Editorial Process

Summary of the editorial process

  1. The author submits a manuscript and it receives a tracking number.
  2. An editor is assigned to the manuscript.
  3. The editorial team decides whether to send the manuscript out to review. If the decision is not to send the manuscript for review, the editor contacts the author with the decision.
  4. The editor assigns potential reviewers to the manuscript and the author is notified.
  5. Reviewers agree to review the manuscript.
  6. Reviewers submit their reports to the editor.
  7. The editorial team discusses the reports and the editor makes the final decision. This process may involve further consultation with the reviewers and editor-mediated communications between the reviewers.
  8. The editor contacts the author with the decision.
  9. If the decision is negative the author may be given the opportunity to transfer their manuscript to another journal. If the manuscript was peer reviewed, the referee comments are also transferred. Please see our Manuscript Transfer FAQ for more information about this service.

Presubmission inquiries

Researchers may request informal feedback from the editors on the journal's interest in a particular manuscript. A short 'presubmission inquiry' can be sent through the online submission system. Presubmission inquiries are not a prerequisite for the regular submission process, but are intended as a mechanism for authors to receive rapid feedback on whether a manuscript in preparation is within the scope and likely to be of interest to the journal. If authors have already written the manuscript, they are encouraged to submit it in its entirety via the online submission system.

Researchers should supply a brief paragraph stating the interest to a broad scientific readership, address and contact details, title, a fully referenced summary paragraph, and a list of the references cited in the summary paragraph. Additional material can be included as a separate file if needed. Editors will express interest in presubmission inquiries on the basis of the information provided by the authors. In cases where editors decline a full submission, authors are still free to submit through our online submission system so that editors have an opportunity to evaluate the paper in full. Papers invited after a presubmission inquiry may be rejected without review once the editors have had a chance to consider the paper in its entirety.

Initial submission

Papers should be submitted via the online submission system. Each new submission is assigned to a primary editor, who reads the paper, consults with the other editors and decides whether it should be sent for peer review. The author should identify whether the work described in the manuscript has been discussed with a specific Nature Human Behaviour editor before submission. The Nature Human Behaviour editors use the following criteria, along with a careful examination of the submitted work and related prior literature, to reach decisions on whether to send a paper out to review or not:

Scope (Broad / Narrow)

Is the research question important? (Of central importance to the discipline; to other disciplines, too; or of societal importance?) 

Does the reported work address the research question? (Yes / No)

Is the research preliminary or substantive? (Preliminary / Substantive)

Evaluation of Advance:                

  Conceptual Novelty  (High / Some / Limited)

  Methodological Novelty (High / Some / None)      

  Health-/Societal-/Policy-related Advance (High / Some / None)

  Advance in evidence (Yes / No)

Data (Hard-earned /  Standard / Easily available / n/a)

Preregistration (Yes / No)

Sample Size(s) (Large / Standard / Small / n/a)

Sampling method pre-specified? (Yes / No / n/a)

Are effects appropriately reported and interpreted? (Yes / No / n/a)

The conceptual or methodological novelty of a submitted paper is considered to be compromised if it has significant overlap with a published paper or one accepted for publication by Nature Human Behaviour. Preprint archives do not compromise novelty.

Nature Human Behaviour encourages the submission of high-value replication studies, as well as studies that may lack novelty but due to their scale and rigour provide a definitive answer to a key research question. Such studies provide scientific advances in evidence.

For clinical trials, registration in a recognized public trials registry at or before the time of first participant enrollment is mandatory as a condition of consideration for publication. For all other confirmatory research, we strongly encourage study preregistation with an analysis plan. We ask that authors indicate at the time of submission if any of the work reported in their manuscript was preregistered. If any of the reported studies was preregistered, authors must provide an active link to the preregistration in the Methods section and state the date of preregistration. Authors must disclose all deviations from the preregistered protocol and explain the rationale for deviation (e.g., flaw, feasibility, suboptimality, or as a result of the peer review process). In cases of deviation from the preregistered analysis plan for reasons other than fundamental flaw or feasibility, the originally planned analyses must be reported in Supplementary Information. Editors and reviewers examine adherence to the protocol and transparent disclosure of deviations. Manuscripts reporting preregistered research will not be accepted for publication until they meet these requirements. 

Like other journals in the Nature family, Nature Human Behaviour has no Editorial Board, but has an Advisory Panel. If a paper's importance within the field is unclear, an editor may request advice from an Advisory Panel member or other outside experts in deciding whether to review it.

If a paper was previously reviewed at another Nature journal, the authors can use an automated manuscript transfer service to transfer the referees' reports to Nature Human Behaviour via a link sent by the editor who handled the manuscript. In that case, the journal editors will take the previous reviews into account when making their decision, although in some cases the editors may choose to take advice from additional or alternative referees. Alternatively, authors may choose to request a fresh review, in which case they should not use the automated transfer link, and the editors will evaluate the paper without reference to the previous review process. However, this decision must be made at the time of initial submission and cannot be changed later. If the authors ask the editors to consider the previous reviews, they should include a note explaining the relationship between the submitted manuscript and the previous submission and (assuming it has been revised in light of the referees' criticisms) giving a point-by-point response to the referees. In cases where the work was felt to be of high quality, papers can sometimes be accepted without further review, but if there were serious criticisms, the editors will consider them in making the decision. In the event of publication, the received date is the date of submission to Nature Human Behaviour. Details of the manuscript transfer service are available here.

Peer review

The corresponding author is notified by e-mail when the editor decides to send a paper for review. Authors may suggest referees; these suggestions are often helpful, although they are not always followed. By policy, referees are not identified to the authors, except at the request of the referee. Authors will be able to request double-blind peer review, so that their names and affiliations are withheld from reviewers of their papers. Conceptually similar manuscripts are held to the same editorial standards as far as possible, and so they are often sent to the same referees. However, each of the co-submitted manuscripts must meet the criteria for publication without reference to the other paper. Thus if one paper is substantially less complete or convincing than the other, it may be rejected, even if the papers reach the same conclusion.

Transparent peer review

Nature Human Behaviour uses a transparent peer review system, where for manuscripts submitted from December 2019 we are publishing the reviewer comments to the authors and author rebuttal letters of revised versions of our published research articles, and editorial decision letters. Authors are provided the opportunity to opt in to this scheme at the completion of the peer review process, before the paper is accepted. If the manuscript was transferred to us from another Nature journal, we will not publish reviewer reports or author rebuttals of versions of the manuscript under consideration at the originating Nature journal. The peer review file is published online as a supplementary peer review file. Although we hope that the peer review files will provide a detailed and useful view into our peer review process, it is important to note that these files will not contain all the information considered in the editorial decision making process, such as the discussions between editors or any confidential comments made by reviewers or authors to the editors.

This scheme only applies to original research Articles, and not to Review articles or to other published content. For more information, please refer to our FAQ page.

Decision after review and revision

When making a decision after review, editors consider not only how good the paper is now, but also how good it might become after revision. In cases where the editor determines that the authors should be able to address the referees’ concerns in six months or less the editor may request a revised manuscript that addresses these concerns. The editor will often provide specific guidance to the author with regard to referee requests and those that must be addressed versus those that are at the author’s discretion or should be ignored, possibly as a result of further consultation between the editor and referees that is not captured in the peer review comments. The revised version is normally sent back to some or all of the original referees for re-review. The decision letter will specify a deadline, and revisions that are returned within this period will retain their original submission date.

In cases where the referees' concerns are very serious and appear unlikely to be addressed within six months, the editor will normally reject the manuscript. If the editor feels the work is of potential interest to the journal, however, they may express interest in seeing a future resubmission. The resubmitted manuscript may be sent back to the original referees or to new referees, at the editor’s discretion. In such cases, revised manuscripts will not retain their earlier submission date. In either case, the revised manuscript should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a point-by-point response to referees' comments and an explanation of how the manuscript has been changed. An invited revision should be submitted via the revision link to the online submission system provided in the decision letter, not as a new manuscript.

Final submission and acceptance

A request for final submission is sent when the paper is nearly ready to publish. These letters describe any remaining changes required by the editor and are accompanied by detailed comments on the paper's format from the copy editor. At this stage, authors may receive an extensively edited manuscript from the editor indicating editorial concerns that must be addressed in the revision. A priority of Nature Human Behaviour is that all papers be accessible to non-specialists. Manuscripts are subject to substantial editing to achieve this goal. After acceptance, a copy editor may make further changes so that the text and figures are readable and clear to those outside the field, and so that papers conform to our style. Nature Human Behaviour uses Oxford English spelling.

For the final revision, authors should use the revision link to the online submission system provided in the decision letter to upload a final version of the text with all the requested format changes. Electronic files of the final figures, at high resolution, should be uploaded or sent separately via ftp.

When all remaining editorial issues are resolved, the paper is formally accepted. The received date is the date on which the author submitted the original (or if previously rejected, the resubmitted) manuscript. The accepted date is when the editor sends the acceptance letter.

Authors are sent proofs and are welcome to discuss proposed changes with the editors, but Nature Human Behaviour reserves the right to make the final decision about matters of style and the size of figures.


Even in cases where editors did not invite resubmission, some authors ask the editors to reconsider a rejection decision. These are considered appeals, which, by policy, must take second place to the normal workload. Although we strive to provide a decision on an appeal within 14 days on some occasions it may take several weeks.

Decisions are reversed on appeal only if the editors are convinced that the original decision was made in error or critical new information or data has been added. If the manuscript was previously reviewed the editor may also discuss the appeal with one or more of the referees or even obtain advice from an additional referee. If the manuscript was not reviewed the editor may solicit informal opinions from one or more external experts.

Authors who wish to submit their manuscript elsewhere while it is under appeal at our journal must first withdraw their appeal.