For Authors

Brief Communications Arising

This document provides information about Brief Communications Arising from recently published Nature papers, as well corrections and retractions from Nature authors

Table of contents

Parts of this document are summarized in a downloadable information sheet.

1. General information

Critical comments on recent Nature papers may, after peer review, be published online as Brief Communications Arising, usually alongside a reply from the criticized Nature authors. If the submission only serves to identify an important error in the published paper, it is published in the form of a clarification statement (corrigendum or retraction, for example) by the Nature authors (see section 7). Alternatively, readers may post comments on Nature papers at the journal’s website, under the full-text online version of the paper.

Brief Communications Arising are exceptionally interesting or important scientific comments and clarifications on original research papers or other peer-reviewed material published in Nature. They are published online but not in print.

Submissions should challenge the main conclusions of the Nature paper and contain new, unpublished data to support the arguments.

Submissions that pertain to a non-central part of the Nature paper are not considered. Authors of such contributions are instead invited to make their comment online underneath the full-text version of the paper at Nature’s website. Nature encourages these authors also to contact the authors of the paper directly so that they can respond online.

Both Brief Communications Arising and corrections by Nature authors are linked bidirectionally with the original published paper.

Nature does not consider Brief Communications Arising on papers published in other journals.

Contributions that do not comply with our submission criteria (see sections 2, 3) will not be considered.

Nature does not consider for publication material written in aggressive or other unprofessional language.

2. Manuscript preparation and formatting

Before submission, contributors should read some previous online contributions to see if their contribution seems appropriate.

Manuscripts should be formatted according to these instructions.

  • They should not exceed 1200 words (main text), with an additional 100 words for Methods, if applicable. Further details of Methods may be reported as Supplementary Information.
  • Titles must be brief (less than 43 characters, including spaces). They may be changed on acceptance. Authors will be consulted about title changes but Nature will make the final decision.
  • Contributions should start with a brief paragraph that summarizes the message of the article without specialized terminology, for a non-specialist readership. This paragraph should be used as the abstract for submission purposes.
  • Contributions should have a simple message that requires only one or two small figures or tables. Contributions with more than two figures and/or tables will not be considered. Complex figures or tables may be presented as Extended Data items (up to three items will be allowed).
  • Figures and tables should be sized so that they can be reduced to 89 mm width (a single column). At submission, figures should be of good enough quality to be assessed by referees, ideally as JPEGs
  • As a guideline, contributions allow up to 15 references; reference style is as for Letters and Articles.
  • Supplementary Information is permitted at the editor's discretion.
  • Acknowledgements and joint first authors are not allowed. People or organizations providing essential, non-funding assistance can be mentioned briefly in the text or figure legend.
  • A competing financial interests statement is required before final acceptance.
  • An author contributions statement is required.

3. Submissions

Contributions should be submitted as Word documents, with figures as JPEGs, as small as possible but with a combined limit of no greater than 3 MB (ideally much smaller), using the online submission service. Contributions sent by e-mail will not be considered.

Authors must provide current e-mail, phone, fax and address details, including an alternative e-mail and phone number if spending time away from their usual address.

Before submitting, all contributors must agree to all of Nature’s publication policies

In addition:

  • Contributions should be written as focused articles comprehensible to non-specialists: lists of technical points are not appropriate for publication. They should pertain to the main conclusion of the published paper and should not concern relatively unimportant points.
  • All contributions should be measured in tone, and should not contain inflammatory or otherwise intemperate language.
  • Comments should be sent to the authors of the paper under discussion before submission to Nature, so that disputes can be resolved directly whenever possible and points where both parties agree removed from the submitted contribution. If after 2 weeks the original authors have not responded, this should be indicated at submission.
  • Otherwise, when the contribution is submitted to Nature, copies of correspondence with the original authors should be enclosed for the editor’s information. The correspondence should accompany the submission as an attachment clearly labelled as ‘Correspondence with the Nature authors’.

4. Decisions

The editors will decide how to proceed on the basis of whether the central conclusion of the Nature paper is brought into question; the length of time since the original publication; and whether a comment or exchange of views is likely to be of value to readers. Because Nature receives so many comments, those that do not meet these criteria are referred to the specialist literature.

5. Procedures

Brief Communications Arising submissions that meet Nature’s initial selection criteria are sent to the authors of the original paper for a formal response. The original authors are given a deadline of 10 days to respond. The criticism and formal reply may then be sent to independent referees.

Reply from the Nature authors. This Reply is not a referee’s report, but is helpful to the editors and referees in making a decision about publication of the comment and/or a reply. The responders are defined as the authors of the published contribution that is the subject of the comment, and no one else.

Replying authors must keep the comment confidential and must not use it for their own research or for any other purpose apart from replying to the comment, nor can they distribute it without first obtaining Nature’s permission.

If the Nature authors do not respond within 10 days of receipt of the comment, the editor will proceed without the response. Late Replies may not be considered for publication.

Replies are published only when they add to the debate, and not when they reiterate points already published. They should not contain new data, but be confined to replying to the specific issue raised about the published paper.

The permitted word limit for Replies is shorter (up to 500 words) than for the critical Brief Communication Arising, because the replying authors have already had the opportunity to publish their views in our pages.

Presentation of new data and of Supplementary Information is not permitted in Replies.

Authors of Brief Communications Arising will be shown the initial Reply from the Nature authors once a decision is reached on publication. In the event that the exchange is accepted for publication, they will see a proof of their own contribution but not of the finalized reply (if a reply is being published). Responders will see a proof of the whole exchange but are allowed to change only typographical errors.

6. Appeals

The editors will not consider appeals against decisions not to publish Brief Communications Arising from Nature Articles and Letters unless the grounds for appeal consist of a previously overlooked and important scientific point and are clearly explained in these terms. Authors who have had a submission declined are encouraged to post it as an online comment to the paper concerned at the journal website.

7. Complaints and corrections

Important technical complaints or authors' corrections pertaining to published Articles and Letters in Nature should be submitted as Brief Communications Arising using the online submission service. Those endorsed after editorial discussion, comments from the criticized authors, if applicable, and peer-review are published as corrections at the end of the Letters section. Authors of papers (as well as readers) should also use this mechanism to submit a correction if they have found an error on their own paper. The names of the authors who have pointed out the error should be acknowledged in the text of the correction.