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Editorial and Peer Review Process

PLOS Biology, the flagship PLOS journal in the life sciences, has a rigorous editorial screening, assessment and peer review process.

PLOS Biology features works of exceptional significance, originality, and relevance in all areas of biological science, from molecules to ecosystems, including works at the interface of other disciplines. We also welcome data-driven meta-research articles that evaluate and aim to improve the standards of research in the life sciences and beyond.

We evaluate research based on the important questions it answers, as well as its potential to impact an international scientific community, educators, policy makers, patient advocacy groups, and society more broadly.

Checking the status of your manuscript
The corresponding author can check the status of a submitted manuscript at anytime in our submission system.

Editorial Process

We’re committed to helping authors develop and share their best work. In a unique editorial model, PLOS Biology Staff Editors work with Academic Editors, who are leading scientists in all fields of biology, to ensure expert, efficient, and objective review for all authors. 

PLOS Biology Staff Editors help guide your manuscript through the submission process from start to finish. They facilitate external review and evaluate reviewer input, together with Academic Editors, to make the most objective decision.

This is what our process looks like:

Easy Submission

Our submission process is designed to save researchers time so they can focus on their science. With format-free initial submission, authors need only upload a PDF of their manuscript, cover letter and supporting information. Submission takes less than 10 minutes. One of our Staff Editors will evaluate the work and provide an initial decision in about a week*. Additional submission information is required only if the work is sent for peer review and specific formatting is not necessary until the manuscript is close to acceptance. 

*60% of research submissions receive an initial decision within 5 days, 80% within a week​

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 Expert Assessment

All submissions to PLOS Biology are handled by our in-house team of Staff Editors from start to finish.
Staff Editors will evaluate the initial submission to decide if it has the potential to be suitable for PLOS Biology. For manuscripts that are potentially suitable for external review, they also consult with one of our Academic Editors, who are working scientists with leading expertise in the field.

Initial Submission

Staff Editors assess new submissions for their suitability in the context of the publishing mission of PLOS Biology: to publish exceptional research and meta-research across all areas of the life sciences. Our initial editorial assessment includes not only the results reported, but also emphasizes the originality and significance of the research question being asked, the approach undertaken and the quality of execution. 

Academic Editor Consultation

If the Staff Editors feel the manuscript has the potential to fit within the scope of our journal, they will seek advice from an external Academic Editor and decide if the work is likely to meet the requirement of providing a major advance in its field and describes a sufficient body of work to support the main claims.

Full Submission

If the initial assessment suggests a study has the potential for publication, the authors are invited to return a full submission with accompanying metadata and co-author details before peer review begins. Journal staff perform additional checks at this stage to ensure all required information is included. Submissions may be returned to authors for changes or clarifications; some of the things we look for include:

  • Declaration of competing interests
  • Compliance with editorial policies and ethical standards
  • Financial disclosures
  • Presence of a data availability statement

Exclusions

During initial submission, authors may indicate in their cover letter any Academic Editors who should not consult on the manuscript; Staff Editors will honor those exclusions. If a full submission is invited, authors will have an opportunity to exclude reviewers from the process. We aim to minimize potential conflicts of interest and always honour up to three reviewer exclusions, for which no justification is required. If more people are excluded from the process, authors will likely be asked to reduce the list. In the rare occasions in which the exclusions would interfere with manuscript assessment, Staff Editors will discuss with authors how to move forward, but no excluded referee is ever approached without prior discussion with the authors.

Peer Review

To find the best reviewers for a particular manuscript, Staff Editors consider expertise, reputation, specific recommendations of authors and Academic Editors, and their own knowledge of a reviewer's performance.
After agreeing to review, external peer reviewers typically have 10 days to submit their comments. We’ll follow up with late reviewers and keep you informed if there are any delays.

PLOS Biology uses single blind peer review by default. Reviewers remain anonymous unless they choose to identify themselves by signing their name to their review in our submission system.

Read the guidelines for reviewers for PLOS Biology. Visit the PLOS Reviewer Center for guidance on completing a peer review.

Decisions

Once all reviews of a manuscript have been received, Staff Editors evaluate the feedback in line with PLOS Biology’s publication criteria and consult with the Academic Editor before rendering one of the following decisions:

Reject 

The manuscript does not meet—or does not have the potential after major revision to meet—the criteria outlined above of originality, importance to the field, or sound methodology.

Open reject

The manuscript is not suitable for PLOS Biology in its current state and a large amount of experimentation would be required, but the study remains potentially suitable and the authors are encouraged to submit a new version if they are interested in pursuing after extensive revision.

Revise prior to final decision

Authors are invited to revise the manuscript, including new experimentation, and resubmit the work before receiving a final decision. Read the guidelines for revised manuscripts.

Request minor revisions 

Only minor textual and formatting revisions are required (either after the first round of review or after revision).

Accept 

If no further edits are required from the authors and the study complies with our formatting and reporting requirements. 

Accepted Manuscripts

If your manuscript has been accepted, read about what to expect and how you can expedite the publication process. Your work can have the most impact if you share it with a wider audience. Take advantage of these tips to help promote your work

Choose how you open your science

PLOS Biology offers authors the flexibility to choose the best way to represent their science. Our different article types follow the process of scientific enquiry to provide opportunities for sharing and contextualizing your work as it progresses -- while receiving credit for each piece.

Preprints

PLOS Biology encourages researchers to share early versions of their manuscripts via preprint servers, either before or after submission. Posting to a preprint server will not preclude consideration of your manuscript. Through our partnership with bioRxiv, you can submit directly to PLOS Biology through this preprint server, or opt-in to have us post your submission as a preprint on your behalf. Read more about preprints.

Preregistration

To increase transparency, thoroughness, and public trust in science, PLOS Biology now offers Preregistered Research Articles, which enable authors to receive peer review feedback on their study design prior to conducting the experiments. 
Read more about Preregistered Research Articles.

Linked Articles 

Discovery Reports and Update Articles enable authors to publish exciting early results and subsequent updates as their work progresses. Related works are linked to facilitate easier discovery.

Published Peer Review History

PLOS offers accepted authors the opportunity to publish the peer review history of their manuscript alongside the final article. The peer review history package includes the complete editorial decision letter with peer reviews, and the authors’ response to reviewers for each revision of the manuscript. If the peer reviewers have chosen to sign their reviews, their names will also appear.

Sharing the peer review history of your manuscript enriches the scientific record, increases transparency and accountability, and helps to reinforce the validity of your research by displaying the thoroughness of the peer review process it has undergone.

The journal reserves the right not to publish peer review history in special cases, for example, if the tone or language used is inappropriate or defamatory, or due to an ethical consideration, such as the inclusion of information about a vulnerable population.

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

To request an appeal, please email the journal and provide the reasons for your request. We will respond promptly and ask you to provide a formal appeal letter for the editorial team to consider.

Appeals will only be considered when a reviewer or editor is thought to have made a significant factual error or when his/her objectivity is compromised by a documented competing interest, and when a reversal based on either of these grounds would change the original decision.

All appeals will be discussed with at least one other Staff Editor; and an Academic Editor, if needed. Consideration of appeals may take up to 2 weeks. Priority is given to new submissions to the journal, and the processing of appeals will usually take longer than the original submission. While under appeal, a manuscript remains under formal consideration at PLOS Biology and should not be submitted for consideration elsewhere. Decisions on appeals are final without exception.

Contact

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

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