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Editorial Policies


Editorial Policies

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All papers are evaluated solely on their scientific merit by peers, not by professional staff editors. A three-tier review process for research reports includes an Editorial Board member from one of the 31 NAS disciplines, an NAS Member Editor, and independent peer reviewers. NAS Member Editors are professional scientists and active researchers. A full list of Editorial Board members and their disciplines is included in our masthead.


Submission Guidelines

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Direct Submission.

The standard mode of transmitting manuscripts is Direct Submission. Direct Submissions account for more than 75% of papers published in PNAS and do not need to be sponsored by an NAS member. The Editorial Board screens all incoming submissions and may reject manuscripts without further review, or review and reject manuscripts that do not meet PNAS standards. More than 50% of Direct Submissions are declined by the Editorial Board without additional review, which takes less than 2 weeks on average. For papers that are sent on to an editor and reviewers, the average time to receive a decision is 41 days. If accepted, authors have their papers published online as soon as 4–5 weeks after acceptance. Authors must recommend three appropriate Editorial Board members, three NAS members who are expert in the paper's scientific area, and five qualified reviewers. The Board may choose someone who is or is not on that list or may reject the paper without further review. Authors are encouraged to indicate in their cover letter why their suggested editors are qualified to handle the paper. A directory of PNAS Member Editors and their research interests is available within the submission process and at nrc88.nas.edu/pnas_search. The editor may obtain reviews of the paper from at least two qualified reviewers, each from a different institution and not from the authors' institutions. The PNAS Office will invite the reviewers, secure the reviews, forward them to the editor, and secure any revisions and subsequent reviews. The name of the editor must remain anonymous to the author until the paper is accepted. Direct Submissions are published as “Edited by” the responsible editor and have an identifying footnote.

Contributed Submission.

Less than 25% of published research papers are Contributed submissions by NAS members. An Academy member may submit up to four of his or her own manuscripts for publication per year. The deadline is the last day of the year. To contribute a paper, the member must affirm that he or she had a direct role in the design and execution of all or a significant fraction of the work, and the subject matter must be within the member's area of expertise. Contributed articles must report the results of original research. A footnote will be included on Contributed articles for which the member or coauthors disclose a significant financial or other competing interest. The names and institutional affiliations of all reviewers of Contributed articles are published in a footnote. Beginning January 2017, members will have the administrative aspects of the review process for Contributed articles handled by the PNAS Editorial Office. Members who have selected reviewers should submit information about their manuscript at www.pnascentral.org, including a PDF file for review, and documentation that the reviewers have agreed to review the paper. Members make the decision to submit the final version, revise, or withdraw their paper although the editorial board will make the final decision. The Academy member must be one of the corresponding authors on the paper. These papers are published as ‘‘Contributed by’’ the responsible editor. Reviewers should be asked to evaluate revised manuscripts to ensure that their concerns have been adequately addressed. Members must select reviewers who have not collaborated with the authors in the past 48 months or be from the same institution. See section iv and the Conflict of Interest Policy. Members must verify that reviewers are free of conflicts of interest, or must disclose any conflicts and explain their choice of reviewers.

PNAS Plus.

Authors may submit a PNAS Plus version of either a Direct or Contributed Submission, in which research reports appear in an expanded online format up to 10 pages in length. A collection of PNAS Plus Significance Statements is published in each issue.

All manuscripts are evaluated by the Editorial Board. The identity of the assigned Board member is confidential and not shared with authors or third parties. The names of reviewers are confidential and not shared, unless express permission is granted by the reviewers. The Board may reject manuscripts without further review, or review and reject manuscripts that do not meet PNAS standards. Replication studies are held to the same standards as other submissions. Manuscripts rejected by one member cannot be resubmitted through another member or as a Direct Submission. Please note a single negative review, with which the editor agrees, is sufficient to recommend rejection. Revised papers must be received within 2 months of the decision notification or they will be treated as new submissions. Information pertaining to a submitted manuscript is treated as confidential and not shared outside of the journal.

Appeals of decisions on rejected papers will be considered; however, appeals on the basis of novelty or general interest are unlikely to be granted. Due to the high volume of submissions that PNAS receives we cannot guarantee a quick decision on appeals. Appeals must be made in writing and should be sent to pnas{at}nas.edu. If an appeal is rejected, further appeals of the decision will not be considered and the paper may not be resubmitted. Repeated appeals or resubmissions of a rejected manuscript without invitation by the Editorial Board will not be considered and may result in the authors being banned from submitting to PNAS.


Journal Policies

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(i) Papers are considered provided they have not been Published Previously or concurrently submitted for publication elsewhere. What constitutes prior publication must take into account many criteria, including the extent of review, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Related manuscripts that are in press or submitted elsewhere must be included with a PNAS submission.

Figures, tables, or videos that have been published elsewhere must be identified, and permission of the copyright holder for both the online and print editions of the journal must be provided (see www.danielhellerman.com/site/misc/permissions_letter.pdf).

(ii) Posting to Preprint Servers, such as arXiv or bioRxiv, is permitted. See the PNAS statement on prior publication for details, and see section vii for media embargo policies.

(iii) Authorship must be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work. The corresponding author must have obtained permission from all authors for the submission of each version of the paper and for any change in authorship.

All collaborators share some degree of responsibility for any paper they coauthor. Some coauthors have responsibility for the entire paper as an accurate, verifiable report of the research. These include coauthors who are accountable for the integrity of the data reported in the paper, carry out the analysis, write the manuscript, present major findings at conferences, or provide scientific leadership to junior colleagues. Coauthors who make specific, limited contributions to a paper are responsible for their contributions but may have only limited responsibility for other results. While not all coauthors may be familiar with all aspects of the research presented in their paper, all collaborators should have in place an appropriate process for reviewing the accuracy of the reported results. Authors must indicate their specific contributions to the published work. This information will be published as a footnote to the paper. Examples of designations include:

  • Designed research
  • Performed research
  • Contributed new reagents or analytic tools
  • Analyzed data
  • Wrote the paper

An author may list more than one contribution, and more than one author may have contributed to the same aspect of the work.

(iv) Failure to disclose a Conflict of Interest at submission may result in author sanctions. Authors must disclose, at submission, any association that poses or could be perceived as a conflict of interest in connection with the manuscript, and acknowledge all funding sources supporting the work. When asked to evaluate a manuscript, members, reviewers, and editors must disclose any association that poses a conflict of interest in connection with the manuscript. Recent collaborators, defined as people who have coauthored a paper or were a principal investigator on a grant with any of the authors within the past 48 months, must be excluded as editors and reviewers. Other examples of possible conflicts include past or present association as thesis advisor or thesis student, or a family relationship, such as a spouse, domestic partner, or parent–child relationship. Please see the Conflict of Interest Policy for details.

(v) Regarding Research Misconduct, all work should be free of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism as defined by the US Office of Research Integrity.

(vi) Completion of the online submission form electronically gives a License to Publish the work to the National Academy of Sciences. If a paper is declined for publication, the license to publish is terminated.

(vii) The Academy may distribute Embargoed copies of an accepted article to the press prior to publication. Embargoes expire at 3:00 PM Eastern time, Monday of the publication week. Authors may talk freely with the press about their work but should coordinate with the PNAS News Office so that reporters are aware of PNAS policy. If a version of your PNAS manuscript has ever been posted, in whole or in part, in any publicly accessible form, including at preprint servers, or if you plan on presenting your embargoed paper at a conference prior to publication, please note that different embargo policies may apply and authors must contact the PNAS News Office immediately at 202-334-1310 or PNASnews{at}nas.edu.

(viii) Research involving Human and Animal Participants and Clinical Trials must have been approved by the author's institutional review board. Authors must include in the methods section a brief statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments. For all experiments involving human participants, authors must also include a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all participants, or provide a statement why this was not necessary. All experiments must have been conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. Authors must follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' policy and deposit trial information and design into an accepted clinical trial registry before the onset of patient enrollment. For animal studies, authors must report the species, strain, sex, and age of the animals.

(ix) Dual Use Research of Concern. Authors and reviewers must notify the Editor-in-Chief if a manuscript reports potential dual use research of concern. The Editor-in-Chief will evaluate potential dual use research of concern papers and, if necessary, will consult additional reviewers.

(x) For research using Recombinant DNA, physical and biological containment must conform to National Institutes of Health guidelines or those of a corresponding agency.

(xi) Materials and Data Availability. To allow others to replicate and build on work published in PNAS, authors must make materials, data, and associated protocols, including code and scripts, available to readers. Authors must disclose upon submission of the manuscript any restrictions on the availability of materials or information. Authors must include a data availability statement in the methods section describing how readers will be able to access the data, associated protocols, code, and materials in the paper. Authors are encouraged to deposit laboratory protocols and include their DOI or URL in the methods section of their paper. Data not shown and personal communications cannot be used to support claims in the work. Authors are encouraged to use supporting information (SI) to show all necessary data or to deposit as much of their data as possible in community-endorsed publicly accessible databases, and when possible follow the guidelines of the Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles. Research datasets should be cited in the references if they have a digital object identifier (DOI). (See References for citation information.) Such deposition may facilitate access to data during the review process and postpublication. In rare cases where subject specific repositories are not available, authors may use figshare or Dryad. Fossils or other rare specimens must be deposited in a museum or repository and be made available to qualified researchers for examination. For further information about accessibility of data and materials, see the following: Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Life Sciences (2003); and Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in a Digital Age (2009).

Authors must make Unique Materials (e.g., cloned DNAs; antibodies; bacterial, animal, or plant cells; viruses; and algorithms and computer codes) promptly available on request by qualified researchers for their own use. Failure to comply will preclude future publication in the journal. It is reasonable for authors to charge a modest amount to cover the cost of preparing and shipping the requested material. Contact pnas{at}nas.edu if you have difficulty obtaining materials.

Plasmids: Authors are encouraged to deposit plasmid constructs in a public repository such as Addgene.

Databases: Before publication, authors must deposit large datasets (including microarray data, protein or nucleic acid sequences, and atomic coordinates for macromolecular structures) in an approved database and provide an accession number for inclusion in the published paper. When no public repository exists, authors must provide the data as SI online or, in special circumstances when this is not possible, on the author's institutional website. Authors should contact the editorial office regarding special circumstances or privacy concerns.

Characterization of Chemical Compounds: Authors must provide sufficient information to establish the identity of a new compound and its purity. Sufficient experimental details must be included to allow other researchers to reproduce the synthesis. Characterization data and experimental details must be included either in the text or in the SI.

Protein and Nucleic Acid Sequences: Authors must deposit data in a publicly available database such as GenBank, EMBL, DNA Data Bank of Japan, UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot, or PRIDE.

Structural Studies: For papers describing structures of biological macromolecules and small molecules, the atomic coordinates and the related experimental data (structure factor amplitudes/intensities and/or NMR restraints) must be deposited at a member site of the Worldwide Protein Data Bank: RCSB PDB,PDBe, PDBj, or BMRB. The PDB ID should be included in the manuscript. For nuclear magnetic resonance structures, data deposited should include resonance assignments and all restraints used in structure determination and the derived atomic coordinates for both an individual structure and a family of acceptable structures. Papers must include literature references for all coordinate datasets as well as dataset identification. Authors must agree to release the atomic coordinates and experimental data when the associated article is published. Authors may be asked to provide the atomic coordinates and experimental data during the review process and are encouraged to provide PDB validation reports at submission. Questions relating to depositions should be sent to deposit{at}wwpdb.org.

For papers describing structures of biological macromolecules from electron microscopy experiments that involve any averaging method (including subtomogram averaging), the 3D map should be deposited at either the EMBL-EBI (UK) or RCSB (USA) EMDB deposition site. Any atomic structure models fitted to EM maps must be deposited in the PDB. For electron tomographic studies with no averaging, deposition of one or more representative tomograms in EMDB is strongly recommended. PDB and/or EMDB accession codes must be included in the manuscript, together with a brief descriptive title for each accession. In cases where PDB models have been fitted into EMDB maps, the correspondences between them should be clearly stated.

For papers describing small-angle scattering experiments, authors are encouraged to follow the guidelines presented by the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). Prior to submission, authors are encouraged to use the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) checkCIF service to validate their crystallographic information files (CIFs) and structure factors. Validation reports may be submitted as SI for editors and reviewers.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Studies: Authors should deposit data with SumsDB, XNAT Central, or other suitable public repositories.

Genomic and Proteomic Studies: Authors of papers that include genomic, proteomic, or other high-throughput data are required to submit their data to the NCBI gene expression and hybridization array data repository (GEO) or equivalent publicly accessible database and must provide the accession number. Deposition in dbGaP is encouraged. Access to the deposited data must be available at the time of publication. Submitted data should follow the MIAME checklist.

Enzymology Data: Authors are encouraged to follow the Standards for Reporting Enzymology Data (STRENDA) commission guidelines when reporting kinetic and equilibrium binding data. See the Beilstein Institut/STRENDA commission website for details.

Earth and Spaces Sciences Data: Authors are encouraged to store data in community-approved public repositories to ensure long-term preservation and accessibility.

Design and Analysis Transparency: Authors should follow field standards for disclosing key aspects of research design and data analysis, and should report the standards used in their study. See the Equator Network for information about standards across disciplines. Where appropriate, PNAS encourages authors to preregister their studies and analysis plans and to provide links to the preregistration in their submission.

Statistical Analysis: Authors should include the source and version of any software used, full information on the statistical methods and measures used, such as a statistical test, estimates of parameters, sample sizes, and measures of evidence strength (frequentist or Bayesian). Statistical analyses should be done on all available data and not just on data from a "representative experiment." Statistics and error bars should only be shown for independent experiments and not for replicates within a single experiment (see Figure Legends for error bar details). Editors may send manuscripts for statistical review.

(xii) Figure Preparation. No specific feature within an image may be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced. The grouping or consolidation of images from multiple sources must be made explicit by the arrangement of the figure and in the figure legend. Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to the whole image and if they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information present in the original, including backgrounds. Questions about images raised during image screening will be referred to the editors, who may request the original data from the authors for comparison with the prepared figures. If the original data cannot be produced, the manuscript may be rejected. Cases of deliberate misrepresentation of data will result in rejection of the paper and will be reported to the corresponding author's home institution or funding agency. Authors must obtain consent for publication of figures with recognizable human faces.

(xiii) SI. SI enhances papers in PNAS by providing additional substantive material, but the paper must stand on its own merits. SI is reviewed along with the paper and must be approved by the editors and reviewers. SI is posted on the PNAS website at the time of publication. SI is referred to in the text and cannot be altered by authors after acceptance.

SI may take the form of supplemental figures, tables, datasets, derivations, and videos. Editors may suggest that part of the submitted data could be more suitably presented online only to save journal space and to focus the article.

(xiv) PNAS Early Edition (EE). PNAS articles are published daily online. Papers may be published online 1 to 4 weeks before they appear in an issue. Authors who return proofs quickly and keep changes to a minimum get maximum publication speed. The EE publication date is the official date of record.

(xv) Open Access. All PNAS articles are free online 6 months after publication. Authors who choose the open access option can have their articles made available without cost to the reader immediately upon publication. Open access articles are published under a nonexclusive License to Publish and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) license.

(xvi) Errata. PNAS publishes corrections for errors, made by the journal or authors, of a scientific nature that do not alter the overall basic results or conclusions of a published article. PNAS articles may be retracted by their authors or by the editor because of pervasive error or unsubstantiated or irreproducible data. Articles may be retracted, for example, because of honest error, scientific misconduct, or plagiarism. Errata are published at the discretion of the editors and appear as formal notices in the journal.

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