This page summarizes information for authors and anyone who is considering submitting a manuscript to PLOS ONE. We’ve answered below some of the most common questions from our authors and potential authors. You will find answers to other frequently asked questions in our regular Ask everyONE posts, as well as, on our Most Common Questions page. Please also refer to the Guidelines for Authors, Figure and Table Guidelines, Editorial and Publishing Policies and Submission Checklist pages on the PLOS ONE website.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our US-based Publications Assistants by emailing plosone [at] plos.org.
What is PLOS ONE?
PLOS ONE is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal for research within all scientific disciplines, which has the scholarly journal publishing values at its heart but reflects improvements offered by the online publishing age.
Who runs PLOS ONE?
PLOS ONE is run as a partnership between its in-house PLOS staff and international Editorial Board.
Most of the journal staff is based in our San Francisco office, with our Production, Marketing, and IT departments and half of the Editorial staff operating from there. The other half of our Editorial team is based in the UK.
Our Editorial Board consists of over 3,000 academics from a wide range of countries, whose research expertise covers a broad array of subject areas.
Which types of research does PLOS ONE publish?
PLOS ONE has been designed specifically for the publication of primary research from all disciplines within science and medicine. As such, it is not suitable for the presentation of literature reviews, essays, opinion pieces or other items of secondary literature (unless invited for a specific purpose by PLOS staff). We can publish systematic reviews and meta-analyses as long as they apply the utmost rigour in the comprehensive and unbiased sampling of existing literature and must describe the methods used for the selection, inclusion and exclusion of data.
Do I need to submit a presubmission inquiry?
PLOS ONE does not consider presubmission inquiries. These inquiries essentially request that the editors of a journal assess whether the paper is of potential interest to that journal by virtue of its subject area, novelty, or anticipated impact. PLOS ONE’s editorial criteria focus instead on more objective factors such as whether the study is technically rigorous and in order to judge whether a study has been sufficiently well performed and well documented, our Academic Editors would need to see the full paper.
How do I submit a manuscript to PLOS ONE?
First, please read our Author Guidelines and Submission Checklist to find out more about our submission requirements and for help formatting your manuscript. Then, once you are ready to submit, please visit our online manuscript submission and peer review system.
Could you tell me more about the review process of PLOS ONE?
We consider peer review to be the foundation of good scholarly publishing—you need to know that you can trust what you are reading. Our Editorial Board of academics run our peer review process. Here’s a short summary of how the process works; you can read up in more detail here:
- When a paper is submitted, our editorial staff first make sure it meets our criteria in a ‘Technical Check” referred to as “Tech Check.” This often involves us working with the authors to get additional information from them.
- If the paper passes our Tech Check, it goes to a member of the PLOS ONE Editorial Board who, as the Academic Editor, manages the peer review process for the submission (some manuscripts are assigned first to a Section Editor, who finds the most appropriate board member to handle the paper). If the Academic Editor’s expertise in the topics covered by the paper is sufficiently high to make a decision without external review, then they do so. This only happens with about 10% of papers.
- Otherwise, the Academic Editor seeks input from external peer reviewers who have more experience in that particular field. This happens in about 90% of cases. On average, all papers are reviewed by 2.8 experts in the field.
- Peer review comments are sent back to the Academic Editor, who evaluates them before making their decision on the submission and returning a decision (with the reviews) to the authors.
- Papers are then typically revised, resubmitted and reevaluated, before receiving a final decision on acceptance.
How can I make sure my manuscript clears the Tech Check more quickly?
The most common reasons that a manuscript ‘fails’ Tech Check are detailed in our Submission Checklist. If you follow this list then you will maximize the change of passing rapidly through Tech Check and into peer review. In addition, this blog post summarizes some of the most common reasons why we need to send manuscripts back to their authors for more information.
How long will the review process take?
On average, it takes about a month from manuscript submission to an initial decision. However, this can vary quite considerably as this time includes the initial Tech Check, the assignment of an Academic Editor and the peer review process and we cannot make any guarantees as to how long the process will take for a specific manuscript. If you would like to check on the status of your manuscript during the review process, you can do so by logging on to the manuscript submission system or by contacting plosone [at] plos.org (quoting your manuscript tracking number). This blog post gives a breakdown of the typical timings for each stage.
What happens after my paper has been accepted?
After your manuscript has been editorially accepted, it will be checked by the PLOS ONE production team to ensure that all of our format requirements have been met. You will be sent a list of any necessary corrections and will also have the opportunity to correct any typos or other errors in your paper. Your manuscript will not be subject to detailed copy-editing and there is no author proofing stage in the production process so it is very important that you check through all of your files and data to make sure you are fully satisfied with everything before you submit the final version of your manuscript.
Your manuscript will then be tagged and laid out to produce the PDF and XML versions. However, the text you have provided will be faithfully represented in the published article exactly as you have supplied it and your figures will not be edited in any way prior to publication. About three weeks after your paper has been formally accepted by our production staff, it will be published online. We will contact you one to two weeks in advance to confirm the publication date, embargo time and the URL at which your paper will be available.
What labels should I use when I am uploading my files for my production task?
When you are submitting a figure file to Editorial Manager there are few basic guidelines you should follow. Under Item, choose the item label “Figure”. In the Description enter “Figure” followed by the figure number, i.e. Figure 1, Figure 2 and so on. In order to lessen any confusion later it is also recommended that you name your figure in the File Name field with a name that’s easily recognizable. We recommend something similar to “Figure 1.tif,” “Figure 2.eps”.
If you are uploading a revised or updated figure file later during the production process you’ll be uploading that figure file in Editorial Manager’s File Inventory under the Upload Companion File selection. When you upload your new figure file you’ll need to use the “PM – Revised Figure” selection under the Item Label selection dropdown menu. In the Description field continue to name your files “Figure 1,” “Figure 2,” and so on. Again, in order to avoid any confusion, it is advisable to keep naming your figure files “Figure 1.tif,” Figure 2.eps” in the File Names listing.
What about the publication fee?
Three questions that people often ask us are:
- How much does it cost to publish in PLOS ONE?
- What if someone can’t afford the publication fee?
- What’s the PLOS business model?
- If your paper meets our various editorial criteria and is accepted for publication, the fee to publish your work in PLOS ONE is $1,350.
- We believe that your ability to pay should not influence your ability to be published and so we offer a waiver to anyone who can’t afford the fee (because you work in a developing nation, say). Knowledge of this is never shared with editors and reviewers to ensure that editorial decisions are never influenced by ability to pay. In reality, the vast majority of people pay the full fee as they appreciate that we have genuine costs, that we are a not-for-profit organization with a mission to make research publicly available, and that they are receiving a service which represents great value for money.
- PLOS is a non-profit organization and initially received funding (the equivalent of start up capital in a .com) from philanthropic sources. As our titles mature and our brand recognition grows, we are working towards becoming self-sufficient mainly through publication fees and we also have diversified revenue streams including advertising, sponsorship, membership programs and a reprint service. The main revenue source, however, is from our publication fees.
Indexing and Impact Factor
We are often asked whether PLOS ONE has an impact factor. Thomson Reuters is currently indexing PLOS ONE in the Web of Science (the service that a journal needs to be indexed by to acquire an impact factor) and was awarded an Impact Factor in June 2010. PLOS ONE is also indexed in MedLine, Scopus, Pubmed, PubMedCentral, Google, Google Scholar, the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), RefAware, GeoRef, EMBASE, AGRICOLA, Zoological Records, and is searchable via ISI’s Web of Knowledge.
We believe that articles in all journals should be assessed on their own merits rather than on the basis of the journal’s impact factor, which estimates the average number of citations to the articles in the journal and is not a good indicator of ‘impact’ for any individual article. Given the breadth of content in PLOS ONE, and given that the peer review process in PLOS ONE does not require subjective judgments to be made about potential importance of each article, an impact factor for PLOS ONE would be even more meaningless, and it would entirely fail to capture the tremendous diversity of science that we are publishing.
In March 2009, we started a program to provide “article-level metrics” on every article in all of our titles. Then, in September 2009, we enhanced the program to also include usage data. Article-level metrics place relevant data on each article to help users determine the value of that article to them and to the scientific community in general. Importantly, they provide additional and regularly updated context to the article, which currently includes data on citations, online usage, social bookmarks, comments, notes, blog posts about the article, and ratings of the article.