Applied science and engineering research

Nature Communications acknowledges that when assessing application-oriented manuscripts, the level of novelty will likely be below that typically observed in more fundamental work. Instead, the advance comes from the performance or utility of the research. These cases require shifting the focus of evaluation to technology readiness and its potential to overcome existing real-world challenges, even when all the fundamentals involved are well reported in the academic literature.

Read more in the sections below

What to submit
Preparing your submission
Data and code sharing
Proprietary data
Confidentiality and transparent peer review
Competing interests
Reviewing applied potential, advance and practical impact

If your manuscript is ready to submit you can do so via our online submission system.

What to submit

Besides striving for conceptual insights and fundamental discussion that further our scientific understanding in all areas of knowledge, Nature Communications acknowledges the value of applied science and is also dedicated to publishing high-quality research that represents important technical and technological advances of significance to communities of researchers and professionals working in all fields of applied sciences and engineering.

The journal will consider articles reporting research that narrows the gap between academic knowledge and real-life applications, from proof-of-concept studies for innovative solutions and designs to large-scale technical demonstrations of capability. This includes, but is not limited to, fields such as biotechnology, materials science, energy, and civil, chemical, computational, electrical, electronic, environmental, industrial and mechanical engineering.

We consider all types of applied sciences and engineering research, including:

  • Experimental and proof-of-concept studies
  • Computational and simulation studies
  • Technology development and validation
  • Pilot- and full-scale demonstrations from planning to implementation
  • Full techno-economic, life cycle, and technology readiness assessments
  • Systematic performance optimisation, evaluation, and benchmarking
  • Development of low-cost and sustainable solutions for low-resource settings

Read more on Reviewing applied potential, advance and practical impact below.

Preparing your submission

Applied research submitted to Nature Communications should be sound and either transformative or consolidative, containing sufficient context, methodological details, data, and critical discussion to enable independent researchers to test and build upon the study.

Nature Communications expects submitted research to follow the recommendations from the relevant international organisations and professional societies for the registration and reporting of applied sciences and engineering research in their respective fields. While a comprehensive list of such standards is not practical, authors should adhere to FAIR principles and guidelines to ensure proper reporting of methods and results. More information can be found on Nature Portfolio’s guidance for reporting standards and availability of data, materials, code, and protocols and some field-specific in-house reporting guidelines and checklists can be found in resources.

In cases where clear, standardised, official guidelines for your field are lacking, ensure that figures-of-merit and results adhere to the common practices and metrics used across the existing literature. When proposing new metrics, please provide characterisations and results matching the more common metrics for comparison with the literature, and include a critical discussion of the advantages and limitations in adopting the new proposed metrics.

Furthermore, we expect some general best practices to be followed for effective dissemination of applied results:

  • Contextualise results by critically discussing current technological challenges, existing initiatives to address those, and what aspects they still lack. 
  • Provide clear comparison of the advantages and limitations of alternative approaches, preferably supported by systematic benchmarks. Relevant preceding literature should be appropriately cited and discussed.
  • Include an open discussion of the limitations of the presented methods and results, as this transparency fosters further development and innovation in the field.
  • Avoid exaggerated or primacy claims as these should be deducible from context and often distract readers from the research technical contributions.

Data and code sharing

In accordance with Nature Research policy, a Data Availability Statement must be included with all original research manuscripts. Additionally, whenever a computer code or software is central for the results or conclusions, a separate Code Availability Statement must also be added. Nature Communications is committed to transparency in data and code availability, and we request that authors provide clear statements summarising what resources are available, under what circumstances they can be accessed, and clearly stating any restrictions to access and use.

Proprietary data

We acknowledge that in applied sciences and engineering fields, proprietary data and financial interests may limit the disclosure of some details. We commit to seek a balance between sharing information and preserving the competitive edge of involved parties.

To guarantee methodology and results are scientifically and technically sound, during peer-review, any data deemed necessary to verify validity must be disclosed to handling editors and reviewers for verification.

Furthermore, authors using proprietary data must ensure some persistent venue of post-publication availability for replication and verification of the results, including the compliance of third-party data providers, if any. Studies using administrative data, including those held by governments, local authorities, and international organisations, must comply with local regulatory and legal frameworks governing data use. Any restriction or requirements for data availability must be explicitly specified in the Data Availability Statement. Any relevant competing interests must also be declared.

Read more information about our editorial policy on availability of data.

Confidentiality and transparent peer review

From November 2022, all research articles published in Nature Communications are accompanied by reviewer reports and respective authors' responses. In cases where proprietary or confidential data has been disclosed during peer-review, authors may request for these to be redacted from the peer-review file prior to publication. Based on reviewers' expert opinions and advice, editors will determine if specific data (e.g.: precise chemicals composition, manufacture operating parameters, or optimised conditions and performance) must be disclosed to support the conclusions of a work and if such information can be left out of the main manuscript. To protect sensitive information, our journal also adheres to strict confidentiality policies.

Competing interests

We understand that competing interests may arise in the course of applied research and that it is essential to acknowledge them openly. As long as authors fully disclose competing interests, manuscripts will be evaluated based on their perceived scientific and technical merit.

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. Sponsors, private companies, and any other funding source that may gain or lose financially through this publication must be acknowledged in this section too.

Reviewing applied potential, advance and practical impact

When assessing applied research, it is important to recognise the differences in focus and goals from fundamental science. Besides our editorial commitment in this aspect, we also rely on the collaboration of reviewers to assess applied work by its technological relevance and potential, rather than focusing solely on fundamental insight or novelty.

Finally, to ensure fairness and encourage the sharing of knowledge in the scientific community and independent investigations, we have a scoop protection policy in which we commit to disregard from our editorial assessment any competing works published while a submission is under review or revision by the authors. We also commit to not consider the presence of a recent publication reporting similar results as a sole reason for declining publication of the new work being evaluated, when it is clear that the two studies were carried out by independent research groups. In these cases, the decision of what constitutes a reasonable time-frame between publication of competing work and submission of a new study can be field-dependent and will be ultimately made by the editorial team.


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