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Animal Research

The following policy applies to all PLOS journals, unless otherwise noted.

Author Requirements

  • Studies involving animals must be conducted according to internationally-accepted standards.
  • Authors must obtain prior approval from their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or equivalent ethics committee(s).
  • The name of the IACUC or equivalent ethics committee, as well as relevant permit numbers, in addition to any other pertinent experimental details, must be provided at submission.
  • The journals’ editorial teams reserve the right to request additional information in relation to experiments on vertebrates or higher invertebrates as necessary for the evaluation of the manuscript e.g. in the context of appropriate animal welfare or studies that involve death as an experimental endpoint.

Reporting Guidelines

We encourage authors using vertebrates or cephalopods in their research to comply with the ARRIVE guidelines (see also the publications on the guidelines and elaboration document). The ARRIVE guidelines aim to improve standards of reporting to ensure that the data can be adequately interpreted, reproduced, and utilized. Where research could be confused as pertaining to human clinical research, the animal model should also be noted in the article title.

We recommend that authors of animal behavior studies comply with the reporting requirements outlined in the STRANGE framework, which aims to improve reporting and avoid sampling bias. These authors should report the species of animals observed in or captured from the field and should also:

  • Provide detailed information – as applicable – on the origin (incl. trapping method), sex, age/developmental stage, mass/body condition, social status, personality type, housing conditions (incl. social contacts and enrichment), past opportunities for individual and social learning, experimental history, and testing protocols (incl. social context), for: the final sample of subjects contributing data to the study; and the subjects that were part of the original sample, but did not contribute data (describe reasons for exclusion).
  • Evaluate scope for sampling biases based on the declarations above, especially with regards to subjects’ origin, self-selection behavior, and prior experience.
  • Describe what efforts (if any) were undertaken to mitigate potential sampling biases, especially with regards to sourcing representative subjects (such as using a variety of trapping methods), or adjusting experimental protocols to suit non- or slowly-engaging individuals.

Manuscripts reporting research involving laboratory animals should include the species, strain, sex, age, and genetic modification status of animals studied, as well as the Research Resource Identifier (RRID) if available. Authors should also provide the name of the repository (with accession number) or commercial supplier (with catalog or clone number), as appropriate.


Non-Human Primates

Non-human primate studies must be performed in accordance with the recommendations of the Weatherall report, The use of non-human primates in research. Manuscripts describing research involving non-human primates must include details of animal welfare, including information about housing, feeding, and environmental enrichment, and steps taken to minimize suffering, including use of anesthesia and method of sacrifice if appropriate.

Read the submission guidelines for more information about reporting non-human primate research.

Unregulated Research

Where unregulated animals are used or ethics approval is not required by a specific committee, authors should include a clear statement of this fact and the reasons why ethical approval is not required. The journal staff and editors will assess these situations on a case-by-case basis.

Paleontology and Archaeology Research

PLOS journals require that manuscripts reporting paleontology and archaeology research include descriptions of methods and specimens in sufficient detail to allow the work to be reproduced. Data sets supporting statistical and phylogenetic analyses should be provided, preferably in a format that allows easy re-use.

Under the PLOS data availability policy, any specimen that is erected as a new species, described, or figured must be deposited in an accessible, permanent repository (i.e., public museum or similar institution). If study conclusions depend on specimens that do not fit these criteria, the article will be rejected.

Specimen numbers and complete repository information, including museum name and geographic location, are required for publication. Locality information should be provided in the manuscript as legally allowable, or a statement should be included giving details of the availability of such information to qualified researchers.

If permits were required for any aspect of the work, details should be given of all permits that were obtained, including the full name of the issuing authority. PLOS journals will not publish research on specimens that were obtained without necessary permission or were illegally exported.

Policy Enforcement

All submissions describing research involving animals will be checked by journal staff and editors to ensure that the requirements above are met. Failure to meet requirements may be grounds for rejection.

We reserve the right to reject work that the editors believe has not been conducted to a high ethical standard, even if authors have obtained formal approval or if approval is not required under local regulations.

If concerns are discovered after publication, the journal staff will investigate and, should substantial concerns arise regarding the handling of animals or oversight for the research, we may issue a correction or retraction as appropriate. We also reserve the right to contact the authors’ institution, ethics committee or other appropriate body in relation to these concerns.