PLOS Biology Guidelines for Authors


  1. About PLOS Biology
  2. Criteria for Publication
  3. Presubmission Inquiries
  4. Overview of the Editorial Process
    1. Appeals of Decisions
  5. Preparation of Research Manuscripts
    1. Article File
    2. Nomenclature
    3. Data Reporting Guidelines
    4. Accession Numbers
    5. Figures
    6. Multimedia Files and Supporting Information
    7. Striking Images
  6. Submission of Research Manuscripts
  7. Other Article Types
  8. Outline of the Production Process
  9. Reader Responses and Notes, Comments and Ratings

1. About PLOS Biology

PLOS Biology is an open-access* journal published by the PLOS. The journal features works of exceptional significance, originality, and relevance in all areas of biological science, from molecules to ecosystems, including works at the interface of other disciplines, such as chemistry, medicine, and mathematics. Our audience is the international scientific community as well as educators, policy makers, patient advocacy groups, and interested members of the public around the world.

* Open access means that every paper is freely available for everyone to read, download, copy, distribute and use.

2. Criteria for Publication

PLOS Biology is highly selective in the manuscripts that it publishes; rejection rates are high. To be considered for publication in PLOS Biology, any given manuscript must be exceptional in the following ways:

  • Originality
  • Importance to researchers in its field
  • Interest to scientists outside the field
  • Rigorous methodology and substantial evidence for its conclusions

3. Presubmission Inquiries

We strongly encourage authors to submit a presubmission inquiry before making a full submission. The purpose of a presubmission inquiry is to solicit rapid feedback from the staff editors about the potential suitability of a manuscript for the journal.

Please see this PLOS Biologue article by former Chief Editor Theo Bloom for further guidelines.

Presubmission inquiries will be assessed for suitability in the context of the publishing mission of PLOS Biology: to publish exceptional research across all areas of the life sciences, with a particular emphasis on those areas for which unrestricted access is especially important to the research community or to the general public. Suitable papers will include substantial new conceptual or mechanistic insight, which significantly advance one or more particular fields, or will represent an application that is of fundamental importance to a field. If you wish to submit a presubmission inquiry, please log into the PLOS Biology online submission system and select "Submit New Manuscript" from your homepage, and then choose the "Presubmission Inquiry" article type.

Please note that a positive response from a staff editor is not a commitment to peer-review the article formally, but it is an expression of interest on the basis of the information you provide in the presubmission inquiry. The specific information we require is listed below. It is therefore in your interest to outline the importance of your claims, with reference to related work, and to describe the evidence you present in support of your conclusions as objectively as possible. Providing relevant information will save you time and help to ensure that the editors give you a response that is appropriate to the content of your article. Please also ensure that you check the remit of other PLOS journals before submitting to PLOS Biology.

To be of most use to authors and editors, presubmission inquiries should consist of the following:

A) A COVER LETTER of approximately 600 words that provides brief answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the scientific question you are addressing?
  2. What is the key finding that answers this question?
  3. What is the nature of the evidence you provide in support of your conclusion?
  4. What are the three most recently published papers that are relevant to this question?
  5. What significance do your results have for the field?
  6. What significance do your results have for the broader community (of biologists and/or the public)?
  7. What other novel findings do you present?
  8. Is there additional information that we should take into account?

You may also include in the cover letter requests to exclude specific scientists from the evaluation process. Please provide a reason for doing so. Please also read our policy about competing interests before submitting your inquiry.

B) A REFERENCED ABSTRACT of approximately 300 words. For the purpose of the presubmission inquiry submission form, the referenced abstract will be your "article file" and should include up to 10 key references that put your work into context. Please do not submit your entire manuscript. The abstract should be structured as follows:

This section should describe clearly the rationale for the study being done and the previous work relevant to the study. It should end with a statement of the specific question or hypothesis being addressed.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Mention the techniques used without going into extensive methodological detail, and outline the most important results. Include sample sizes for key experiments as appropriate. Please also outline any limitations of the study that may have a bearing on the results.

Provide the take-home message of your article as clearly as possible. You may also include a brief, more general interpretation of the results and / or specific recommendations for future research. Please note, however, that the editors will pay most attention to the direct conclusions of the work being presented, rather than some possible future avenues being opened.

C) YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION. Even though the form allows you to enter information for all authors who contributed to the manuscript, you need only enter information for the corresponding author.

If you have any questions or require assistance with the presubmission inquiry process, please e-mail plosbiology[at]

Authors who receive an invitation to submit their full manuscripts will then enter the regular editorial process.

4. Overview of the Editorial Process

Our aim is to provide all authors with an efficient, courteous, and constructive editorial process. To ensure the fairest and most objective decision-making, the editorial process is run as a partnership between the PLOS Biology professional editors and the Editorial Board, which is comprised of leaders in all fields of biology.

The ultimate responsibility for the PLOS Biology content and editorial decision-making lies with the team of professional editors.

On checking the status of a manuscript in our submission system, one of several status descriptions will appear. These correspond to the steps in the editorial process as follows:

1) Status descriptions With Editor or Editor Invited

Submitted manuscripts will be assigned to one of the professional editors, who will, in consultation with colleagues as appropriate, aim to make an initial evaluation of the paper within a maximum of 7 working days. If the editors feel the manuscript has the potential to fit within the scope of our journal , they will seek advice from an external Academic Editor, who is usually a member of the Editorial Board, and decide if the work is likely to meet the requirement of providing a major advance in its field and describing a sufficient body of work to support the main claims. Since Academic Editors are busy working scientists, and from time to time the opinion of experts not on the Board has to be sought, there is a possibility of some delay at this stage; however, we do try to avoid this where we can and ensure that appropriate expert advice is secured as promptly as possible.

Academic Editors retain anonymity unless a paper is accepted for publication. The name of the Academic Editor is noted on each published paper.

2) Under Review

If the Academic Editor and professional editors agree that the paper meets the standards to justify review at PLOS Biology, it will be sent out for more detailed peer review. Should your paper be sent for review, you will be informed of this by email.

Expert reviewers will be asked to assess the technical and scientific merits of the work. We ask that review comments be returned within 10 days; however, this is not always possible for all reviewers, and in the interests of securing the best expert advice we do grant extensions where necessary. However, we also actively chase review comments when overdue to ensure that this requirement is balanced with that of fairness to authors.

3) Required Reviews Complete

Once all reviews of a manuscript have been received, the manuscript returns to the professional editors, who evaluate and consider the reviews. In some cases they may consult the Academic Editor for their opinion on the reviews prior to drafting a decision; in all cases, expert input from the Academic Editor is then sought on the drafted decision letter before finalizing it and sending it to the authors. Although we endeavor to make all decisions promptly, there may be some to-and-fro between editors, and it may be necessary to clarify issues with reviewers, before a final decision is made.

4) Status is Accept, Reject or Revise

This status description appears where a decision on the manuscript has been finalized and sent. If you see this status description on your manuscript but have not received a decision, please email plosbiology [at]

There are several types of decisions possible: accept the paper as submitted; accept it with revision; invite the authors to revise the manuscript prior to the final decision; reject the manuscript, but with encouragement to resubmit it after extensive revision; or reject the manuscript outright, typically because it does not meet the criteria outlined above of originality, importance to the field, cross-disciplinary interest, or sound methodology. If the decision is to allow resubmission, the author will be advised in the decision letter whether the paper is likely to require further peer review at that time. The revised manuscript in all cases will be assessed by a professional editor and Academic Editor. Sometimes, re-review will be required, but in general we aim to make decisions without involving multiple rounds of review.

Upon acceptance, the manuscript enters our production system. Articles are typically published online within 6 weeks of formal acceptance, and usually before they are assembled into a complete monthly issue.

Appeals of Decisions

If you wish to appeal a decision, you should contact the professional editor who handled the presubmission inquiry or full manuscript, explaining in detail your reasons for the appeal. A Publications Assistant/Publications Manager will acknowledge receipt of your email and ask you, if you've not already done so, to provide a formal appeal letter for the editorial team to consider. Appeals will only be considered when a reviewer or editor is thought to have made a significant factual error or when his/her objectivity is compromised by a documented competing interest, and when a reversal based on either of these grounds would change the original decision.

All appeals will be discussed with at least one other professional editor; if those editors do not agree the appeal will be discussed at a full editorial meeting. Priority is given to new submissions to the journal, and the processing of appeals will usually take longer than the original submission. We hope, however, that this will not take longer than two weeks. While under appeal, a manuscript remains under formal consideration at PLOS Biology and hence should not be submitted for consideration elsewhere. We may or may not seek external advice on appeals, and we do not consider second appeals.

If you ever need to email files to the journal office, our system has a 10MB attachment limit, meaning that we will not receive any emails larger than this size. If your files are larger than 10MB, please either send them one email at a time, or look into reducing the size of the file/s. If you are having problems sending us large files, please contact the journal office for details of how we can help you transfer your files.

5. Preparation of Research Manuscripts

PLOS Biology publishes original research articles of outstanding scientific significance. We will consider manuscripts of any length; we encourage the submission of both substantial full-length bodies of work and shorter manuscripts that report novel findings that might be based on a more limited range of experiments. The key criteria are that the work clearly demonstrates its novelty, its importance to a particular field as well as its interest to those outside that discipline, and conclusions that are justified by the study.

The writing style should be concise and accessible. Editors will make suggestions for how to achieve this, as well as suggestions for cuts or additions that could be made to the article to strengthen the argument. Our aim is to make the editorial process rigorous and consistent, but not intrusive or overbearing. Authors are encouraged to use their own voice and to decide how best to present their ideas, results, and conclusions.

Although we encourage submissions from around the globe, we require that manuscripts be submitted in English. As a step towards overcoming language barriers, we encourage authors fluent in other languages to provide copies of their full articles or abstracts in other languages. Translations should be submitted as supporting information and listed, together with other supporting information files, at the end of the article text.

Please note that when submitting a manuscript, all authors are asked to indicate that they do not have a related or duplicate manuscript under consideration (or accepted) for publication elsewhere. If related work has been or will be submitted elsewhere or is in press elsewhere, then a copy must be uploaded with the article submitted to PLOS. Reviewers will be asked to comment on the overlap between related submissions.

Article File

Research articles can be submitted for review in DOC, DOCX, RTF, or PDF. Any articles that have been prepared in LaTeX will be accepted for review, but only in PDF format. After acceptance, only text files (DOC, DOCX, RTF, or TEX) of the revised manuscript can be accepted for use in the production process. Please see our LaTeX guidelines for further information on LaTeX file requirements at acceptance.

Microsoft Word Submissions with Equations

If your manuscript is or will be in Microsoft Word and contains equations, you must follow the instructions below to make sure that your equations are editable when the file enters production.

  1. Format display equations only in MathType (
  2. Do not use Equations tools or Symbol font for any equation formatting. If your inline equations require special formatting, use MathType.
  3. Do not use Graphic Objects.

If you have already composed your article in Microsoft Word and used its built-in equation editing tool, your equations will become unusable during the typesetting process. To resolve this problem, re-key your equations using MathType.

If you do not follow these instructions, PLOS will not be able to accept your file.

Organization of the Manuscript

Most articles published in PLOS Biology will be organized into the following sections: Title, authors, affiliations, abstract, introduction, results, discussion, materials and methods, acknowledgments, references, figure legends, supporting information captions and tables. PLOS articles do not support text footnotes. If your accepted submission contains footnotes, you will be asked to move that material into either the main text or the reference list, depending on the content. Uniformity in format will facilitate the experience of readers and users of the journal. Page numbers are required for all sections (figures exempted). There are no specific length restrictions for the overall manuscript or individual sections. However, we urge authors to present and discuss their findings concisely. We recognize that some works will not be best presented in our research article format. If you have a manuscript that would benefit from a different format, please contact the editors to discuss this further.

Our submission system can support a large range of formats for text and graphics, but if you experience difficulties with the site or are concerned about the suitability of your files, please contact the editorial department plosbiology [at]

Please submit your manuscript with double spacing (a blank line under each line of text) for the convenience of the editors and any reviewers.

Title (150 characters, including spaces)

The title should be specific to the project yet concise. It should be comprehensible to readers outside your field. Avoid specialist abbreviations, if possible. Titles should be presented in title case, meaning that all words except for prepositions, articles, and conjunctions should be capitalized.

Detection of Specific Sequences among DNA Fragments Separated by Gel Electrophoresis.

Please also provide a brief "running head" of approximately 50 characters. If your article is published, this will appear as a heading on each page of the paper.

Authors and Affiliations

PLOS journals follow the COPE guidelines covering changes in authorship. Please note that if any changes to the list of authors of a manuscript are necessary after the initial submission of a manuscript to a PLOS journal but before its publication, the corresponding author must first contact the journal staff and provide a clear reason for the change(s). If the change to the authorship list is appropriate and in keeping with the guidelines above, the corresponding author will be asked to provide written confirmation that all other authors listed on the manuscript at that time consent to the change(s). Any individuals who the corresponding author requests to add or remove from the list of authors will be contacted.

Provide the first names or initials (if used), middle names or initials (if used), surnames, and affiliations — department, university or organization, city, state/province (if applicable), and country — for all authors. The information entered into our online system must be correct, as it will be published for accepted papers. If you require assistance in correcting author affiliations, etc. please contact our editorial team at plosbiology [at]

One author should be designated as the corresponding author. It is the corresponding author's responsibility to ensure that the author list, and the summary of the author contributions to the study are accurate and complete. If the article has been submitted on behalf of a consortium, all consortium members and affiliations should be listed after the Acknowledgments.


The abstract succinctly introduces the paper. It should mention the techniques used without going into methodological detail and mention the most important results. The abstract is conceptually divided into the following three sections: Background, Methodology/Principal Findings, and Conclusions/Significance. However, the abstract should be written as a single paragraph without these headers. Please do not include any citations in the abstract. Avoid specialist abbreviations. Please note that the Abstract and Author Summary are not required for article types other than research articles; see our guidelines for other article types.

Author Summary

We ask that authors submitting revised manuscripts include a 150-200 word non-technical summary of the work as a separate file, uploaded as a Related Manuscript File, with the title "Author Summary". Subject to editorial review, this short text is published with all research articles as a highlighted text box. The Author Summary is not needed for article types other than research articles, primers, and select front matter articles.

Distinct from the scientific abstract, the author summary is included in the article to make findings accessible to an audience of both scientists and non-scientists. Ideally aimed to a level of understanding of an undergraduate student, the significance of the work should be presented simply, objectively, and without exaggeration.

Authors should avoid the use of acronyms and complex scientific terms and write the text using a first person voice. Authors may benefit from consulting with a science writer or press officer to ensure they effectively communicate their findings to a general audience. We encourage you to look at two examples of summaries currently online in PLOS Biology. These examples should help you determine the level we are aiming for:


In addition to the Author Summary, we require a brief statement ("blurb") about the work. The blurbs will be included in our weekly and monthly Electronic Table of Contents, sent out to users signed up to receive alerts from PLOS Biology. The blurb should be about 20 to 30 words long and is subject to editorial changes. It should, without exaggeration, entice people to read your manuscript. It should not be redundant with the title and should not contain acronyms or abbreviations. The following examples should help you determine the style we are looking for:

  • During embryonic development of the motor system of Drosophila, motorneurons target their dendrites to different regions along the body axis in response to midline guidance cues.
  • A neuroimaging study reveals novel insights into how the brain responds to an anticipated event, such as a starting gun or responding to a green light.
  • Computational modeling and experimentation in a model system for actin-based force generation explain how actin networks initiate and maintain directional movement.

For further examples, please view the blurbs accompanying the articles on the homepage of PLOS Biology.

Please submit your Blurb as a sentence or two, at the bottom of the document containing your Author Summary, under the heading "Blurb."


The introduction should put the focus of the manuscript into a broader context. As you compose the introduction, think of readers who are not experts in this field. Include a brief review of the key literature. If there are relevant controversies or disagreements in the field, they should be mentioned so that a non-expert reader can delve into these issues further. The introduction should conclude with a brief statement of the overall aim of the experiments and a comment about whether that aim was achieved.


The results section should provide details of all of the experiments that are required to support the conclusions of the paper, including information on the number of replicates (if relevant to ensure replicability). There is no specific word limit for this section, but details of experiments that are peripheral to the main thrust of the article and that detract from the focus of the article should not be included. The section may be divided into subsections, each with a concise subheading. Large datasets, including raw data, should be submitted as supplemental files; these are published online alongside the accepted article. The results section should be written in past tense.


The discussion should spell out the major conclusions and interpretations of the work including some explanation on the significance of these conclusions. How do the conclusions affect the existing assumptions and models in the field? How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done? The discussion should be concise and tightly argued. If warranted, the results and discussion may be combined into one section.

Materials and Methods

This section should provide enough detail for reproduction of the findings. Protocols for new methods should be included, but well-established protocols may simply be referenced. We encourage authors to submit, as separate files, detailed protocols for newer or less well-established methods. These will be published online linked to the article and will be fully searchable.


People who contributed to the work, but do not fit the criteria for authors should be listed in the Acknowledgments, along with their contributions. You must also ensure that anyone named in the acknowledgments agrees to being so named. The Acknowledgments section is reserved for statements of gratitude or thanks. Details of the funding sources that have supported the work should be confined to the funding statement. Do not include them in the Acknowledgments.


Only published or accepted manuscripts should be included in the reference list. Papers that have been submitted but not yet accepted should not be cited. All “personal communications” citations should be supported by a letter from the relevant authors.

Style information:

  • PLOS uses the numbered citation (citation-sequence) method and first five authors, et al.
  • References are listed and numbered in the order that they appear in the text.
  • In the text, citations should be indicated by the reference number in brackets.
  • The parts of the manuscript should be in the correct order before ordering the citations: body, boxes, figure captions, tables, and supporting information captions.
  • Abstracts and author summaries may not contain citations.
  • Journal name abbreviations should be those found in the NCBI databases:

Because all references will be linked electronically as much as possible to the papers they cite, proper formatting of the references is crucial. For convenience, a number of reference software companies supply PLOS style files (e.g., Reference Manager, EndNote).

Published Papers
1. Hou WR, Hou YL, Wu GF, Song Y, Su XL, et al. (2011) cDNA, genomic sequence cloning and overexpression of ribosomal protein gene L9 (rpL9) of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Genet Mol Res 10: 1576-1588.

Note: Use of a DOI number for the full-text article is acceptable as an alternative to or in addition to traditional volume and page numbers.

Accepted, unpublished papers
Same as above, but “In press” appears instead of the page numbers.

Electronic Journal Articles
1. Huynen MMTE, Martens P, Hilderlink HBM (2005) The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework. Global Health 1: 14. Available: (Accessed 25 January 2012).

1. Ensembl (2014), Gene expression in Ensembl. Available at: (Accessed 24 March 2014).

1. Bates B (1992) Bargaining for life: A social history of tuberculosis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 435 p.

Book Chapters
1. Hansen B (1991) New York City epidemics and history for the public. In: Harden VA, Risse GB, editors. AIDS and the historian. Bethesda: National Institutes of Health. pp. 21-28.

Deposited articles. (Examples: pre-prints, e-prints, and arXiv)
1. Krick T, Shub DA, Verstraete N, Ferreiro DU, Alonso LG, Shub M, Sanchez IE (2014) Amino acid metabolism conflicts with protein diversity. Preprint. Available: arXiv:1403.3301v1. Accessed 17 March 2014.

Published media. (Examples: print or online newspapers and magazine articles)
1. Fountain H (29 Jan 2014). For Already Vulnerable Penguins, Study Finds Climate Change Is Another Danger. The New York Times. Available: Accessed 17 March 2014.

New media. (Examples: blogs, websites, and other written works)
1. Allen L (01 Sept 2010) Announcing PLOS Blogs. Available: Accessed 17 March 2014.

Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy theses
1. Wells A (1999) Exploring the development of the independent, electronic, scholarly journal. M.Sc. Thesis, The University of Sheffield. Available: Accessed 17 March 2014.

Databases and repositories. (Examples: figshare, archive. Com)
1. Roberts SB (2013) QPX Genome Browser Feature Tracks. Database: figshare. Accessed 17 March 2014.

Multimedia. (Examples: videos, movies, and TV shows)
1. Hitchcock A, producer and director (1954) Rear Window [Film]. Los Angeles: MGM.

Financial Disclosure

This section should describe sources of funding that have supported the work. Please include relevant grant numbers and the URL of any funder's Web site. Please also include this sentence: "The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript." If this statement is not correct, you must describe the role of any sponsors or funders, and amend the aforementioned sentence as needed.

Competing Interest

Authors are asked at submission to declare whether they have any financial, personal, or professional interests that could be construed to have influenced their paper. Reviewers are also asked to declare any interests that might interfere with their objective assessment of a manuscript. Any relevant competing interests of authors must be available to editors and reviewers during the review process and will be stated in published articles. Click here for more general information on PLOS’s policy regarding competing interests.


Please keep abbreviations to a minimum. List all non-standard abbreviations in alphabetical order, along with their expanded form. Define them as well upon first use in the text. Non-standard abbreviations should not be used unless they appear at least three times in the text.

Priority Claims

Manuscripts should not include priority claims. For example, "the first demonstration of this" should be changed to "the first demonstration, to our knowledge, of this."


The use of standardized nomenclature in all fields of science and medicine is an essential step toward the integration and linking of scientific information reported in published literature. We will enforce the use of correct and established nomenclature wherever possible:

  • We strongly encourage the use of SI units. If you do not use these exclusively, please provide the SI value in parentheses after each value.
  • Species names should be italicized (e.g., Homo sapiens) and the full genus and species must be written out in full, both in the title of the manuscript and at the first mention of an organism in a paper; after that, the first letter of the genus name, followed by the full species name may be used.
  • Genes, mutations, genotypes, and alleles should be indicated in italics. Use the recommended name by consulting the appropriate genetic nomenclature database, e.g., HUGO for human genes. It is sometimes advisable to indicate the synonyms for the gene the first time it appears in the text. Gene prefixes such as those used for oncogenes or cellular localization should be shown in roman: v-fes, c-MYC, etc.
  • The Recommended International Non-Proprietary Name (rINN) of drugs should be provided.

Data Reporting Guidelines

All data and related metadata underlying the findings reported in a submitted manuscript should be deposited in an appropriate public repository, unless already provided as part of the submitted article. Repositories may be either subject-specific (where these exist) and accept specific types of structured data, or generalist repositories that accept multiple data types. We recommend that authors select repositories appropriate to their field. Repositories may be subject-specific (eg, GenBank for sequences and PDB for structures), general, or institutional, as long as DOIs or accession numbers are provided and the data are at least as open as CCBY. Authors are encouraged to select repositories that meet accepted criteria as trustworthy digital repositories, such as criteria of the Centre for Research Libraries or Data Seal of Approval. Large, international databases are more likely to persist than small, local ones.

To support data sharing and author compliance of the PLOS data policy, we have integrated our submission process with a select set of data repositories. The list is neither representative nor exhaustive of the suitable repositories available to authors. Current repository integration partners include: Dryad and figshare. Please contact to make recommendations for further partnerships.

Instructions for PLOS submissions with data deposited in an integration partner repository:

Deposit data in the integrated repository of choice. Once deposition is final and complete, the repository will provide the author with a dataset DOI (provisional) and private URL for reviewers to gain access to the data. Enter the given data DOI into the full Data Availability Statement, which is requested in the Additional Information section of the PLOS Submission form. Then provide the URL passcode in the Attach Files section. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Accession Numbers

All appropriate datasets, images, and information should be deposited in public resources. Please provide the relevant accession numbers (and version numbers, if appropriate). Accession numbers should be provided in parentheses after the entity on first use. Suggested databases include, but are not limited to:

In addition, as much as possible, please provide accession numbers or identifiers for all entities such as genes, proteins, mutants, diseases, etc., for which there is an entry in a public database, for example:

Providing accession numbers allows linking to and from established databases and integrates your article with a broader collection of scientific information.


Figures should be submitted either as .EPS or .TIFF files. If the article is accepted for publication, authors will be asked to supply high-resolution, print-ready versions of the figures. Please ensure that the files conform to our Guidelines for Figure and Table Preparation when preparing your figures for production.

PLOS does not accept vector EPS figures generated using LaTeX. We only accept LaTeX generated figures in TIFF format. Export your LaTeX files as PDFs, and then open them in GIMP or Photoshop and save as TIFF. In general, Figures must be generated in a standalone graphics application such as Adobe Illustrator, InkScape, PyMol, MatLab, SAS, etc. Please see our Figure Guidelines for more information.

PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to all figures we publish, which allows them to be freely used, distributed, and built upon as long as proper attribution is given. Please do not submit any figures that have been previously copyrighted unless you have express written permission from the copyright holder to publish under the CC BY license.

Figure Legends

The aim of the figure legend should be to describe the key messages of the figure, but the figure should also be discussed in the text. An enlarged version of the figure and its full legend will often be viewed in a separate window online, and it should be possible for a reader to understand the figure without switching back and forth between this window and the relevant parts of the text. Each legend should have a concise title of no more than 15 words. The legend itself should be succinct, while still explaining all symbols and abbreviations. Avoid lengthy descriptions of methods.

Avoiding Image Manipulation

As part of our efforts to improve published figure quality, we routinely and thoroughly check all main and supporting figures for all papers editorially accepted for publication in PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. In doing so, we not only ensure that all figure files meet our requirements for publication and are available to publish under our CC-BY license, but also that we remain vigilant to image manipulation of photographic images.

Image files should not be manipulated or adjusted in any way that could lead to misinterpretation of the information present in the original image. Inappropriate manipulation includes but is not limited to:

  • The introduction, enhancement, movement, or removal of specific feature(s) within an image;
  • Unmarked grouping of images that should otherwise have been presented separately (for example, from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels, fields, or exposures);
  • Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance that obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information.

For full details on best practices regarding your figures, visit our Image Manipulation page.

If evidence is found of inappropriate manipulation, we reserve the right to ask for original data and, if that is not satisfactory, we may decide not to accept the manuscript, and may also contact the authors' institutions to ask them to assist with investigation.

In checking for manipulation, we may request higher resolution versions of your images, or the original images, so that we can efficiently and accurately check all figures. If you ever need to email files to the journal office, our system has a 10MB attachment limit, meaning that we will not receive any emails larger than this size. If your files are larger than 10MB, please either send them one email at a time, or look into reducing the size of the file/s. If you are having problems sending us large files, please contact the journal office for details of how we can help you transfer your files.

We are grateful to staff at the Journal of Cell Biology (Rockefeller University Press) for their help in establishing these guidelines and procedures (

Multimedia Files and Supporting Information

We encourage authors to submit essential supporting files and multimedia files along with their manuscripts. All supporting material will be subject to peer review, and should be smaller than 10 MB in size because of the difficulties that some users will experience in loading or downloading files of a greater size.

Supporting files should fall into one of the following categories: Dataset, Figure, Table, Text, Protocol, Audio, or Video. All supporting information should be referred to in the manuscript with a leading capital S (e.g., Figure S4 for the fourth supporting information figure). Titles (and, if desired, legends) for all supporting information files should be listed in the manuscript under the heading "Supporting Information."

Supporting files may be submitted in a variety of formats, but should be publication-ready, as these files are not copyedited. See the Supporting Information Guidelines for more details about our requirements for supporting information and multimedia files.

Supporting Information Captions

Because Supporting Information is accessed via a hyperlink attached to its captions, captions must be listed in the article file. Do not submit a separate caption file. It is acceptable to have them in the file itself in addition, but they must be in the article file for access to be possible in the published version.

The file category name and number is required, and a one-line title is highly recommended. A legend can also be included but is not required. Supporting Information captions should be formatted as follows.

   Text S1. Title is strongly recommended. Legend is optional.

Please see our Supporting Information guidelines for more details.

Striking Images

Authors are encouraged to upload a "striking image" that may be used to represent their paper online in places like the journal homepage or in search results. The striking image must be derived from a figure or supporting information file from the paper, ie. a cropped portion of an image or the entire image. Striking images should ideally be high resolution, eye-catching, single panel images, and should ideally avoid containing added details such as text, scale bars, and arrows. If no striking image is uploaded, a figure from the paper will be designated as the striking image.

Please keep in mind that PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to striking images. As such, do not submit any figures or photos that have been previously copyrighted unless you have express written permission from the copyright holder to publish under the CC BY license. Note that all published materials in PLOS Biology are freely available online, and any third party is permitted to read, download, copy, distribute, and use these materials in any way, even commercially, with proper attribution.

For license inquiries, e-mail license [at]


All tables should have a concise title. Footnotes can be used to explain abbreviations. Citations should be indicated using the same style as outlined above. Tables occupying more than one printed page should be avoided, if possible. Larger tables can be published as online supporting information. Tables must be cell-based; do not use picture elements, text boxes, tabs, or returns in tables. Please ensure that the files conform to our Guidelines for Figure and Table Preparation when preparing your tables for production.

6. Submission of Research Manuscripts

Are You Ready to Submit Your Manuscript?

We have provided an author checklist to help you prepare your materials for submission and to make the online submission process as straightforward as possible. Please take the time to look through the list before submitting your article.

Please note that when submitting a manuscript, all authors are asked to indicate that they do not have a related or duplicate manuscript under consideration (or accepted) for publication elsewhere. If related work has been or will be submitted elsewhere or is in press elsewhere, then a copy must be uploaded with the article submitted to PLOS. Reviewers will be asked to comment on the overlap between related submissions.

We strongly encourage authors to submit a presubmission inquiry before making a full submission. The purpose of a presubmission inquiry is to solicit rapid feedback from the staff editors about the potential suitability of a manuscript for the journal.

Cover Letter

Please include a cover letter of no more than 600 words that provides brief answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the scientific question you are addressing?
  2. What is the key finding that answers this question?
  3. What is the nature of the evidence you provide in support of your conclusion?
  4. What are the three most recently published papers that are relevant to this question?
  5. What significance do your results have for the field?
  6. What significance do your results have for the broader community (of biologists and/or the public)?
  7. What other novel findings do you present?
  8. Is there additional information that we should take into account?

You may also include in the cover letter requests to exclude specific scientists from the evaluation process. Please provide a reason for doing so. Please also read our policy about competing interests before submitting your inquiry.

Electronic Submission

Detailed instructions for submission can be found on the PLOS Biology Manuscript Submission and Peer Review Web site. Files are uploaded individually and are combined into a single PDF file, which must be approved by the author at the end of the submission process.


Articles prepared in LaTeX may be submitted in PDF format for use during the review process. After acceptance, however, .tex files will be required. Please consult our LaTeX Guidelines for a list of what will be required.

Hard copies of your manuscript are not required

Articles can be submitted for review in DOC, DOCX, RTF, or PDF. Any articles that have been prepared in LaTeX will be accepted for review, but only in PDF format. Please see our LaTeX guidelines for further information on LaTeX file requirements at acceptance.

Manuscript figure files can be submitted in the following formats: EPS or TIFF. Figures that are part of the Supporting Information can be submitted in any format.

7. Other Article Types

While remaining scientifically rigorous, the magazine section of PLOS Biology is inclusive and accessible to a broad audience. All articles submitted to the magazine section should be directed at a readership that extends beyond the traditional research community and that includes scientific educators, students, physicians, patients, and the interested public. Most articles in the magazine section are peer reviewed.

The majority of articles in the magazine section of PLOS Biology are published by invitation only, but if you have a suggestion for a topic in any of the following categories, we will consider the idea. Please submit your suggestions for front matter via our online submission system as a presubmission inquiry. There is no publication fee for front matter articles.

For these article types, you must upload the article file in DOC, DOCX, or RTF. You do not need to include an Abstract or an Author Summary unless otherwise requested by an editor. You may find that some of the fields on the submission form are not appropriate to your front matter article—please enter a full stop/period in these boxes. If you have any questions about this process, please contact our publication assistants at plosbiology [at]


PLOS Biology publishes visionary and provocative essays that cover broad topics of general interest to life scientists. Essays might explore the implications of recent advances in a given field or global methods that promise to have broad-ranging consequences across fields, investigate an emerging trend with cross-disciplinary implications, or explain the challenges of a nascent field.

Challenges Series

The Challenges Series, which appears periodically in the Essays section, features short articles highlighting fundamental challenges that cut across and help unify different sub-disciplines in biology. The series editor is Simon Levin.

Unsolved Mysteries

Unsolved Mysteries discuss a topic of biological importance that is poorly understood and in need of research attention, and may explore issues that have been ignored, pose technically and conceptually challenging questions, or involve puzzling phenomena with potentially devastating consequences. The articles are intended to stimulate students and other scientists to think about future research possibilities outside their areas of expertise.


Perspectives provide experts with a forum to comment on topical or controversial issues of broad interest.

Public Engagement

The Public Engagement with Science series, which appears periodically in the Perspectives section, investigates, through specific case studies, whether, and under what conditions, it is possible to engage the public in scientific issues in meaningful ways in decision-making about the innovation pathways of biosciences. The series is edited by Claire Marris and Nikolas Rose.


Primers provide concise and accessible background information for a particular area in biology that is featured in a PLOS Biology research article. Unsolicited primers are not considered.


Selected PLOS Biology research articles are accompanied by a synopsis written for a general audience to provide non-experts with insight into the significance of the published work. They are commissioned only.


Editorials are written in-house by members of the editorial staff or by members of the Editorial Board.

Book Review/Science in the Media

These short reviews critique books, films, plays, and other media that deal with some aspect of the biological sciences.

Community Pages

The Community Page is a forum for organizations and societies to highlight their efforts to enhance the dissemination and value of scientific knowledge.

Cool Tools Series

The Cool Tools Series, which appears periodically in the Community Page section, features innovative resources designed to enhance the understanding, dissemination, or practice of science.

Education Series

The Education Series takes full advantage of web-based open-access publishing to create an interactive, dynamic resource for educators, researchers, students, and the interested public to share and discuss key ideas, methods, tools, and activities to enhance understanding of fundamental questions in biology. Cheryl A. Kerfeld is the series editor.

Historical and Philosophical Perspectives

The Historical and Philosophical Perspectives section provides professional historians and philosophers of science with a forum to reflect on topical issues in contemporary biology.


Formal Comments

In exceptional circumstances we may consider publication of a Formal Comment. Formal Comments are peer-reviewed, indexed in PubMed, associated with specific articles published at PLOS Biology, and submitted usually, but not exclusively, by invitation. Formal Comments must be coherent, concise and well-argued, are subject to PLOS Biology Criteria for Publication and will be peer-reviewed. Editors may invite a Formal Comment from the authors of the original article in response.

8. Outline of the Production Process

Once an article has been accepted for publication, the manuscript files are transferred into our production system. Manuscripts are then copyedited by professional copyeditors who correspond directly with the authors concerning queries and corrections. Once the article has been typeset, PDF proofs are generated so that authors can approve the final article. The prompt return of proofs by authors will expedite the production process. PLOS permits only the following types of corrections to the PDF proofs: errors in author names or affiliations, errors to scientific fact that would cause misunderstandings to readers, and printer's (introduced) errors. Other correction requests will not be fulfilled. Therefore it is CRITICAL that you check your article Word file, the figures, and the tables very carefully when you see the copyedited article. Requests for corrections to any of these items may be denied once the article is in proofs.

9. Reader Responses and Notes, Comments and Ratings

On the 28th March 2009, the Reader Response functionality on PLOS Biology articles was discontinued in preparation for our launch on a new publishing platform that features a number of 'Web 2.0' tools to facilitate community evaluation and discourse around published articles.

All the Reader Response contributions that were in our archive are now available as comments directly added to the relevant article.

To contribute to an existing discussion about an article or to start a new one, see the guidelines explaining how you can add Notes, Comments and Ratings to any PLOS Biology article.