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What We Publish

PLOS Biology Article Types

PLOS Biology considers works of exceptional significance, originality, and relevance in all areas of biological science, including both primary research, meta-analyses and Magazine articles. Our publication options are outlined below.

Research-based content

PLOS Biology publishes seven different types of research reports. All research articles are compatible with our easy, format-free submission process, and offer options for preprints, published peer review history, and publishing uncorrected proofs. Most, with rare exception, are also protected by our scooping policy, ensuring that your research will not be rejected for novelty within six-months of the publication of a complementary or confirmatory research publication. We evaluate all research based on the important questions it answers and its potential to impact an international scientific community as well as educators, policy makers, patient advocacy groups, and society more broadly.

Research Articles

 

Research Articles are the backbone of PLOS Biology and the type of research we publish most frequently. We publish high-caliber research of any length, spanning the full breadth of the biological sciences, from molecules to ecosystems.

We also consider works at the interface of other disciplines, including research of interest to the clinical and pre-clinical research communities. To be appropriate for PLOS Biology, translational biological research should demonstrate the potential to advance our insights into the understanding, detection, diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of human disease.

Preregistered Research Articles

 

Preregistered Research Articles (also known as Registered Reports) are a form of empirical research in which the study design and proposed analyses are peer reviewed prior to conducting experiments, data collection or analysis. Studies addressing important research questions are reviewed for technical soundness of the proposed methodology, and provisionally accepted for publication before data collection commences. This approach is designed to minimize publication and research bias while also maximizing study quality by focusing peer review on the importance of the research question and rigour of the proposed methodology. It also allows complete flexibility to conduct exploratory analyses and report serendipitous findings. Submission and assessment takes place in two stages before and after the investigation, and results in a single cumulative publication.

Methods & Resources Articles

 

Methods and Resources Articles describe technical innovations, including novel approaches to a previously inaccessible biological innovation, or substantial improvements over previously established methods. The reported method should be thoroughly validated, and while presenting new biological insights is encouraged, this is not a requirement for consideration. Resources consist of data sets or other significant scientific resources that are of general interest and provide exceptionally value for the community that could spur future research.

Meta-Research Articles

 

Meta-Research Articles examine how biological research is designed, carried out, communicated and evaluated, or explore the systems that evaluate and reward individual scientists or institutions in new and novel ways. We welcome both exploratory and confirmatory research that has the potential to drive change in research and evaluation practices in the life sciences and beyond. Themes include, but are not limited to, transparency, established and novel methodological standards, sources of bias (conflicts of interest, selection, inflation, funding, etc.), data sharing, evaluation metrics, assessment, reward, and funding structures. Meta-research articles are not meant for meta-analyses of biological data (please submit these as Research Articles).

Short Reports

 

Short Reports present the results from a limited set of experiments that can generally be summarized in 3-4 figures or fewer. The outcomes should be self contained, rather than fitting within the narrative arc of a larger research project or article.

Discovery Reports

 

Discovery Reports describe novel and intriguing initial findings with the potential to lead to a significant new result for the field. Discovery Reports are short articles, typically with 2-4 main figures. While the research may be preliminary, studies should be advanced to the stage where observations or findings have been confirmed by independent methods or experimental approaches and obvious alternative interpretations have been ruled out. Discovery Reports are designed to work together with Update Articles to empower researchers to evaluate and share work in a way that more closely mirrors the real-world research process and create a comprehensive research story. 

Selection

Like all PLOS Biology’s articles, Discovery Reports are assessed on the basis of significance, originality, and relevance to biological science, with an additional focus on the value and interest of the research question posed.

Peer Review Process Discovery Reports undergo the same rigorous editorial and peer review process as other PLOS Biology articles. Reviewers will focus particularly on the robustness and validity of the result to ensure the reported findings are not artifacts or false positives.
Exceptions
  • Revisions: Extended revisions are not available for Discovery Reports in cases where the reviewers deem that extensive extra work is needed to validate the Discovery Report findings.  
  • Scooping: Editors and reviewers will take into account published literature in assessing the advance provided; PLOS Biology’s scooping policy will not apply if a published paper has already elucidated the mechanism/phenomenon being reported but the Discovery Report has not. 

Update Articles

 

Update Articles develop a previous PLOS Biology study by providing new, robust mechanistic insight, identifying the biological or physiological significance of the previous findings, or in another way significantly adding to the original article. Results should go well beyond confirming the original observations. Recognizing the importance of correcting the scientific record when needed, we do consider negative Update Articles. Negative updates require clear, well-supported experiments demonstrating and explaining why the initial observation did not work as expected, or did not hold up to further scrutiny. Negative updates should stand alone as a research article; shorter contributions contesting specific aspects of the execution or analysis of a PLOS Biology article may be more appropriate as a Formal Comment.

Update Articles easily link back to the original research to create a comprehensive research story, and ensure credit is appropriately attributed at each stage of publication. All primary research published in PLOS Biology, including Research Articles, Methods & Resources Articles, Meta-Research Articles, Short Reports, Discovery Reports, and Pre-Registered Research Articles are eligible for updates. Submissions of Update Articles are open to everyone: updates can be published by the authors of the initial research or other labs.

Selection

Like all PLOS Biology’s articles, Update Articles are assessed on the basis of originality and relevance to biological science. A high level of rigour is expected in experimental design and reporting, execution, and substantial evidence for conclusions.

Peer Review Process
Update Articles undergo the same rigorous editorial and peer review process as other PLOS Biology articles. We strive to consult the same Academic Editor who evaluated the original study and 1-2 of the same reviewers, if appropriate considering the time elapsed from the original publication. New reviewers may be needed to cover all areas of expertise relevant to the follow up experiments in the Update Article. Depending on the circumstances, in cases where a different lab has submitted an update, the authors of the original research may be invited to provide signed comments.
Scooping: Update Articles are protected under PLOS Biology’s scooping policy from related articles published within 6 months before the submission of the Update Article, regardless of the publication date of the article being updated.

Magazine articles

Our magazine section features non-research articles that cover topical issues and are accessible to a broad audience while remaining scientifically rigorous. Magazine readers include scientists, scientific educators, students, physicians, patients, and the interested public. There is no publication fee for magazine articles.

Our magazine section is divided into Front Matter and In-depth Analysis subsections. Front Matter articles are short, focussed and provide opinion on topical issues, community resources or commentary on PLOS Biology articles. In-depth Analyses are long-form articles providing forward-looking analysis of a given topic, highlighting gaps in our current understanding or putting forward community recommendations or guidelines. We do not publish traditional review articles.

Most magazine articles are comissioned by the editors, but we do publish some unsolicted content. If you have a suggestion for any of our current magazine categories, we will consider the idea. Before finalizing the piece, we recommend that you discuss it with us by sending a presubmission enquiry via email to biology_editors@plos.org. Before submitting, consult our General Guidelines for Magazine Submissions, as well as the guidelines for the specific article type you are interested in.

If you have any questions about submitting an idea or article for consideration in the magazine section, email our editorial team at biology_editors@plos.org.

 

General Guidelines for Magazine Submissions

For guidelines specific to each article type, see the individual article descriptions on this page.

Style

Magazine content is intended for the broader biological community including students, scientists, and the educated general reader. It is therefore important that the writing style be concise, clear and accessible. Avoid specialist terms, abbreviations and jargon. Editors will make suggestions to make your piece more accessible, as well as cuts or additions that could strengthen the article. Our aim is to make the editorial process rigorous and consistent, but not intrusive or overbearing.

Data

If your manuscript includes original research data/analyses, you must ensure that it complies with PLOS’ data policy. If this is the case, it is likely that the submission would be more appropriate for one of our research article types. Please see Research-based content for more information.

Figures

PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to all figures we publish, which allows them to be freely used, distributed, and built upon as long as proper attribution is given. Read more about our content license. DO NOT submit any figures that have been previously copyrighted or contain proprietary data unless you have and can supply written permission from the copyright holder to use that content. If in doubt, contact our editorial office.

Read the figure guidelines for additional details on preparing your figures for submission.

Funding Statement

As part of the PLOS Biology submission form you’ll be asked to provide a funding statement, which will be published with the article if the manuscript is accepted. Your funding statement should describe any funding that helped to support the work, as follows:

  1. Include grant numbers and the URLs of any funder's website. Use the full name, not acronyms, of funding institutions, and use initials to identify authors who received the funding.
  2. Describe the role of any sponsors or funders in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. If the funders had no role in any of the above, include this sentence at the end of your statement: "The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript."
  3. If the study was unfunded, please provide the following statement: "The author(s) received no specific funding for this work." 
Read the financial disclosure policy for additional details.

How to Submit

Follow the main submission guidelines, and consult our figures, tables, and supporting information pages when preparing your manuscript.

Submit your manuscript through our submission system. When you start your submission, select the appropriate article type from the dropdown menu. Manuscripts can be submitted as DOC, DOCX, or PDF files.

Front Matter

Editorials

Editorials are written in-house by members of the editorial staff or by members of the Editorial Board.

Perspectives

The Perspectives section provides experts with a forum to comment on topical or controversial issues of broad interest. They address controversial issues or those at the interface between science and policy or science and society; present a policy position aimed at influencing policy decisions; examine and make recommendations on scientific and publishing practices. These are meant to be short, opinionated, Op-ed type of pieces.


The ideal Perspective conveys a sense of urgency. Some things to think about would be:

  • Is this topic of immediate concern?
  • Is the topic relevant to a pressing regional or global issue
  • Does the piece offer a novel point of view on a scientific or policy issue, or on topical events?
  • Does is make specific, practical proposals to address the issue?

Controversial articles are welcomed, but the text should acknowledge that a position is in fact controversial and provide readers with enough background on the differing views.

Our Perspectives aim to engage a broad and diverse audience—it is therefore important to ensure that they are written in an accessible, persuasive, and stimulating style that appeals to both specialists and non-specialist readers.

Perspectives are usually assessed in-house with our Editorial Board, but we reserve the right to peer-review them if needed. Commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Perspective

Title length up to 75 characters
Standfirst length up to 260 characters
Manuscript length

~1,000

Our Perspectives are brief; please ensure that you do not exceed these limits

References

10

Our Perspectives contain few, necessary references

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) 1 if needed, but not necessary

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Example Perspectives

Kennedy DA & Read AF (2020) Monitor for COVID-19 vaccine resistance evolution during clinical trials. PLOS Biol 18(11): e3001000. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001000

Leyser O (2014) Moving beyond the GM Debate. PLoS Biol 12(6): e1001887. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001887​

Primers

Primers provide concise and accessible context to a PLOS Biology research article of broad and current interest. Primers are commissioned and published alongside a research article that would benefit from additional context and/or explanation.

Unsolicited primers are not considered.

Above all, Primers should demystify an area of biology, avoid and/or explain technical jargon and provide critical and forward-thinking analysis about how the research article fits into the current state of the field and its future. A good Primer will briefly discuss (but not exhaustively review) what we know and what questions we have yet to answer for a particular field. It will then introduce the new findings and describe in roughly three paragraphs the advance represented in the related research article, highlighting its significance, not only for the discipline in question, but across disciplines. The Primer should then explain what the findings suggest in terms of next steps: what new avenues of investigation are opened, what new experiments can be tried, what new ideas can now be tested going forward? Ideally, Primers also offer insight into what big questions are likely to remain unanswered for many years (for whatever reasons).

We encourage the use of a figure to illustrate key concepts/mechanism/conclusions in an informative, easy-to-understand manner.

Primers are usually assessed by our Editorial Board, but we reserve the right to peer-review externally if needed. Commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Primer
Title length up to 75 characters
Standfirst length up to 260 characters
Manuscript length

~1,000 words

Our Primers are brief; please ensure that you do not exceed these limits

References

10

Our Primers contain few, necessary references

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) 1

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work
Example Primer

Forman CJ (2020) Controlling control—A primer in open-source experimental control systems. PLoS Biol 18(9): e3000858. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000858

Community Pages

Community Pages provide individuals, networks and organizations with the opportunity to highlight resources, tools, or initiatives of benefit to the scientific community and beyond (including science education and public engagement in science). All resources or tools, and the outputs of initiatives must be open and accessible to all.

Contributors must resist the temptation of self-promotion and instead focus on conveying information to a diverse audience.Community Pages should be written in a succinct, accessible, semi-journalistic style that captures the interest of both specialists and non-specialist readers. We encourage the use of 1-2 figures to illustrate key concepts in an informative, easy to grasp manner; or the use of text boxes for background, self-contained information.

Community Pages are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Community Page
Title length up to 75 characters
Standfirst Abstract length up to 260 characters
Manuscript length

1,000-1,200 words

Our Community Pages are brief; please ensure that you do not exceed these limits

References

10

Our Community Pages contain few, necessary references

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) 1-2

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work

Example Community Pages

McClure MB, Hall KC, Brooks EF, Allen CT, Lyle KS (2020) A pedagogical approach to science outreach. PLoS Biol 18(4): e3000650. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000650

McCullagh EA, Nowak K, Pogoriler A, Metcalf JL, Zaringhalam M, Zelikova TJ (2019) Request a woman scientist: A database for diversifying the public face of science. PLoS Biol 17 (4): e3000212. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pbio.3000212

Formal Comments

Formal Comments are intended to provide a formal outlet for the discussion and interpretation of research findings associated with specific articles published in PLOS Biology. They are designed to ensure that readers obtain a balanced view of a scientific or meta-scientific/policy question, especially in areas of debate/controversy. Formal Comments are peer-reviewed and indexed in PubMed.

Please note that Formal Comments are not meant to address ethical issues—if you have ethical concerns about a PLOS Biology article, email our editorial office, plosbiology@plos.org.

Formal Comments are considered exclusively by invitation. If you would like to be considered for an invitation to write a Formal Comment, please send your inquiry and a summary of the details via email to plosbiology@plos.org.

Formal Comments must be coherent, concise, and well-argued, and are subject to the PLOS Biology criteria for publication. Editors will, as a matter of course, invite the authors of the original article to submit a response to the Formal Comment. Any revisions (of the Formal Comment or the response) will be shared with the authors of the associated comment.

Guidelines for Formal Comments
Title length up to 75 characters
Manuscript length

Formal Comments:1,000 words

Formal Comment Response: 700 words

Ensure that you do not significantly exceed these length limits. You will generally be asked to reduce the text if it exceeds the limit by more than 20%

References

~10

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) 1-2

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work
Example Formal Comment

Rees WE, Wackernagel M (2013) The Shoe Fits, but the Footprint is Larger than Earth. PLoS Biol 11(11): e1001701. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001701​

Example Formal Comment - Response

Blomqvist L, Brook BW, Ellis EC, Kareiva PM, Nordhaus T, Shellenberger M (2013) The Ecological Footprint Remains a Misleading Metric of Global Sustainability. PLoS Biol 11(11): e1001702. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001702

In-Depth Analysis

Essays

Essays are opinionated articles on a topic of interest to scientists and to a broader audience, including the general public. Unlike traditional review articles, which include a comprehensive account of a field, Essays take an imaginative approach to a provocative question, with an engaging but rigorous investigation of the problem. We encourage authors of Essays to select the most representative references to convey their points and avoid exhaustively covering the relevant literature.

The remit of Essays is very broad. They might:

  • take stock of progress in a field from a personal point of view
  • explore the implications of recent advances that promise to have broad-ranging consequences on a field
  • comment on a topical or controversial area of research
  • discuss key ideas or educational strategies to enhance understanding of fundamental biological questions
  • offer historical/philosophical reflections on contemporary biology
  • analyze scientific issues with policy implications

Our Essays aim to engage a broad and diverse audience—it is therefore important to ensure that they are written in an accessible, semi-journalistic style that captures the interest of both specialists and non-specialist readers. We encourage the use of figures to illustrate key concepts in an informative, easy to grasp manner; as well as the use of text boxes for background, self-contained information.

We will not consider traditional review articles that provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of a field. 

Essays are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication.

Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.
Guidelines for an Essay
Title length up to 75 characters
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~3,500-4,000 words


There are no strict length limits, but in general our Essays are concise

References

~30-60


There are no strict reference limits, but in general Essays are meant to discuss representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) up to 3-4

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work
Example Essays

Rees T, Bosch T, Douglas AE (2018) How the microbiome challenges our concept of self. PLoS Biol 16(2): e2005358. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005358

Konig C, Weigelt P, Schrader J, Taylor A, Kattge J, Kreft H (2019) Biodiversity data integration—the significance of data resolution and domain. PLoS Biol 17(3): e3000183. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000183

Unsolved Mysteries

Unsolved Mysteries discuss a topic of biological or medical importance that is poorly understood and in need of research attention—e.g., an unexplored or challenging question, an emerging opportunity, or a recent puzzling phenomenon. The articles are intended to stimulate the scientific community to think about future research possibilities outside their areas of expertise. The articles should be aimed at a very broad audience of biologists—an unsolved mystery in a neuroscience topic should be accessible to ecologists and biophysicists, for example.
 
The article should include a discussion of the basic science relevant to the topic, why it is biologically or medically important, what work has been done on the topic (if any), major challenges to understanding the question at hand, competing hypotheses, and what advances would be necessary to shed light on the problem. Ideally the structure of the article should reflect the mystery (e.g. subsections with questions as headings). The article should end with a discussion of possible means to a solution

Unsolved Mysteries are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for an Unsolved Mystery
Title length up to 75 characters
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~3,500-4,000 words


There are no strict length limits, but in general our Unsolved Mysteries are brief

References

~30-60


There are no strict reference limits, but in general Unsolved Mysteries are meant to discuss representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) up to 3-4

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work
Example Unsolved Mysteries

Margolis L, Sadovsky Y (2019) The biology of extracellular vesicles: The known unknowns. PLoS Biol 17(7): e3000363. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000363

Vogels CBF, Ru¨ckert C, Cavany SM, Perkins TA, Ebel GD, Grubaugh ND (2019) Arbovirus coinfection and co-transmission: A neglected public health concern? PLoS Biol 17(1): e3000130. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000130

Consensus View

Consensus View articles present a comprehensive analysis by an independent and usually multidisciplinary panel of experts who make specific recommendations on important scientific, publishing or policy issues.

Consensus Views are peer-reviewed and commissioning does not guarantee publication. Editors work closely with authors to ensure that articles are written in an engaging, succinct, yet rigorous manner.

Guidelines for a Consensus View
Title length up to 75 characters
Abstract length ~100 words
Manuscript length

~4,000-5,000 words


There are no strict length limits

References

There are no strict reference limits, but in general Consensus Views are meant to discuss representative references only

Display items (figures, text boxes, tables) up to 3-4

Submitted figures must be publishable under the CC-BY license, thus, with few exceptions, we cannot accept previously published work
Example Consensus View

As this is a new article type, we do not have published examples, but the following articles might now be Consensus Views.

Percie du Sert N, Hurst V, Ahluwalia A, Alam S, Avey MT, Baker M, et al. (2020) The ARRIVE guidelines 2.0: Updated guidelines for reporting animal research. PLoS Biol 18(7): e3000410. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.Pbio.3000410

Moher D, Bouter L, Kleinert S, Glasziou P, Sham MH, Barbour V, et al. (2020) The Hong Kong Principles for assessing researchers: Fostering research integrity. PLoS Biol 18(7): e3000737. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000737

Garnett ST, Christidis L, Conix S, Costello MJ, Zachos FE, Ba´nki OS, et al. (2020) Principles for creating a single authoritative list of the world’s species. PLoS Biol 18(7): e3000736. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000736

Retired Article Types

Book Review/Science in the Media. These short reviews critiqued books, films, plays, and other media that deal with some aspect of the biological sciences.
 

  • Education. Although we no longer publish Education articles as a separate article type, we continue publishing them as part of the Education Series. The format selected (Essay, Perspective, or Community Page) depends on the aims of each article.
  • Historical and Philosophical Perspectives. The Historical and Philosophical Perspectives section provided professional historians and philosophers of science with a forum to reflect on topical issues in contemporary biology.
  • Obituaries.
  • Open Highlights. Written in-house by members of the editorial staff, Open Highlights used recent publication as keystones around which to nucleate a short synthesis of several related research articles from PLOS and the wider Open Access corpus.
  • Research Matters. Brief pieces by leading scientists explaining why the research carried out in their laboratories - and those of their collaborators and their colleagues - matters to lay audiences. 
  • Series. Series were recurrent themed articles on specific topics, including Education, Public Engagement with Science, Cool Tools, and Where Next?
  • Synopses. Selected PLOS Biology research articles are accompanied by a synopsis written for a general audience to provide non-experts with insight into the significance of the published work. They are commissioned only.