Guidelines for Editors
Editorial review at PLOS Pathogens is run by an international Editorial Board comprised of working researchers under the leadership of the Editors-in-Chief. The Editorial Board is part of the larger PLOS Editorial Board community and uphold the Code of Conduct for Editorial Board Members.
The Editorial Board includes Section Editors with high-level oversight of the peer review process, and Associate Editors who directly manage the peer review process.
Associate Editors’ primary responsibilities include:
- Responding to invitations to handle manuscripts
- Independently assessing each manuscript
- Managing external peer review
- Recommending decisions on manuscripts after peer review
- Continuing to assess revised manuscripts until a final decision is reached
Manage invitations and evaluate submissions in Editorial Manager for PLOS Pathogens.
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The PLOS Pathogens Associate Editor Handbook contains all of the information needed to perform the editor role.
The first part of the handbook provides a high-level overview of the peer review process from the editor's perspective and is intended to be read in its entirety.
The appendices provide detailed information on special topics like appeals, publication ethics, and special considerations for specific study types, as well as step-by-step instructions for using the submission system.
Download the Handbook (PDF)
After completing internal technical checks, each new submission is assigned to a Section Editor. Section Editors evaluate manuscripts against the publication criteria and take one of two actions:
- Peer review
If a manuscript has the potential to be publishable, the Section Editor invites an Associate Editor to further evaluate the manuscript and manage peer review.
- Reject without review
If a manuscript clearly does not meet the journal’s selection criteria, the Section Editor may reject without review. In many cases, Section Editors informally consult with other members of the Editorial Board to make this determination.
Section Editors invite Associate Editors to handle new submissions via email.
Respond to each invitation by clicking the links in the email or directly in the submission system. Email the journal if you have trouble responding to an invitation or accessing the submission.
How to accept and decline invitations as a PLOS editor
Accept an invitation if:
- the submission is relevant to your expertise
- you have no competing interests with any of the authors
- you have the time to handle the manuscript to a final decision
If you are unable to accept a manuscript assignment, suggest someone that has relevant expertise to act as editor.
Set unavailable dates in your Editorial Manager profile to let journal staff know that you are not available to receive new invitations. Note that you are responsible for active submissions that you have already agreed to handle. Watch a short video for help setting up unavailable dates in Editorial Manager.
To receive important notices about PLOS submissions, make sure that your spam filters are not blocking emails from PLOS under the following domains: @plos.org, @editorialmanager.com, @salesforce.com.
Email the journal for help if you have concerns about potential misconduct or a breach of publication ethics, or if you think you may have a competing interest with an author.
Read PLOS’ editorial and publishing policies for more information. For instructions about handling these situations, see “Publication Ethics” in the Associate Editor Handbook (PDF), our comprehensive editor instruction manual.
If the submission is within journal scope and adheres to the publication criteria, send it out for external peer review.
If the submission clearly does not satisfy the requirements for consideration in the journal, recommend a decision of “reject without review.” Read more about making a decision.
If you are unsure about the submission’s suitability for the journal, consult with the assigned Deputy Editor and other members of the PLOS Pathogens Editorial Board by starting a discussion in the submission system.
How to initiate discussions in Editorial Manager
If the submission merits consideration for publication, invite a panel of experts with relevant expertise to review for technical rigor and adherence to the publication criteria.
An Associate Editor’s main responsibilities at this stage are:
- Inviting reviewers with the expertise needed to evaluate the important aspects of the work
- Monitoring the number of reviewers who have agreed to review and who have completed reviews
- Assessing returned reviews to verify that they address important aspects of the work
- Flagging any reviewer comments that should not be published in the peer review history (learn more here)
Do not disclose information about submissions, including their receipt, content, status in the reviewing process, criticism by reviewers, or ultimate decision fate to anyone other than the authors and reviewers.
Do not disclose the identities of any of the reviewers or invited reviewers during or after the review process. Reviewers that wish to disclose their identities to the authors may sign their reviews. If you receive external requests for information about a particular manuscript, contact the journal before responding.
In recommending a decision, consider the reviewer feedback and your own evaluation of the submission in the context of the publication criteria.
If you are handling a manuscript with a publicly posted preprint, you may also consider comments and feedback available on the preprint record in reaching a decision, and where relevant, you may incorporate those comments in editorial feedback to authors.
Use the submission system to draft the decision letter, and choose one of the following decision options:
- Minor revision
- Major revision
Consult “Decisions” in the Associate Editor Handbook (PDF) to help you make the appropriate decision for each submission:
- view detailed explanations of each decision option available
- prepare decision letters with templates
- suggest a transfer if the manuscript is better suited to another PLOS journal
If you are recommending a revise or reject decision, edit the template decision letter to include your own comments for the authors. Be sure to reconcile any conflicting reviewer comments, identify which changes are required versus recommended, and identify any issues the reviewers may have overlooked.
If you need assistance determining an appropriate decision, open a discussion with the assigned Section Editor.
When you are ready to submit your recommendation and draft decision letter in the submission system, click Submit decision with draft letter. The draft letter is reviewed by the Section Editor before the final version is sent to the authors.
To receive a copy of the final decision letter, add your email address to the BCC line of the letter. Reviewers usually receive a copy of the final decision letter at the Section Editor's discretion.
How to submit an editorial decision for the PLOS Community Journals
When a revised manuscript has been re-submitted, it is added back to the Associate Editor’s account in the submission system. This triggers an email notifying the Associate Editor that the submission is ready for re-evaluation.
At this point, re-evaluate the submission, taking into account the authors’ response to reviewers, and determine if additional external peer review is needed. Consult the assigned Section Editor when the course of action is unclear.
We encourage editors to make a decision with the least rounds of review; however, it is appropriate to send the submission back to reviewers if you cannot evaluate whether the authors have adequately responded to the reviewer critiques.
Authors may opt-in to publish the peer review history of their manuscript alongside the final article if their work is accepted for publication by PLOS Pathogens.
The peer review history package includes your complete editorial decision letter with peer review comments and author responses for each revision.
During peer review, editors should take note of any reviewer comments that should not be published, either because of the tone or language used, or an ethical consideration, such as information about a vulnerable population. If you feel a review is unsuitable for publication, please alert the journal office at email@example.com.
PLOS Pathogens staff update each new editor's Editorial Manager profile upon joining. Throughout your tenure on the board, be sure to keep your profile details up-to-date.
Maintaining your profile helps ensure that:
- Invitations to handle submissions and other journal communications are sent to the correct email address
- Your name and affiliation appear correctly on published articles you handle as editor
To make changes to your profile, click UPDATE MY INFORMATION in the upper left corner of the screen, and edit the following fields:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need support at any stage in the process. The journal staff are here to help you:
- address policy and ethics issues
- consult with a fellow Editorial Board member about a submission
- use the submission system (e.g., invite reviewers, troubleshoot sign-in problems)