Editorial and Peer Review Process

Criteria for Publication

PLOS Biology is highly selective in the manuscripts that it publishes. Rejection rates are high. To be considered for publication in PLOS Biology, any given manuscript must be exceptional in the following ways:

  • Originality

  • Importance to researchers in its field

  • Interest to scientists outside the field

  • Rigorous methodology and substantial evidence for its conclusions

Editorial Process

Our aim is to provide all authors with an efficient, courteous, and constructive editorial process. To ensure the fairest and most objective decision-making, the editorial process is run as a partnership between the PLOS Biology professional editors and the Editorial Board, which is comprised of leaders in all fields of biology. The ultimate responsibility for the PLOS Biology content and editorial decision-making lies with the team of professional editors.

The basic stages of the editorial process are as follows:

Initial submission

For conveneince, we accept format-free manuscripts for initial assessment. Authors submit their manuscript with title page, figures and supporting information as a single PDF file with a separate cover letter. Staff editors assess whether the submitted work will be suitable for peer review.

During the initial submission process papers will be assessed for 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, with a particular emphasis on those areas for which unrestricted access is especially important to the research community or to the general public.
Academic Editor consultation

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

Academic Editors may retain anonymity unless a paper is accepted for publication. The name of the Academic Editor is noted on each published paper.
Selection for peer review Should the editors determine that the work is suitable for peer review, they will request that the authors return a full submission with accompanying metadata and co-author details in preparation for peer review.
Technical check Upon receiving the full submission, the journal staff performs a technical check of the submission to ensure all required information is included. The journal staff will request additional information from the author as appropriate. 
Peer review

Expert reviewers will be asked to assess the technical and scientific merits of the work. We ask that review comments be returned within 10 days; however, this is not always possible for all reviewers, and in the interests of securing the best expert advice we do grant extensions where necessary. However, we also actively chase review comments when overdue to ensure that this requirement is balanced with that of fairness to authors.

Reviewers are anonymous by default. Reviewers’ identities are not revealed to authors or to other reviewers unless reviewers specifically request to be identified by signing their names at the end of their comments. 

The names of authors are not anonymous to reviewers or editors during review so that they can assess potential conflicts of interest.

Decision Once all reviews of a manuscript have been received, the manuscript returns to the professional editors, who evaluate and consider the reviews. The final decision is based on a detailed analysis of the reviewers’ assessments in close consultation with the Academic Editor. Although we endeavor to make all decisions promptly, there may be some discussion between editors, and it may be necessary to clarify issues with reviewers before a final decision is made. If a situation arises where the decision is not clear, the Academic Editor and professional editor will moderate an open and collaborative internal discussion between reviewers to reach a consensus on an appropriate decision.

Reviewer Selection

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

The selection of appropriate and responsive reviewers is paramount to the success of the review process. 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's performance.

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


There are several types of decisions possible:

  • Editorially accept the manuscript as submitted (pending formatting requirements)  
  • Editorially accept the manuscript with minor revisions (pending formatting requirements)  
  • Invite the authors to revise the manuscript prior to the final decision
  • Reject the manuscript, but with encouragement to resubmit after extensive revision
  • Reject the manuscript outright, typically because it does not meet—or does not have the potential after major revision to meet—the criteria outlined above of originality, importance to the field, cross-disciplinary interest, or sound methodology


If the decision is to allow resubmission, the author will be advised in the decision letter whether the paper is likely to require further peer review at that time. The revised manuscript in all cases will be assessed by a professional editor and Academic Editor. Sometimes, re-review will be required, but in general we aim to make decisions without involving multiple rounds of review.

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. 


If you wish to appeal a decision, you should contact the professional editor who handled your submission, explaining in detail your reasons for the appeal. We will acknowledge receipt of your email and ask you, if you've not already done so, 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 professional editor; if those editors do not agree the appeal will be discussed at a full editorial meeting. Priority is given to new submissions to the journal, and the processing of appeals will usually take longer than the original submission. We hope, however, that this will not take longer than 2 weeks.

While under appeal, a manuscript remains under formal consideration at PLOS Biology and hence should not be submitted for consideration elsewhere. We may or may not seek external advice on appeals, and 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.


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

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