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 is 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 enquiries

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 Microbiology editor before submission. Many papers describing solid studies of interest to those in the field are nonetheless judged to be unlikely to compete successfully with the best work submitted to the journal. Like other journals in the Nature family, Nature Microbiology has no external editorial board. However, if a paper's importance within the field is unclear, an editor may request advice from outside experts in deciding whether to review it. 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 Microbiology. 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 Microbiology 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 Microbiology. 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.

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 a few weeks), 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 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, possibly requiring some text changes but no revisions to the data or conclusions. These letters 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 Microbiology 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 Microbiology uses Oxford English spelling.

For the final revision, authors should use the revision link to the online submission system (http://mts-nmicrobiol.nature.com/) 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 editors received 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 Microbiology reserves the right to make the final decision about matters of style and the size of figures.

Appeals

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. In practice, this means that decisions on appeals often take several weeks.

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. Thus, after careful consideration of the authors' points, most appeals are rejected by the editors.

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.