Introducing the New PLOS Video Shorts

In 2011, PLOS ONE launched a series of short instructional videos to help our authors, reviewers, and Academic Editors navigate Editorial Manager, our online submission system. We recently updated and expanded these video shorts to provide a resource for PLOS authors, … Continue reading »

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PLOS Recommended Data Repositories

In line with our updated Data Policy, we are pleased to announce a PLOS Data Repository Recommendation Guide. To support the selection of data repositories for authors, PLOS has identified a set of established repositories, which are recognized and trusted within their respective communities. To … Continue reading »

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Winter Service Update

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As we head into winter and as the holiday festivities begin, we wanted to let our authors know in advance that they may experience a slight delay in the peer review process of their manuscript if they submit anytime between now and the end of the year. This is because many of our academic editors and external referees will be out of the office at some point during the holiday season.

Despite many people being on vacation, the work of the journal continues and so we will endeavor to ensure that all manuscripts submitted to PLOS ONE are evaluated as quickly as possible, but please accept our advance apologies for any delays you experience.

In the meantime, we encourage you to visit the following links for information and answers to some of our common questions. For anything not covered here, please contact us at plosone@plos.org and we will respond as quickly as possible.

Image: Emily’s Snowman Cookies by Ralph Daily

Editorial Highlight: Reporting Standards at PLOS ONE

 PLOS ONE bug

Most readers are by now familiar with the core principle behind PLOS ONE: to publish all papers that are scientifically and technically sound, regardless of their perceived impact or importance. Another publication criterion that has received far less attention until recently is our commitment to the quality and completeness of reporting.

PLOS ONE considers reporting quality to be of importance in two main areas: first in relation to completeness of authors’ descriptions of study methods and results, and second in assuring readers of the ethical basis underlying the work. The rationale for ensuring high standards of reporting and ethical oversight is aligned with our core mission to facilitate the re-use of open-access research; if studies aren’t reported appropriately, or don’t have the necessary ethical oversight, it is much more difficult for others to replicate the work or incorporate the data as part of a larger study.

The natural follow-up question might be: how do we as a journal maintain these standards? Here, we’d like to outline briefly our standards, the reasons for them, and the process for ensuring that authors adhere to them. By doing this, we hope to shed light on some of our internal processes, both for the journal’s community, as well as for interested readers that appreciate sound, well-done science as much as we do.

PLOS ONE is a large, international, open-access scientific journal that considers all manuscripts reporting the results of primary scientific research. Day to day, the journal receives many types of studies, including experimental and observational work on animal and human populations, as well as a range of computational and theoretical work. These are submitted by researchers around the world who are not necessarily bound by common standards of reporting or ethical oversight.

As an international journal, however, PLOS ONE has a responsibility to establish and maintain consistent and high standards for publication. Therefore, we require that authors assure us on submission of appropriate ethical review and approval for experimental work involving animals and human participants; relevant permissions for field studies or observational work; and adherence to appropriate discipline-specific guidelines for the reporting of taxonomic, paleontological, or archaeological specimens. In some areas, there are also more prescriptive guidelines to ensure the full description of study methods and results—including CONSORT for reporting randomized clinical trials and PRISMA for reporting systematic reviews in relation to human participants—and we provide links to many more in our manuscript guidelines.

How do journal staff check for these standards when we receive so many submissions each day? At PLOS ONE, we’ve found that the most effective way to ensure papers meet our requirements is to perform a series of checks at submission. This ensures that by the time articles are assigned to Academic Editors for detailed review, crucial information about ethical oversight and study conduct will be available for their consideration. By screening papers before the formal peer-review process, we provide support to our Editorial Board and reviewers, who volunteer their time and offer an invaluable service to the journal and the scientific community as a whole. Equipping our Academic Editors with additional, important details when they agree to handle a manuscript allows them to focus their specialized expertise where it is most valued: on the scientific and technical quality of the paper.

That said, we consider our Academic Editors as partners in our goal of maintaining high standards for reporting, research ethics, and integrity. We ask our Editorial Board members for advice in difficult situations, and greatly appreciate the expert input that they provide. In certain situations we seek the advice of additional experts in reporting or ethics to provide oversight on specific papers, and are currently setting up dedicated advisory boards to assist us. We also consult Editorial Board members when developing new internal policies, or when robust community guidelines (such as CONSORT for randomized clinical trials or the proposed ARRIVE for experimental animal research) are not yet available for specific study types.

We appreciate the support of PLOS ONE authors, editors, and reviewers in helping us maintain the highest standards possible.

Posted on behalf of the in-house editors at PLOS ONE:

Associate Editors Gina Alvino, Sarah Bangs, Meghan Byrne, Christna Chap, Michelle Dohm, Matt Hodgkinson, Anna Schmidt, and Elizabeth Silva; Senior Editors Eric Martens and Emma Veitch; Consulting Editors Catriona MacCallum and Iratxe Puebla; and Editorial Director Damian Pattinson

PLOS ONE Launches a New Peer Review Form

Today PLOS ONE launches a new peer review form. While this might not sound like much of an announcement, the fact that our reviewer board currently contains over 400,000 scientists, and grows by the hour, means that an awful lot of people will see this form over the coming months!

The purpose of the form is to better direct and streamline the review process by focusing on our specific publication criteria. The job of the PLOS ONE reviewer is not to decide whether the study represents a significant advance to the field, or whether additional experiments need to be performed to increase the impact, or whether it is suitable for a broad interest journal. The reviewer must simply ascertain whether the study has been performed correctly, and whether the data support the conclusions. So that’s what we ask reviewers in the form. The form also addresses some of our other criteria, like whether the manuscript adheres to data sharing standards and whether the manuscript is written in intelligible standard English. By limiting the focus of the reviewers in this way, we hope to reduce the burden that many reviewers feel, and (hopefully) speed up the time it takes to review.

We know that academics spend an enormous amount of time reviewing papers. But while it increases the workload of already busy people, the majority would agree that it is a vital part of the scientific process, and a necessary part of the job. The hardest part of a traditional review is making the recommendation on whether the study represents a significant enough advance to meet the journal’s criteria for acceptance, and this is the thing that most holds up the evaluation of manuscripts. Remove that part, and review should be quicker, less cumbersome and easier – but, and here’s the kicker, will have no discernible effect on the literature as a whole. Papers that are ‘right’ will always be published somewhere, but it may take a year to find that place due to the endless rejection cycle of most journals. So the innovation of PLOS ONE was to remove this step, and it was immensely successful. Now all we need to do is remind people of this fact when they submit their review. The form aims to do just that, and we believe it takes us a step closer to the ideal of publishing ‘right’ studies with minimal fuss and maximal efficiency.

We haven’t created too many check boxes, drop-down menus or word limits. There are just four required questions about whether the submission meets our criteria, and plenty of flexibility to let reviewers include specific comments as needed. You can read more about the specifics of the form here, and please contact plosone@plos.org with any questions or feedback.

Winter Service Update

Happy holidays from the staff at PLOS ONE!

As we are well into the winter months, we wanted to take this opportunity to notify our authors that there may be a slight delay in the review of their manuscript if they submit anytime between now and the end of January. This is because many of our editorial board members and reviewers are away from the office for the holidays and/or travel. Please rest assured that we will do our utmost to process your manuscript in a timely manner, but be aware that historically we have experienced some delays during the winter holidays. We will endeavor to ensure that all manuscripts submitted to PLOS ONE are evaluated as quickly as possible, but please accept our apologies in advance if you experience any delays.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us via the PLOS ONE inbox (plosone@plos.org) and, between our offices in the UK and the US, we will reply as quickly as possible. However, in the meantime, you may wish to visit some of the following pages, which may help to answer your question:

Summer Service Update

As we are now a month into the summer season, we wanted to let our authors know in advance that they may experience a slight delay in the peer review process of their manuscript if they submit anytime between now and the end of September. This is because many of our editorial board members and reviewers are away from the office for conferences, holidays or are conducting fieldwork during this time of year. We will do our utmost to process your manuscript in a prompt manner, but please be aware that historically, we have experienced some delays between now and September. We will endeavor to ensure that all manuscripts submitted to PLoS ONE are evaluated as quickly as possible, but please accept our advance apologies for any delays you experience.

Between our offices in the UK and the US, we will work to respond to emails sent to the PLoS ONE inbox (plosone@plos.org) as quickly as possible. However, in the meantime, you may wish to visit some of the following pages on our websites, which may help to answer your questions:

Ask EveryONE: Where can I find Supporting Information in a manuscript?

If you’ve just created a manuscript in Editorial Manager and you’re reviewing it before submitting to the PLoS ONE office, or if you’re a reviewer or Academic Editor providing feedback on a paper, you may be asking yourself the above question.

You can access all supporting information at the end of a manuscript through the hyperlinks at the top of the page. It will look something like this:

Our submission system is designed to create these hyperlinks because most often, the kind of data in a supporting information file is quite large, making it far too cumbersome to embed directly into the pdf.

For answers to other questions you may have, visit our Most Common Questions page.  As always, if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate emailing us directly at plosone@plos.org.

Ask EveryONE: Self Help Edition

A few features deserve some recognition this week on Ask EveryONE.

First off, the Manuscript Guidelines, Publication Criteria and Editorial Policies pages on PlosONE.org have been revamped to include much more information in a much more searchable format. Finding the answer to a pre-submission inquiry, peer review question or tech check notification should be significantly simpler now that the information is updated and easier to navigate.

Second, a reminder to use the PLoS ONE Video Shorts. These were created by Editorial Staff to assist authors, Academic Editors and reviewers in navigating Editorial Manager and responding to Editorial requests. These videos are all under 3 minutes long and can help answer a variety of questions from How to Check Your Manuscript Image Quality, to How to Submit your Decision to How to Accept or Decline an Invitation to Review a Manuscript and more.

Lastly, we encourage you to use the links above and others on this site and PlosONE.org for the fastest solution to most queries but if necessary, don’t hesitate to contact the Editorial Staff at plosone@plos.org. Any questions for manuscripts that are in production or have been published should be directed to the Production Staff at one_production@plos.org.

Holiday Service Update

With the end-of-year holiday season upon us, we wanted to let our authors know in advance that they may experience a slight delay in the peer review process of their manuscript if they submit anytime between now and the end of the year. This is because many of our academic editors and external referees will be out of the office at some point during the holiday season. We will endeavor to ensure that all manuscripts submitted to PLoS ONE are evaluated as quickly as possible, but please accept our advance apologies for any delays you experience.

Despite many people being on vacation, the work of the journal continues and so we will continue to receive a large number of emails from authors, academic editors, reviewers and readers throughout this period. Between our offices in the UK and the US, we will have some level of staff coverage every day except for Christmas Day (December 25), but with some team members being out of the office, we may not be able to respond to emails sent to the PLoS ONE inbox (plosone@plos.org) as quickly as usual. We will respond to your message as soon as we can, but in the meantime, you may wish to visit some of the following pages on our websites, which may help to answer your question: