Editorial process

Initial submission

Manuscripts should be submitted via the online submission system. The corresponding author should indicate whether the work described in the manuscript has been discussed with a specific Nature Communications editor before submission. Copies of any papers containing related work that are under consideration or in-press at other journals should be included with the submission as additional supplementary information.

Each new submission is assigned to a primary editor, who reads the paper, consults with the other editors, and then evaluates the novelty and potential impact of the work, the appropriateness for the journal's editorial scope, the conceptual or methodological advances described in the paper, and its potential interest to Nature Communications' readership. Manuscripts that meet these editorial criteria are sent out to external referees for further assessment.

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

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 Communications 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 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) give 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 Communications. More details are available on the manuscript transfer service.

Peer review

The corresponding author is notified by e-mail when the editor decides to send a paper for review. At the submission stage authors may indicate a limited number of scientists who should not review the paper. Excluded scientists must be identified by name. Authors may also suggest referees; these suggestions are often helpful, although they are not always followed. By policy, referees are not identified to the authors, except when they sign their reports to the authors. We support our reviewers signing their reports to authors if reviewers feel comfortable doing so. Referee reports, whether signed or not, are subsequently shared with the other reviewers.

Transparent peer review

Nature Communications uses a transparent peer review system, where for manuscripts submitted from January 2016 we are publishing the reviewer comments to the authors and author rebuttal letters of revised versions of our published research articles. Authors are provided the opportunity to opt out of 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. This 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, editorial decision letters, 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 referees have requested well-defined changes to the manuscript that do not appear to require extensive further experiments, editors may request a revised manuscript that addresses the referees' concerns. 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 (typically two months), and revisions that are returned within this period will retain their original submission date.

In cases where the referees' concerns are more wide-ranging, editors will normally reject the manuscript. If the editors feel 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 editors' 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 explaining how the manuscript has been changed, and a separate point-by-point response to referees' comments. A maximum of two resubmissions will be considered for each manuscript, following which a final decision on publication will be made.

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, possibly requiring some changes to the text, but no revisions to the data or conclusions. These letters are usually accompanied by detailed comments on the paper's format indicating editorial concerns that must be addressed in the revision. The final submission must comply with our format requirements, which are summarized in the Nature Communications manuscript checklist.

After acceptance, a copy editor may make changes to the manuscript so that the text and figures are readable and clear to those outside the field, and so that papers conform to our style. Nature Communications 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 and electronic files of the final figures at high resolution.

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

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

Appeals

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.