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. Papers that are published independently while your manuscript is under review or under revision at Nature Communications are also not considered to compromise novelty, even in cases where there is conceptual overlap.
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.
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.
Nature Research encourage preprint deposition of the originally submitted version of manuscripts.
Wishing to facilitate greater adoption of preprints across the multidisciplinary scope of our journal, from June 2020, our authors have the option to take advantage of In Review, a free preprint posting service integrated with the submission process to our journal. The preprint of the author’s original submission will be posted (with a permanent DOI, under a CC-BY licence) on the multidisciplinary platform hosted by our partner Research Square at the same time as the submission is being considered by our editorial team. More information about In Review for Nature Research journals can be found here. For authors who opt-in, the posting will happen when our editors decide whether to send the manuscript for external review. If the manuscript is sent to reviewers, the preprint on Research Square will be displayed as being ‘under review at Nature Research’ for as long as the manuscript is under consideration.
We continue to encourage preprint deposition on any community-recognised preprint server; it is solely the author’s choice to decide if and where they are going to post their results before the conclusion of the peer review process.
Between September 2017 and June 2020, Nature Communications offered authors the option to list the preprints of papers hosted on any community-recognised platform and undergoing peer review at our journal, on our dedicated Under Consideration web page. The initiative aimed at increasing the transparency of the peer review process and supporting the early sharing of research results. The link from our page to the preprint was available for the length of the peer review process, and removed once a final decision was made (see here for more details). Over the course of the initiative, 59% of authors who opted in ended up depositing a preprint of their work in order to share a link on our Under Consideration page. The overall uptake has grown from 3% in 2017, to 7% in 2019, and has varied significantly by discipline, with 22% of participating papers in the physical sciences, and 78% in the life and biological sciences.
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. 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, 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.
In recognition of the time and expertise our reviewers provide to Nature Communications’ editorial process, as of November, 2018, we formally acknowledge their contribution to the external peer review of articles published in the journal. All peer-reviewed content will carry an anonymous statement of peer reviewer acknowledgement, and for those reviewers who give their consent, we will publish their names alongside the published article. We will continue to publish peer reviewer reports where authors opt in to our separate transparent peer review scheme. In cases where authors opt in to publication of peer reviewer comments and reviewers opt in to being named, we will not link a reviewer’s name to their report unless they choose to sign their comments to the author with their name. For more information, please refer to our FAQ page.
If the reviewers wish to be named their names will appear in alphabetical order at the end of the paper in a statement as below:
- Nature Communications thanks [Name], [Name] and [Name] for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Any reviewers that wish to remain anonymous will be acknowledged using a slightly modified statement:
- Nature Communications thanks [Name], [Name] and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
If no reviewers agree to be named, we will still acknowledge their valuable service using the statement below:
- Nature Communications thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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.
In cases where editors did not invite a 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 negative decision. These are considered appeals, which are processed with lower priority than new submissions.
Decisions can be reversed on appeal only if the authors provide convincing evidence that the original decision was based on a factual error or was taken as a result of biased reviewer’s comments. 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.