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Guidelines for Editors

Editorial review at PLOS Sustainability and Transformation 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 upholds the Code of Conduct for Editorial Board Members.

The Editorial Board includes Section Editors with high-level oversight of the peer review process, and Academic Editors who directly manage the peer review process.

Academic 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


Academic Editor role

Section Editor role


Email the journal office at for more details or questions about your role as an Academic Editor.

Editor Resources

Manage invitations and evaluate submissions in Editorial Manager for PLOS Sustainability and Transformation.

Editorial Manager

The PLOS Sustainability and Transformation Academic Editor Guide and Section Editor Guide contain information needed for you in your editor role.

Initial Evaluation

Section Editors

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 Academic 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.

Accepting and Declining Invitations

Section Editors invite Academic Editors to handle new submissions via email.

Academic Editors

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. 

Going out of town?
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. 

Email filters
To receive important notices about PLOS submissions, make sure that your spam filters are not blocking emails from PLOS under the following domains:,,

Independent Submission Evaluation

Academic Editors

After agreeing to handle a submission, first read and independently assess the manuscript. Consider whether it falls within the journal’s scope and adheres to the criteria for publication.

Publication Ethics
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. 

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 or reject and transfer. Read more about making a decision.

If you are unsure about the submission’s suitability for the journal, consult with the assigned Section Editor and other members of the PLOS Sustainability and Transformation Editorial Board by starting a discussion in the submission system.

How to initiate discussions in Editorial Manager

External Peer Review

Academic Editors

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 Academic 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.

Read more about confidentiality and anonymity in the editorial process.

Consult the Academic Editor Guide for guidance on choosing and managing reviewers, as well as navigating Editorial Manager.

For instructions on inviting reviewers in the submission system, watch:

Making a Decision

Academic Editors

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 Editorial Manager to draft the decision letter, and choose one of the following decision options:

  • Accept
  • Minor revision
  • Major revision
  • Reject and Transfer
  • Reject

Consult the Academic Editor Guide or the Section Editor Guide for details on decision types and navigating Editorial Manager.

  • 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 Editorial Manager, 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

Revised Submissions

Academic Editors

When a revised manuscript has been re-submitted, it is added back to the Academic Editor’s account in Editorial Manager. This triggers an email notifying you 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 limit the 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.

Watch a short video on how to invite reviewers to evaluate a revised manuscript.

Peer Review History

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 Sustainability and Transformation

The peer review history package includes your complete editorial decision letter with peer review comments and author responses for each revision.

Reviewer Comments

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

Customizing Your Editorial Manager Profile

PLOS Sustainability and Transformation 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
Contact the journal if there is a change to your institutional affiliation or research areas of focus, so that staff can update your personal details on the Editorial Board page.

To make changes to your profile, click Update My Information, where you may edit:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Affiliation
  • Country
  • Subject classifications and keywords
  • ORCID iD (watch this short video on how to register for an ORCID iD and link it to your profile)
  • Unavailable Dates 


Email 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)