Editorial and publishing policies
- Submission policies
- Peer review policies
- Author responsibilities
- License agreement and author copyright
- Embargo policy and press release
- Use of experimental animals and human subjects
- Use of human embryos, gametes and stem cells
- Competing interests
- Availability of materials and data
- Availability of computer code and algorithm
- Digital image integrity and standards
- Biosecurity concerns
- Refutations, complaints and corrections
- Duplicate publication
- Confidentiality, pre-publicity and preprints
- Plagiarism and fabrication
When you submit a manuscript to Communications Biology, we will take it to imply that the manuscript has not already been published or submitted elsewhere. If similar or related work has been published or submitted elsewhere, then you must provide a copy with the submitted manuscript. You may not submit your manuscript elsewhere while it is under consideration at Communications Biology.
The primary affiliation for each author should be the institution where the majority of their work was done. If an author has subsequently moved, the current address may also be stated. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
If the manuscript includes personal communications, please provide a written statement of permission from any person who is quoted. Permission by email is acceptable.
We reserve the right to reject a paper even after it has been accepted if it becomes apparent that there are serious problems with its scientific content, or our publishing policies have been violated.
If your paper has been previously submitted to another Nature Research journal, you can use our automated manuscript transfer service to submit the paper to Communications Biology. Alternatively, you may choose to submit afresh, in which case you should not use the automated transfer link, and your paper will be evaluated without reference to the previous decision process.
Communications Biology is editorially independent, and our in-house editors and Editorial Board Members make decisions independently from other Nature Research journals. It is for authors alone to decide where to submit their manuscripts. For papers that satisfy the scope of more than one Nature Research journal, the choice of which journal to submit to first lies with the authors.
Peer review policies
The following types of contribution to Communications Biology are peer-reviewed: Articles and Reviews. Matters Arising and all forms of published correction may also be peer-reviewed at the discretion of the editors. Comment articles may also be peer-reviewed at the discretion of the editors, particularly if the Comment contains technical information or unpublished data.
Detailed information about our peer review policies and other important information for referees can be found here.
The review process
All submitted manuscripts are read by the editors. To save time for authors and peer-reviewers, only those papers that seem most likely to meet our editorial criteria are sent for formal review. Those papers judged by the editors to be of insufficient general interest or otherwise inappropriate are rejected promptly without external review (although these decisions may be based on informal advice from specialists in the field).
Manuscripts judged to be of potential interest to our readership are sent for formal review, typically to two or three reviewers, but sometimes more if special advice is needed (for example on statistics or a particular technique). The editors then make a decision based on the reviewers' advice, from among several possibilities:
Accept, with or without editorial revisions
Invite the authors to revise their manuscript to address specific concerns before a final decision is reached
Reject, but indicate to the authors that further work might justify a resubmission
Reject outright, typically on grounds of specialist interest, lack of novelty, insufficient conceptual advance or major technical and/or interpretational problems
Reviewers are welcome to recommend a particular course of action, but they should bear in mind that the other reviewers of a particular paper may have different technical expertise and/or views, and the editors may have to make a decision based on conflicting advice. Editorial decisions are not a matter of counting votes or numerical rank assessments, and we do not always follow the majority recommendation. We try to evaluate the strength of the arguments raised by each reviewer and by the authors, and we may also consider other information not available to either party. Our primary responsibilities are to our readers and to the scientific community at large, and in deciding how best to serve them, we must weigh the claims of each paper against the many others also under consideration.
We may return to reviewers for further advice, particularly in cases where they disagree with each other, or where the authors believe they have been misunderstood on points of fact. We therefore ask that reviewers should be willing to provide follow-up advice as requested. We are very aware, however, that reviewers are usually reluctant to be drawn into prolonged disputes, so we try to keep consultation to the minimum we judge necessary to provide a fair hearing for the authors.
When reviewers agree to assess a paper, we consider this a commitment to review subsequent revisions. However, editors will not send a resubmitted paper back to the reviewers if it seems that the authors have not made a serious attempt to address the criticisms.
We take reviewers' criticisms seriously; in particular, we are very reluctant to disregard technical criticisms. In cases where one reviewer alone opposes publication, we may consult the other reviewers as to whether s/he is applying an unduly critical standard. We occasionally bring in additional reviewers to resolve disputes, but we prefer to avoid doing so unless there is a specific issue, for example a specialist technical point, on which we feel a need for further advice.
Selecting peer reviewers
Reviewer selection is critical to the publication process, and we base our choice on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations and our own previous experience of a reviewer's characteristics. For instance, we may avoid requesting reviews from people who do not return their reviews in a timely manner or do not provide reasoning for their views, whether harsh or lenient.
We check with potential reviewers before sending them manuscripts to review. Reviewers should bear in mind that these messages contain confidential information, which should be treated as such.
Access to the literature
If a reviewer does not have access to any published paper that is necessary for evaluation of a submitted manuscript, the journal will supply the reviewer with a copy. Under these circumstances, the reviewer should send the publication reference of the paper required to the editor who sent them the paper to review. The editor will obtain the paper, paying any necessary fees, and send it to the reviewer.
In cases where editors did not invite resubmission, authors are strongly advised to submit their paper for publication elsewhere, although it is possible for authors to ask the editors to reconsider a rejection decision. These are considered appeals, which, by policy, must take second place to the normal workload.
Decisions are reversed on appeal only if the editors are convinced that the original decision was a serious mistake, not merely a borderline call that could have gone either way. Further consideration may be merited if a referee made substantial errors of fact or showed evidence of bias, but only if a reversal of that referee's opinion would have changed the original decision. Similarly, disputes on factual issues need not be resolved unless they were critical to the outcome.
If an appeal merits further consideration, the editors may send the authors' response or the revised paper to one or more referees, or they may ask one referee to comment on the concerns raised by another referee. On occasion, particularly if the editors feel that additional technical expertise is needed to make a decision, they may obtain advice from an additional referee.
Being an author
The Nature Research journals do not require all authors of a research paper to sign the letter of submission, nor do they impose an order on the list of authors. Submission to Communications Biology is taken by the journal to mean that all the listed authors have agreed to all of the contents, including the author list and author contributions statements. The corresponding author is responsible for having ensured that this agreement has been reached, that all authors have agreed to be so listed and approved the manuscript submission to the journal, and for managing all communication between the journal and all co-authors, before and after publication. Any changes to the author list after submission, such as a change in the order of the authors, or the deletion or addition of authors, needs to be approved by every author.
The author list should include all appropriate researchers and no others. Authorship provides credit for a researcher’s contributions to a study and carries accountability. The Nature Research journals do not prescribe the kinds of contributions that warrant authorship but encourage transparency by publishing author contributions statements. Journal editors at Communications Biology are not in a position to investigate or adjudicate authorship disputes before or after publication. Such disagreements if they cannot be resolved amongst authors should be brought up to the relevant institutional authority.
The editors at Communications Biology assume that the corresponding author (and on multi-group collaboration, at least one member of each collaborating group, usually the most senior member of each submitting group or team), has accepted responsibility for the contributions to the manuscript from that team. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to: (1) ensuring that original data upon which the submission is based is preserved and retrievable for reanalysis; (2) approving data presentation as representative of the original data; and (3) foreseeing and minimizing obstacles to the sharing of data, materials, algorithms or reagents described in the work.
The primary affiliation for each author should be the institution where the majority of their work was done. If an author has subsequently moved, the current address may also be stated. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Author contributions statements
Authors are required to include a statement of responsibility in the manuscript that specifies the contribution of every author. The level of detail varies; some disciplines produce manuscripts that comprise discrete efforts readily articulated in detail, whereas other fields operate as group efforts at all stages. For example, "AB and CD wrote the main manuscript text and EF prepared figures 1–3. All authors reviewed the manuscript." A Nature Editorial describes this policy in more detail.
Nature Research journals also allow one set of up to six co-authors to be specified as having contributed equally to the work or having jointly supervised the work. Other equal contributions are best described in author contributions statements.
Corresponding authors have specific responsibilities (described below) and are usually limited to three.
Corresponding author—prepublication responsibilities
The corresponding (submitting) author is solely responsible for communicating with Communications Biology and for managing communication between co-authors. Before submission, the corresponding author ensures that all authors are included in the author list, its order has been agreed by all authors, and that all authors are aware that the paper was submitted.
After acceptance, the proof is sent to the corresponding author, who deals with Communications Biology on the behalf of all co-authors; Communications Biology will not necessarily correct errors after publication if they result from errors that were present on a proof that was not shown to co-authors before publication. The corresponding author is responsible for the accuracy of all content in the proof, in particular that names of co-authors are present and correctly spelled, and that addresses and affiliations are current.
Corresponding author—responsibilities after publication
Communications Biology regards the corresponding author as the point of contact for queries about the published paper. It is this author's responsibility to inform all co-authors of matters arising and to ensure such matters are dealt with promptly. This author does not have to be the senior author of the paper or the author who actually supplies materials; this author's role is to ensure enquiries are answered promptly on behalf of all the co-authors. The name and email address of each corresponding author is published in the paper.
Correcting the record
Authors of published material have a responsibility to inform Communications Biology promptly if they become aware of any part that requires correcting. See the section on Refutations, complaints and corrections for more information.
A confidential process
Communications Biology treats the submitted manuscript and all communication with authors and referees as confidential. Authors must also treat communication with Communications Biology as confidential: correspondence with Communications Biology , referee reports and other confidential material must not be posted on any website or otherwise publicized without prior permission from the Communications Biology editorial team, regardless of whether or not the submission is eventually published. Our policies about posting preprints and postprints, and about previous communication of the work at conferences or as part of a personal blog or of an academic thesis, are described in the Confidentiality section.
Authors are welcome to suggest suitable independent referees when they submit their manuscript. These suggestions may or may not be used by Communications Biology at the editor’s discretion. Authors may also request that Communications Biology excludes a small number of individuals or laboratories. Communications Biology sympathetically considers such exclusion requests and usually honours them, but the decision of the editor on the choice of referees is final.
License agreement and author copyright
Communications Biology does not require authors to assign copyright of their published original research papers to the journal. Articles are published under a CC BY license (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License). The CC BY license allows for maximum dissemination and re-use of open access materials and is preferred by many research funding bodies. Under this license users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) and remix (adapt) the contribution including for commercial purposes, providing they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor (read full legal code).
Embargo policy and press releases
Communication with the media
Material submitted to Communications Biology must not be discussed with the media, except in the case of accepted contributions, which can be discussed with the media only once the publication date has been confirmed and no more than a week before the publication date under our embargo conditions.
Papers that are deemed especially newsworthy may be press released, to a registered list, by our press office. Journalists are encouraged to read the full version of any papers they wish to cover, and are given the names and contact information of corresponding authors. Authors may therefore receive calls or emails from the media during this time; we encourage them to cooperate with journalists so that media coverage of their work is accurate and balanced. Authors whose papers are scheduled for publication may also arrange their own publicity (for instance through their institutional press offices), but they must adhere to our media embargo and are advised to coordinate their own publicity with our press office.
The benefits of peer review as a means of giving journalists confidence in new work published in journals are self-evident. Premature release to the media denies journalists that confidence. It also removes journalists' ability to obtain informed reactions about the work from independent researchers in the field.
The media embargo serves scientists, authors, journalists and the public. Our policy is to release information about our content in a way that provides fair and equal access to the media, allowing it to provide informed comment based on the complete and final version of the paper that is to be published. Authors and their institutions' press offices are able then to interact with the media ahead of publication, and benefit from the subsequent coverage.
Communication between scientists
Communications Biology does not wish to hinder communication between scientists. For that reason, different embargo guidelines apply to work that has been discussed at a conference or displayed on a preprint server and picked up by the media as a result. (Neither conference presentations nor posting on recognized preprint servers constitute prior publication.)
Our guidelines for authors and potential authors in such circumstances are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, whether on a recognised community preprint server, by discussion at scientific meetings (publication of abstracts in conference proceedings is allowed), in an academic thesis, or by online collaborative sites such as wikis; but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference).
This advice may jar with those (including most researchers and all journalists) who see the freedom of information as a good thing, but it embodies a longer-term view: that publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the appropriate culmination of any piece of original research, and an essential prerequisite for public discussion.
If further clarification is required, please contact the press office by email.
Use of experimental animals and human participants
For articles in Communications Biology reporting experiments on live vertebrates and/or higher invertebrates, the methods section must include a statement: (i) identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments, including any relevant details; (ii) confirming that all experiments were performed in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations.
Sex and other characteristics of animals that may influence results must be described. Details of housing and husbandry must be included where they are likely to influence experimental results. We recommend following the ARRIVE reporting guidelines when documenting animal studies (PLoS Bio 8(6), e1000412, 2010).
For experiments involving human subjects, authors must identify the committee approving the experiments, and include with their submission a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all subjects. Additional information about human subject studies can be found on the Nature Research policy page here. For articles describing human transplantation studies, extra information must be provided (see below).
Human participants' names and other HIPAA identifiers must be removed from all sections of the manuscript, including supplementary information. Written informed consent must be obtained for the publication of any other information that could lead to identification of a participant (eg clinical images and videos). A statement confirming that informed consent to publish identifying information/images was obtained must be included in the methods section. Identifying images/video/details which authors do not have specific permission to use must be removed from the manuscript. Please note that the use of coloured bars/shapes to obscure the eyes/facial region of study participants is NOT an acceptable means of anonymisation.
Human transplantation studies
Communications Biology will not process manuscripts describing research that involves organs/tissues procured from prisoners. In addition to the requirements described above, authors of manuscripts describing human transplantation research must include a statement in their manuscript attesting that no organs/tissues were procured from prisoners. Authors must also provide details of the institution(s)/clinic(s)/department(s) via which all organs/tissues were procured, while taking care to not violate privacy of donors (see 'Identifying information' above).
Communications Biology may request documentation related to informed consent, ethics approval and donor organ/tissue source, including approved translations when original documents are in a language other than English. Failure to provide verifiable documentation may result in withdrawal of a manuscript.
Use of human embryos, gametes and stem cells
Additional guidelines for studies using human embryos, gametes and stem cells are available on the Nature Research policy page. In rare cases, these studies may be subject to addtional ethical review. This editorial in Nature provides more detail on our updated policy.
In the interests of transparency and to help readers form their own judgments of potential bias, Nature Research journals require authors to declare any competing financial and/or non-financial interests in relation to the work described. The corresponding author is responsible for submitting a competing interests statement on behalf of all authors of the paper.
For the purposes of this policy, competing interests are defined as financial and non-financial interests that could directly, or be perceived to, undermine the objectivity, integrity and value of a publication, through a potential influence on the judgments and actions of authors with regard to objective data presentation, analysis and interpretation.
Financial competing interests can include any of the following:
Funding: Research support (including salaries, equipment, supplies, and other expenses) by organizations that may gain or lose financially through this publication. A specific role for the funder in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, should be disclosed.
Employment: Recent (while engaged in the research project), present or anticipated employment by any organization that may gain or lose financially through this publication.
Personal financial interests: Stocks or shares in companies that may gain or lose financially through publication; consultation fees or other forms of remuneration (including reimbursements for attending symposia) from organizations that may gain or lose financially; patents or patent applications (awarded or pending) filed by the authors or their institutions whose value may be affected by publication. For patents and patent applications, disclosure of the following information is requested: patent applicant (whether author or institution), name of inventor(s), application number, status of application, specific aspect of manuscript covered in patent application.
It is difficult to specify a threshold at which a financial interest becomes significant, but note that many US universities require faculty members to disclose interests exceeding $10,000 or 5% equity in a company (see, for example, B. Lo et al. New Engl. J. Med. 343, 1616-1620; 2000). Any such figure is necessarily arbitrary, so we offer as one possible practical alternative guideline: "Any undeclared competing financial interests that could embarrass you were they to become publicly known after your work was published."
We do not consider diversified mutual funds or investment trusts to constitute a competing financial interest.
Non-financial competing interests:
Non-financial competing interests can take different forms, including personal or professional relations with organizations and individuals. We would encourage authors and referees to declare any unpaid roles or relationships that might have a bearing on the publication process. Examples of non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to):
- Unpaid membership in a government or non-governmental organization
- Unpaid membership in an advocacy or lobbying organization
- Unpaid advisory position in a commercial organisation
- Writing or consulting for an educational company
- Acting as an expert witness
Application to authors
Authors must disclose competing interest during the submission process. Authors submitting their manuscripts using the journal's online manuscript tracking system are required to make their declaration as part of this process and to specify the competing interests in cases where they exist. For peer reviewed contributions, authors’ declarations are disclosed to peer-reviewers. If authors have opted for double-blind peer review, a minimal statement disclosing the existence of a financial or non-financial interest will be provided to peer reviewers with a full competing interests’ declarations shared with reviewers at the time of acceptance. The corresponding author is responsible for providing a declaration on behalf of all authors.
Authors are required to include a statement at the end of their article to declare whether or not they have any competing interests.
The published article indicates the authors' response using one of the following standard sentences:
- The authors declare the following competing interests:
- The authors declare no competing interests.
We recognize that some authors may be bound by confidentiality agreements. In such cases, in place of itemized disclosures, we will require authors to state: "The authors declare that they are bound by confidentiality agreements that prevent them from disclosing their competing interests in this work."
We do not require authors to state the monetary value of their financial interests.
Availability of materials and data
An inherent principle of publication is that others should be able to replicate and build upon the authors' published claims. Therefore, a condition of publication in Communications Biology is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to readers without undue qualifications in material transfer agreements. Any restrictions on the availability of materials or information must be disclosed to the publishing team at the time of submission. Any restrictions must also be disclosed in the submitted manuscript, including details of how readers can obtain materials and information. If materials are to be distributed by a for-profit company, this must be stated in the paper. Our policies on data and materials availability are in line with those of the other Nature Research journals.
Supporting data must be made available to editors and referees at the time of submission for the purposes of evaluating the manuscript. Referees may be asked to comment on the terms of access to materials, methods and/or data sets; Communications Biology reserves the right to refuse publication in cases where authors do not provide adequate assurances that they can comply with the publication's requirements for sharing materials.
After publication, readers who encounter refusal by the authors to comply with these policies should contact the journal. In cases where we are unable to resolve a complaint, the matter may be referred to the authors' funding institution and/or a formal statement of correction may be published, linked online to the publication, stating that readers have been unable to obtain necessary materials to replicate the findings.
Details about how to share some specific materials, data and methods can be found in the sections below. The preferred way to share large datasets is via public repositories. Some of these repositories offer authors the option to host data associated with a manuscript confidentially, and provide anonymous access to referees before public release. These repositories coordinate public release of the data with the journal's publication date. This option should be used when possible, but it is the authors' responsibility to communicate with the repository to ensure that public release is made promptly on the publication date. For a list of recommended data repositories and more information about data deposition, please visit this page at Scientific Data.
Any supporting datasets for which there is no public repository must be made available as Supplementary Information files that will be freely accessible on nature.com upon publication. In cases where it is technically impossible for such files to be provided to the journal, the authors must make the data available to editors and referees at submission, and directly upon request to any reader on and after the publication date, the authors providing a URL or other unique identifier in the manuscript.
The Nature Research journals, and many research funding agencies, encourage or require data sharing in repositories. If you need help understanding our data sharing policies, help finding a suitable data repository, or help organising and sharing your research data (including text, raw and processed data, video and images) you should consider:
- Contacting Springer Nature’s Research Data Support Helpdesk for advice. The helpdesk provides free advice on research data policies of funders, institutions and journals and on finding research data repositories.
- Finding a suitable data repository for your data from our recommend repository list. Where they are available, community specific repositories are preferred. Unstructured repositories are suitable alternatives if no structured public repositories exist.
- Uploading your data to Springer Nature’s Research Data Support service.
Research Data Support is an optional Springer Nature service. This service provides custom curation of data and metadata by professional research data editors, guidance on deposition to community-endorsed repositories, and publication in the Springer Nature figshare repository. Use of Research Data Support is optional and does not imply or guarantee that a manuscript will be accepted. Please note there are fees associated with using Research Data Support.
Data availability statement format guidelines
Data availability statements must be included in all manuscripts prior to publication, and we strongly encourage them to be included at the time of submission. For detailed information about data availability statements, visit the Data Policies site from Springer Nature.
The statement should be placed at the end of the Methods section (titled 'Data Availability'). Data availability statements should include, where applicable, accession codes, other unique identifiers and associated web links for publicly available datasets, and any conditions for access of non-publicly available datasets. Where figure source data are provided, statements confirming this should be included in data availability statements. Depending on the data described in the manuscript, data availability statements commonly take one of the following forms, or can be a composite of the statements below:
- The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in the [NAME] repository, [PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS].
- The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
- All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article (and its Supplementary Information files).
- The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to [REASON(S) WHY DATA ARE NOT PUBLIC] but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
- No datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
- The data that support the findings of this study are available from [THIRD PARTY NAME] but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of [THIRD PARTY NAME].
For human sequence or genotype data that cannot be made publicly available for reasons of patient confidentiality, the Data Availability Statement should clearly indicate which datasets are restricted and what procedures should be followed to allow qualified researchers access to the data.
Communications Biology adheres to the Springer Nature Research Data Policy Type 3 for life sciences (details available here). A submission to the journal implies that materials described in the manuscript, including all relevant raw data, will be freely available to any researcher wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes, without breaching participant confidentiality.
The journal requires datasets to be made freely available to readers from the date of publication, and must be provided to editors and referees upon request, for the purposes of evaluating the manuscript. We strongly encourage authors to deposit their data in a public repository prior to manuscript submission.
Authors should ensure that their datasets are either deposited in publicly available repositories (where available and appropriate) or presented in the main manuscript or additional supporting files whenever possible.
For the following types of dataset, submission to a community-endorsed, public repository is mandatory. Accession numbers must be provided in the paper. Examples of appropriate public repositories are listed below. Additional data types may be subject to mandatory deposition at the discretion of the editor. For suitable repositories for each data type listed below, please refer to the Springer Nature data policies page or the Scientific Data list of recommended repositories.
Mandatory deposition is required for:
- Protein sequences
- DNA and RNA sequences and sequencing data
- Genetic polymorphisms
- Linked genotype and phenotype data
- Macromolecular structure
- Microarray data (must be MIAME compliant)
- Crystallographic data for small molecules
- Mass spectrometry-based proteomics data
For more information on mandatory data deposition policies at Nature Research, please visit http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/availability.html#data
Sharing biological materials
A condition of publication in Communications Biology is that authors make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to others without preconditions.
For materials such as mutant strains and cell lines, Communications Biology require authors to use established public repositories when one exists (for example, Jackson Laboratory, the European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA), the European Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Program (EUCOMM), the Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP), Addgene, RIKEN Bioresource Centre, the Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers, American Type Culture Collection (Americas), American Type Culture Collection (Asia/Europe), UK Stem Cell Bank), and provide accession numbers in the manuscript.
The distribution of human cell lines used in research should not be hindered by restrictions from donors. Researchers developing cell lines must investigate and disclose any restrictions associated with the human or other tissue they are using, particularly if someone else collected the samples, if the samples come from multiple clinical sources or if they come from several legal jurisdictions. If a scientist needs to create cell lines that might be used for as-yet-unforeseen purposes, only tissue with no restrictions should be used. Authors of papers that involve consent forms must, at the time of submitting the manuscript, make Communications Biology aware of any limits that result from those forms.
Every manuscript that contains flow cytometry experiments should identify in the methods section all antibody reagents by clone identifier, vendor and fluorochrome. Authors should identify the instrument and software used to collect and analyse experimental data. Axes labels for plots or graphs depicting flow cytometry data should state the marker (for example, CD4) and the axes scales (log or linear) should be clearly visible. Authors should provide numerical analysis for the number of cells analysed and the absolute numbers or percentages (with statistics stated in either the text, legend or in a supplementary table) of the relevant cell population(s) within post-sort fractions. Hints for good general practice in the description of flow cytometry experiments can be found in the MIFlowCyt Standards section of SourceForge.
For papers describing a new cell population or for which a given sorted cell population is critical to the main message imparted by the new work, authors should describe in a supplementary figure or two the full gating strategy used for the experiments described in the manuscript. A figure depicting the 'gates' used to identify sorted subsets is useful and should be provided to the referees on request. These data would include preliminary forward and side scatter gates of the starting cell population, indicating where boundaries between 'positive' and 'negative' staining cell populations are defined. For preliminary sorts that use 'cocktails' of antibodies to exclude certain cell populations, for example, lineage-minus (Lin-), the antibodies and fluorochromes that are contained in the 'cocktail' need to be specified for the 'dump' channel.
Availability of computer code and algorithm
Please see the Nature Research policy on custom code and algorithms here.
Authors must make available upon request, to editors and reviewers, any previously unreported custom computer code or algorithm used to generate results that are reported in the paper and central to its main claims. Any reason that would preclude the need for code or algorithm sharing will be evaluated by the editors who reserve the right to decline the paper if important code is unavailable.
At the editors discretion, Communications Biology authors may be asked to fill out a Code and Software submission checklist. Further detailed guidance and required documentation at submission and acceptance of the manuscript can be found here.
Upon publication, Communications Biology considers it best practice to release custom computer code in a way that allows readers to repeat the published results.
For all studies using custom code or mathematical algorithm that is deemed central to the conclusions, a statement must be included in the Methods section, under the heading "Code availability", indicating whether and how the code or algorithm can be accessed, including any restrictions to access. To ensure the version of custom code, software or algorithm described in the publication is maintained, we will publish it as Supplementary document or, when applicable, request authors to maintain it in an established software version control repository.
We also strongly encourage authors to deposit and manage their source code revisions in an established software version control repository, such as GitHub, and to use a DOI-minting repository to uniquely identify the code and provide details of its license of use. We strongly encourage the use of a license approved by the open source initiative. The license of use and any restrictions must be described in the Code Availability statement.
Digital image integrity and standards
High-resolution images are not required at initial submission. When a paper is accepted, the publishing team will request high-resolution files suitable for publication.
All digitized images submitted with the final revision of the manuscript should be 300 DPI if possible.
A certain degree of image processing is acceptable for publication (and for some experiments, fields and techniques is unavoidable), but the final image must correctly represent the original data and conform to community standards. The guidelines below will aid in accurate data presentation at the image processing level; authors must also take care to exercise prudence during data acquisition, where misrepresentation must equally be avoided. Manuscripts should include an 'equipment and settings' section with their methods that describes for each figure the pertinent instrument settings, acquisition conditions and processing changes, as described in this guide.
- Authors should list all image acquisition tools and image processing software packages used. Authors should document key image-gathering settings and processing manipulations in the methods.
- Images gathered at different times or from different locations should not be combined into a single image, unless it is stated that the resultant image is a product of time-averaged data or a time-lapse sequence. If juxtaposing images is essential, the borders should be clearly demarcated in the figure and described in the legend.
- The use of touch-up tools, such as cloning and healing tools in Photoshop, or any feature that deliberately obscures manipulations, is to be avoided.
- Processing (such as changing brightness and contrast) is appropriate only when it is applied equally across the entire image and is applied equally to controls. Contrast should not be adjusted so that data disappear. Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasize one region in the image at the expense of others (e.g. through the use of a biased choice of threshold settings), is inappropriate, as is emphasizing experimental data relative to the control.
When submitting revised final figures upon conditional acceptance, authors may be asked to submit original, unprocessed images.
Electrophoretic gels and blots
Positive and negative controls, as well as molecular size markers, should be included on each gel and blot—either in the main figure or an expanded data supplementary figure. For previously characterized antibodies, a citation must be provided. For antibodies less well characterized in the system under study, a detailed characterization that demonstrates not only the specificity of the antibody, but also the range of reactivity of the reagent in the assay, should be published as Supplementary Information.
The display of cropped gels and blots in the main paper is encouraged if it improves the clarity and conciseness of the presentation. In such cases, the cropping must be mentioned in the figure legend and the supplementary information should include full-length gels and blots wherever possible. These uncropped images should be labeled as in the main text and placed in a single supplementary figure. The manuscript's figure legends should state that 'full-length blots/gels are presented in Supplementary Figure X.'
- Quantitative comparisons between samples on different gels/blots are discouraged; if this is unavoidable, the figure legend must state that the samples derive from the same experiment and that gels/blots were processed in parallel. Vertically sliced images that juxtapose lanes that were non-adjacent in the gel must have a clear separation or a black line delineating the boundary between the gels. Loading controls must be run on the same blot.
- Cropped gels in the paper must retain important bands.
- Cropped blots in the body of the paper should retain at least six band widths above and below the band.
- High-contrast gels and blots are discouraged, as overexposure may mask additional bands. Authors should strive for exposures with gray backgrounds. Multiple exposures should be presented in Supplementary Information if high contrast is unavoidable. Immunoblots should be surrounded by a black line to indicate the borders of the blot, if the background is faint.
- For quantitative comparisons, appropriate reagents, controls and imaging methods with linear signal ranges should be used.
Authors should be prepared to supply the journal with original data on request, at the resolution collected, from which their images were generated. Cells from multiple fields should not be juxtaposed in a single field; instead multiple supporting fields of cells should be shown as Supplementary Information.
Adjustments should be applied to the entire image. Threshold manipulation, expansion or contraction of signal ranges and the altering of high signals should be avoided. If 'pseudo-colouring' and nonlinear adjustment (eg 'gamma changes') are used, this must be disclosed. Adjustments of individual colour channels are sometimes necessary on 'merged' images, but this should be noted in the figure legend.
We encourage inclusion of the following with the final revised version of the manuscript for publication:
- In the methods, specify the type of equipment (microscopes/objective lenses, cameras, detectors, filter model and batch number) and acquisition software used. Although we appreciate that there is some variation between instruments, equipment settings for critical measurements should also be listed.
- An 'equipment and settings' section within the methods should list for each image: acquisition information, including time and space resolution data (xyzt and pixel dimensions); image bit depth; experimental conditions such as temperature and imaging medium; and fluorochromes (excitation and emission wavelengths or ranges, filters, dichroic beamsplitters, if any).
- The display lookup table (LUT) and the quantitative map between the LUT and the bitmap should be provided, especially when rainbow pseudocolor is used. If the LUT is linear and covers the full range of the data, that should be stated.
- Processing software should be named and manipulations indicated (such as type of deconvolution, three-dimensional reconstructions, surface and volume rendering, 'gamma changes', filtering, thresholding and projection).
- Authors should state the measured resolution at which an image was acquired and any downstream processing or averaging that enhances the resolution of the image.
Policy on biosecurity
Our policies on biosecurity are identical to those of all Nature Research journals. Communications Biology editors may seek advice about submitted papers not only from technical reviewers but also on any aspect of a paper that raises concerns. These may include, for example, ethical issues or issues of data or materials access. Very occasionally, concerns may also relate to the implications to society of publishing a paper, including threats to security. In such circumstances, advice will usually be sought simultaneously with the technical peer-review process. As in all publishing decisions, the ultimate decision whether to publish is the responsibility of the editor.
The threat posed by bioweapons raises the unusual need to assess the balance of risk and benefit in publication. Editors are not necessarily well qualified to make such judgements unassisted, and so we reserve the right to take expert advice in cases where we believe that concerns may arise. We recognize the widespread view that openness in science helps to alert society to potential threats and to defend against them, and we anticipate that only very rarely (if at all) will the risks be perceived as outweighing the benefits of publishing a paper that has otherwise been deemed appropriate for the journal. Nevertheless, we think it appropriate to consider such risks and to have a formal policy for dealing with them if need arises.
Nature Research has established an editorial monitoring group to oversee the consideration of papers with biosecurity concerns. The monitoring group includes the Editor-in-Chief of Nature publications, the Head of Editorial Policy, Nature Research and the Nature Editorial Director and it is responsible for maintaining a network of advisors on biosecurity issues.
Once a decision has been reached, authors will be informed if biosecurity advice has informed that decision. Please see the joint statement by journal editors.
Refutations, complaints and corrections
Correction and retraction policy
We recognize our responsibility to correct errors that we have previously published. Our policy is to consider refutations (readers' criticisms) of primary research papers, and to publish them (in concise form) if and only if the author provides compelling evidence that a major claim of the original paper was incorrect. Refutations are peer-reviewed, and where possible they are sent to the same referees who reviewed the original paper. A copy is usually also sent to the corresponding author of the original paper for signed comments. Refutations are published in the Matters Arising section, sometimes with a brief response from the original authors. Some submitted refutations are eventually published as retractions by the paper's authors. In both cases, the published refutation or retraction is linked online to the original paper, and the published paper is linked online to the refutation or retraction.
Complaints, disagreements over interpretation and other matters arising should be addressed to the chief editor. Because debates over interpretation are often inconclusive, we do not automatically consider criticisms of review articles or other secondary material, and in the event that we decide to publish such a criticism we do not necessarily consult the original authors. Editorial decisions in such cases are based on considerations of reader interest, novelty of arguments, integrity of the publication record and fairness to the parties involved. Publication may take various forms at the discretion of the editor. Corrections are published for significant errors in non-peer-reviewed content of the journal at the discretion of the editors.
Communications Biology operates the following policy for making corrections to its peer-reviewed content.
Publishable amendments must be represented by a formal online notice because they affect the publication record and/or the scientific accuracy of published information. Where these amendments concern peer-reviewed material, they fall into one of three categories: publisher correction, author correction or retraction.
Notification of an important error made by the journal that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.
Notification of an important error made by the author(s) that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.
Notification of invalid results. All co-authors must sign a retraction specifying the error and stating briefly how the conclusions are affected, and submit it for publication. In cases where co-authors disagree, the in-house editors may seek advice from independent referees and impose the type of amendment that seems most appropriate, noting the dissenting author(s) in the text of the published version.
Decisions about types of correction are made by the journal's in-house editors, with the advice of the referees or Editorial Board Members. This process involves consultation with the authors of the paper, but the in-house editors make the final decision about whether an amendment is required and the category in which the amendment is published.
When an amendment is published, it is linked bi-directionally to and from the article being corrected.
Authors sometimes request a correction to their published contribution that does not affect the contribution in a significant way or impair the reader's understanding of the contribution (eg a spelling mistake or grammatical error). Communications Biology does not publish such corrections. The online article is part of the published record and hence its original published version is preserved. Communications Biology does, however, correct the online version of a contribution if the wording in the html version does not make sense when compared with the PDF version (eg 'see left' for a figure that is an appropriate phrase for the PDF but not for the html version). In these cases, the fact that a correction has been made is stated in a footnote so that readers are aware that the originally published text has been amended.
Detailed description of correction types
Publisher corrections concern the amendment of mistakes introduced by the journal in production, including errors of omission such as failure to make factual proof corrections requested by authors within the deadline provided by the journal and within journal policy. Publisher corrections are generally not published for simple, obvious typographical errors, but are published when an apparently simple error is significant (eg a greek mu for an ‘m' in a unit, or a typographical error in the corresponding author's name).
If there is an error in the lettering on a figure, the usual procedure is to publish a sentence of rectification. A significant error in the figure itself is corrected by publication of a new corrected figure as a publisher correction. The figure is republished only if the editor considers it necessary for a reader to understand it.
Author corrections are judged on their relevance to readers and their importance for the published record. Author corrections are published after discussion among the editors. All co-authors must sign an agreed wording.
Author corrections submitted by the original authors are published if the scientific accuracy or reproducibility of the original paper is compromised; occasionally, on investigation, these may be published as retractions. In cases where some co-authors decline to sign a corrigendum or retraction, we reserve the right to publish it with the dissenting author(s) identified.
Communications Biology publishes author corrections if there is an error in the published author list, but not for overlooked acknowledgements.
Readers wishing to draw the journal's attention to a significant published error should contact email@example.com.
Retractions are judged according to whether the main conclusion of the paper no longer holds or is seriously undermined as a result of subsequent information coming to light of which the authors were not aware at the time of publication. In the case of experimental papers, this can include further experiments by the authors or by others that do not confirm the main experimental conclusion of the original publication. Readers wishing to draw the editors' attention to published work requiring retraction should first contact the authors of the original paper and then write to the journal, including copies of the correspondence with the authors (whether or not the correspondence has been answered). The editors will seek advice from referees if they judge that the information is likely to draw into question the main conclusions of the published paper.
Authors' corrections to Supplementary Information (SI) are made only in exceptional circumstances (eg major errors that compromise the conclusion of the study). Published corrections to SI are usually linked to the author correction statement. Authors cannot update SI because new data have become available or interpretations have changed, as the SI is a peer-reviewed and integral part of the paper, and hence part of the published record.
SI cannot be amended between acceptance and publication unless a change made for technical reasons by the journal in order to publish the material on the website has introduced a significant error.
Material submitted to Communications Biology must be original and not published or submitted for publication elsewhere. This rule applies to material submitted elsewhere while the Communications Biology contribution is under consideration.
Authors submitting a contribution to Communications Biology who have related material under consideration or in press elsewhere should upload a clearly marked copy at the time of submission, and draw the editor’s attention to it in their cover letter. Authors must disclose any such information while their contributions are under consideration by Communications Biology—for example, if they submit a related manuscript elsewhere that was not written at the time of the original Communications Biology submission.
If part of a contribution that an author wishes to submit to Communications Biology has appeared or will appear elsewhere, the author must specify the details in the covering letter accompanying the submission. Consideration by Communications Biology is possible if the main result, conclusion, or implications are not apparent from the other work, or in some other unusual cases.
Communications Biology is happy to consider submissions containing material that has previously formed part of a PhD or other academic thesis which has been published according to the requirements of the institution awarding the qualification.
Communications Biology allows and encourages prior publication on recognized community preprint servers for review by other scientists in the field before formal submission to a journal. The details of the preprint server concerned and any accession numbers should be included in the cover letter accompanying submission of the manuscript to Communications Biology. This policy does not extend to preprints available to the media or that are otherwise publicized outside the scientific community before or during the submission and consideration process at Communications Biology (see the sections on embargo and confidentiality).
Communications Biology allows publication of meeting abstracts before the full contribution is submitted. Such abstracts should be included with the submission and referred to in the cover letter accompanying the manuscript. This policy does not extend to meeting abstracts and reports available to the media or which are otherwise publicized outside the scientific community during the submission and consideration process.
Communications Biology is happy to consider submissions containing material that has previously formed, and continues to form, part of an online scientific collaboration such as a wiki or blog, provided that the information has not been publicized outside the scientific community, and is not publicized until the publication date of the work in Communications Biology. In case of any doubt, authors should seek advice from the editor handling their contribution.
If an author of a submission is re-using a figure or figures published elsewhere, or that is copyrighted, the author must provide documentation that the previous publisher or copyright holder has given permission for the figure to be re-published. Communications Biology editors consider all material in good faith that the publication has full permission to publish every part of the submitted material, including illustrations.
Confidentiality, pre-publicity and preprints
Communications Biology keeps all details about a submitted manuscript confidential and does not comment to any outside organization about manuscripts that are either under consideration or that have been rejected.
After a manuscript is submitted, correspondence with Communications Biology, referees' reports and other confidential material, regardless of whether or not the submission is eventually published, must not be posted on any website or otherwise publicized without prior permission. The editors themselves are not allowed to discuss manuscripts with third parties or to reveal information about correspondence and other interactions with authors and referees.
Referees of manuscripts submitted to Communications Biology agree in advance to maintain confidentiality of manuscripts and any associated supplementary data.
Pre-publicity and preprints
Our policy on the posting of particular versions of the manuscript is as follows:
- You are welcome to post pre-submission versions or the original submitted version of the manuscript on a personal blog, a collaborative wiki or a preprint server at any time.
- Communications Biology articles are open access and can replace the original submitted version immediately, on publication, as long as a publication reference and URL to the published version on the Communications Biology website are provided.
Communications Biology authors must not discuss contributions with the media (including other scientific journals) except in the case of accepted contributions, which can be discussed with the media once an embargo date has been set.
Presentation and discussion of material submitted to Communications Biology at scientific meetings is encouraged, but authors must indicate that their work is subject to press embargo and decline to discuss it with members of the media. Authors are free to publish abstracts in conference proceedings and to distribute preprints of submitted or 'in press' papers to professional colleagues, but not to the media.
Contributions being prepared for or submitted to Communications Biology can be posted on recognized preprint servers (such as ArXiv and bioRxiv), and on collaborative websites such as wikis or the author's blog. The website and URL must be identified in the cover letter accompanying submission of the paper, and the content of the paper must not be advertised to the media by virtue of being on the website or preprint server. Material in a contribution submitted to Communications Biology may also have been published as part of a PhD or other academic thesis.
For further information on the Nature Research preprint policy, please see www.nature.com/authors/policies/preprints. Authors posting preprints are reminded to respect our policy on communications with the media (www.nature.com/authors/policies/embargo).
Authors of papers that contain taxonomy (ie the formal nomenclature and description of a newly discovered species) should be aware that it is possible for third parties to exploit the prior publication of nomenclature at any time between online posting of a preprint and the publication date in a journal, by publishing the name in print and asserting priority according to the rules of the Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Communications Biology takes no responsibility for such assertions of priority in the case of manuscripts it publishes if the content of those manuscripts has previously appeared in the public domain as online preprints or other form of online posting.
Plagiarism and fabrication
Plagiarism is when an author attempts to pass off someone else's work as his or her own. Duplicate publication, sometimes called self-plagiarism, occurs when an author re-uses substantial parts of his or her own published work without providing the appropriate references. This can range from getting an identical paper published in multiple journals, to 'salami-slicing', where authors add small amounts of new data to a previous paper.
Plagiarism can be said to have clearly occurred when large chunks of text have been cut-and-pasted. Such manuscripts would not be considered for publication in Communications Biology. However, minor plagiarism without dishonest intent is relatively frequent, for example, when an author re-uses parts of an introduction from an earlier paper. Communications Biology editors judge any case of which they become aware (either by their own knowledge of and reading about the literature, or when alerted by referees) on its own merits.
Nature Research is part of CrossCheck, an initiative to help editors verify the originality of submitted manuscripts. As part of this process, Communications Biology checks submitted manuscripts to be scanned and compared with the CrossCheck database.
If a case of plagiarism comes to light after a paper is published in Communications Biology, the publication will conduct a preliminary investigation. If plagiarism is found, the publication will contact the author's institute and funding agencies. A determination of misconduct will lead Communications Biology to run a statement, bi-directionally linked online to and from the original paper, to note the plagiarism and to provide a reference to the plagiarised material. The paper containing the plagiarism will also be obviously marked on each page of the PDF. Depending on the extent of the plagiarism, the paper may also be formally retracted.
Due credit for others' work
Discussion of unpublished work: Manuscripts are sent out for review on the condition that any unpublished data cited within are properly credited and the appropriate permission has been sought. Where licensed data are cited, authors must include at submission a written assurance that they are complying with originators' data-licensing agreements.
Referees are encouraged to be alert to the use of appropriated unpublished data from databases or from any other source, and to inform Communications Biology of any concern they may have.
Discussion of published work: When discussing the published work of others, authors must properly describe the contribution of the earlier work. Both intellectual contributions and technical developments must be acknowledged as such and appropriately cited.