privacy, anonymity, and informed consent can be found in the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Privacy and Confidentiality guidelines.
Manuscripts should conform to the following reporting guidelines:
- Studies of diagnostic accuracy: STARD
- Observational studies: STROBE
- Microarray experiments: MIAME
- Other types of health-related research: Consult the EQUATOR web site for appropriate reporting guidelines
Methods sections of papers on research using human subjects or samples must include ethics statements that specify:
- The name of the approving institutional review board or equivalent committee(s). If approval was not obtained, the authors must provide a detailed statement explaining why it was not needed
- Whether informed consent was written or oral. If informed consent was oral, it must be stated in the manuscript:
- Why written consent could not be obtained
- That the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved use of oral consent
- How oral consent was documented
For studies involving humans categorized by race/ethnicity, age, disease/disabilities, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, or other socially constructed groupings, authors should:
- Explicitly describe their methods of categorizing human populations
- Define categories in as much detail as the study protocol allows
- Justify their choices of definitions and categories, including for example whether any rules of human categorization were required by their funding agency
- Explain whether (and if so, how) they controlled for confounding variables such as socioeconomic status, nutrition, environmental exposures, or similar factors in their analysis
In addition, outmoded terms and potentially stigmatizing labels should be changed to more current, acceptable terminology. Examples: “Caucasian” should be changed to “white” or “of [Western] European descent” (as appropriate); “cancer victims” should be changed to “patients with cancer.”
For papers that include identifying, or potentially identifying, information, authors must download the Consent Form for Publication in a PLOS Journal, which the individual, parent, or guardian must sign once they have read the paper and been informed about the terms of PLOS open-access license. The signed consent form should not be submitted with the manuscript, but authors should securely file it in the individual's case notes and the methods section of the manuscript should explicitly state that consent authorization for publication is on file, using wording like:
The individual in this manuscript has given written informed consent (as outlined in PLOS consent form) to publish these case details.
Manuscripts describing observational clinical studies are subject to all policies regarding human research and community standards for reporting observational research as outlined by the STROBE statement. Furthermore, authors submitting work of this nature should pay special attention to the following requirements:
- If the submitted manuscript is very similar to previous work, authors must provide a sound scientific rationale for the submitted work and clearly reference and discuss the existing literature.
- The sampling strategy and eligibility criteria of enrolled subjects should be described in sufficient detail.
- Sample size calculations should be justified with relevant inputs defined.
- Independent and dependent variables considered for statistical analysis should be clearly defined and justified.
- The validity and reliability testing of self-developed data collection tools should be reported.
- Conclusions should be appropriate for the study design, with indications on how the study results will contribute to the base of academic knowledge.
Clinical trials are subject to all policies regarding human research. PLOS Complex Systems follows the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of a clinical trial:
All clinical trials must be registered in one of the publicly-accessible registries approved by the WHO or ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors). Authors must provide the trial registration number. Prior disclosure of results on a clinical trial registry site will not affect consideration for publication. We reserve the right to inform authors' institutions or ethics committees, and to reject the manuscript, if we become aware of unregistered trials.
PLOS Complex Systems supports prospective trial registration (i.e. before participant recruitment has begun) as recommended by the ICMJE's clinical trial registration policy. Where trials were not publicly registered before participant recruitment began, authors must:
- Register all related clinical trials and confirm they have done so in the Methods section
- Explain in the Methods the reason for failing to register before participant recruitment
Clinical trials must be reported according to the relevant reporting guidelines, i.e. CONSORT for randomized controlled trials, TREND for non-randomized trials, and other specialized guidelines as appropriate. The intervention should be described according to the requirements of the TIDieR checklist and guide. Submissions must also include the study protocol as supporting information, which will be published with the manuscript if accepted.
Authors of manuscripts describing the results of clinical trials must adhere to the CONSORT reporting guidelines appropriate to their trial design, available on the CONSORT Statement web site. Before the paper can enter peer review, authors must:
- The name of the registry and the registration number must be included in the Abstract.
- Provide a copy of the trial protocol as approved by the ethics committee and a completed CONSORT checklist as supporting information (which will be published alongside the paper, if accepted). This should be named S1 CONSORT Checklist.
- Include the CONSORT flow diagram as the manuscript's “Fig 1”
Any deviation from the trial protocol must be explained in the paper. Authors must explicitly discuss informed consent in their paper, and we reserve the right to ask for a copy of the patient consent form.
The name of the registry and the registry number must be provided in the Abstract. If the trial is registered in more than one location, please provide all relevant registry names and numbers.
All research involving vertebrates or cephalopods must have approval from the authors' Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or equivalent ethics committee(s), and must have been conducted according to applicable national and international guidelines. Approval must be received prior to beginning research.
Manuscripts reporting animal research must state in the Methods section:
- The full name of the relevant ethics committee that approved the work, and the associated permit number(s).
- Where ethical approval is not required, the manuscript should include a clear statement of this and the reason why. Provide any relevant regulations under which the study is exempt from the requirement for approval.
- Relevant details of steps taken to ameliorate animal suffering.
This study was carried out in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. The protocol was approved by the Committee on the Ethics of Animal Experiments of the University of Minnesota (Protocol Number: 27-2956). All surgery was performed under sodium pentobarbital anesthesia, and all efforts were made to minimize suffering.
Authors should always state the organism(s) studied in the Abstract. Where the study may be confused as pertaining to clinical research, authors should also state the animal model in the title.
To maximize reproducibility and potential for re-use of data, we encourage authors to follow the Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines for all submissions describing laboratory-based animal research and to upload a completed ARRIVE Guidelines Checklist to be published as supporting information.
Manuscripts describing research involving non-human primates must report details of husbandry and animal welfare in accordance with the recommendations of the Weatherall report, The use of non-human primates in research, including:
- Information about housing, feeding, and environmental enrichment.
- Steps taken to minimize suffering, including use of anesthesia and method of sacrifice, if appropriate.
Manuscripts describing studies that use random source (e.g. Class B dealer-sourced in the USA), shelter, or stray animals will be subject to additional scrutiny and may be rejected if sufficient ethical and scientific justification for the study design is lacking.
A systematic review paper, as defined by The Cochrane Collaboration, is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses explicit, systematic methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. These reviews differ substantially from narrative-based reviews or synthesis articles. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies.
Reports of systematic reviews and meta-analyses should include a completed PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) checklist and flow diagram to accompany the main text. Blank templates are available here:
Authors must also state in their “Methods” section whether a protocol exists for their systematic review, and if so, provide a copy of the protocol as supporting information and provide the registry number in the abstract.
If your article is a systematic review or a meta-analysis you should:
- State this in your cover letter
- Select “Research Article” as your article type when submitting
- Include the PRISMA flow diagram as Fig 1 (required where applicable)
- Include the PRISMA checklist as supporting information
For all studies using personal data from internet-based and other third-party sources (e.g., social media, blogs, other internet sources, mobile phone companies), data must be collected and used according to company/website Terms and Conditions, with appropriate permissions. All data sources must be acknowledged clearly in the Materials and Methods section.
In the Ethics Statement, authors should declare any potential risks to individuals or individual privacy, or affirm that in their assessment, the study posed no such risks. In addition, the following Ethics and Data Protection requirements must be met.
For interventional studies, which impact participants’ experiences or data, the study design must have been prospectively approved by an Ethics Committee, and informed consent is required. The Ethics Committee may waive the requirement for approval and/or consent.
For observational studies in which personal experiences and accounts are not manipulated, consultation with an Ethics or Data Protection Committee is recommended. Additional requirements apply in the following circumstances:
- If information used could threaten personal privacy or damage the reputation of individuals whose data are used, an Ethics Committee should be consulted and informed consent obtained or specifically addressed.
- If authors accessed any personal identifying information, an Ethics or Data Protection Committee should oversee data anonymization. If data were anonymized and/or aggregated before access and analysis, informed consent is generally not required.
Authors reporting research using cell lines should state when and where they obtained the cells, giving the date and the name of the researcher, cell line repository, or commercial source (company) who provided the cells, as appropriate.
Authors must also include the following information for each cell line:
For de novo (new) cell lines, including those given to the researchers as a gift, authors must follow our policies for human subjects research or animal research, as appropriate. The ethics statement must include:
- Details of institutional review board or ethics committee approval; AND
- For human cells, confirmation of written informed consent from the donor, guardian, or next of kin
For established cell lines, the Methods section should include:
- A reference to the published article that first described the cell line; AND/OR
- The cell line repository or company the cell line was obtained from, the catalogue number, and whether the cell line was obtained directly from the repository/company or from another laboratory
Authors should check established cell lines using the ICLAC Database of Cross-contaminated or Misidentified Cell Lines to confirm they are not misidentified or contaminated. Cell line authentication is recommended – e.g., by karyotyping, isozyme analysis, or short tandem repeats (STR) analysis – and may be required during peer review or after publication.
Manuscripts reporting experiments using antibodies should include the following information:
- The name of each antibody, a description of whether it is monoclonal or polyclonal, and the host species.
- The commercial supplier or source laboratory.
- The catalogue or clone number and, if known, the batch number.
- The antigen(s) used to raise the antibody.
- For established antibodies, a stable public identifier from the Antibody Registry.
The manuscript should also report the following experimental details:
- The final antibody concentration or dilution.
- A reference to the validation study if the antibody was previously validated. If not, provide details of how the authors validated the antibody for the applications and species used.
PLOS Complex Systems will consider submissions that present new methods, software, databases, or tools as the primary focus of the manuscript if they meet the following criteria:
The tool must be of use to the community and must present a proven advantage over existing alternatives, where applicable. Recapitulation of existing methods, software, or databases is not useful and will not be considered for publication. Combining data and/or functionalities from other sources may be acceptable, but simpler instances (i.e. presenting a subset of an already existing database) may not be considered. For software, databases, and online tools, the long-term utility should also be discussed, as relevant. This discussion may include maintenance, the potential for future growth, and the stability of the hosting, as applicable.
Submissions presenting methods, software, databases, or tools must demonstrate that the new tool achieves its intended purpose. If similar options already exist, the submitted manuscript must demonstrate that the new tool is an improvement over existing options in some way. This requirement may be met by including a proof-of-principle experiment or analysis; if this is not possible, a discussion of the possible applications and some preliminary analysis may be sufficient.
If the manuscript’s primary purpose is the description of new software or a new software package, this software must be open source, deposited in an appropriate archive, and conform to the Open Source Definition. If the manuscript mainly describes a database, this database must be open-access and hosted somewhere publicly accessible, and any software used to generate a database should also be open source. If relevant, databases should be open for appropriate deposition of additional data. Dependency on commercial software such as Mathematica and MATLAB does not preclude a paper from consideration, although complete open source solutions are preferred. In these cases, authors should provide a direct link to the deposited software or the database hosting site from within the paper. If the primary focus of a manuscript is the presentation of a new tool, such as a newly developed or modified questionnaire or scale, it should be openly available under a license no more restrictive than CC BY.
Manuscripts whose primary purpose is the description of new software must provide full details of the algorithms designed. Describe any dependencies on commercial products or operating system. Include details of the supplied test data and explain how to install and run the software. A brief description of enhancements made in the major releases of the software may also be given. Authors should provide a direct link to the deposited software from within the paper.
For descriptions of databases, provide details about how the data were curated, as well as plans for long-term database maintenance, growth, and stability. Authors should provide a direct link to the database hosting site from within the paper.
Qualitative research studies use non-quantitative methods to address a defined research question that may not be accessible by quantitative methods, such as people's interpretations, experiences, and perspectives. The analysis methods are explicit, systematic, and reproducible, but the results do not involve numerical values or use statistics. Examples of qualitative data sources include, but are not limited to, interviews, text documents, audio/video recordings, and free-form answers to questionnaires and surveys.
Qualitative research studies should be reported in accordance to the Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ) checklist or Standards for reporting qualitative research (SRQR) checklist. Further reporting guidelines can be found in the Equator Network's Guidelines for reporting qualitative research.
If you are submitting content other than a research article, learn more about what we publish.
Many institutional partners globally have publishing agreements with PLOS to allow their corresponding authors to publish with reduced or no APCs. To determine if your corresponding author is eligible, please visit our institutional partners page to determine what kind of agreement your institution has with PLOS.
If your corresponding author is affiliated with a participating institution, they must follow the instructions below to demonstrate eligibility.
If your corresponding author is not from a participating institution and requires assistance paying publishing fees, please consider applying for a fee waiver at submission.