Understanding journal policies and requirements

Different journals and publishers employ a wide range of policies. Here are some key things to consider when deciding whether a journal's policies match your requirements as an author.

Journal Policies

  • You need to understand your obligations to the journal as an author and vice versa prior to submission. 
  • Also consider what your funder and employer expect regarding e.g. open access.
  • Consider what you can do with your paper pre- and post-publication, for example the use of pre-print servers.
  • If you can’t find details of journal policies online, contact them directly. If you cannot find contact details, you should consider how reputable the journal may be.
  • You should have a clear idea of the journal policies prior to submission. You will likely need to sign something declaring that this is the case.

Different journals and publishers will have requirements for you to meet as an author. Here are some key requirements that apply across journals and publishers.

Research Conduct

  • You need to ensure you are following international standards for scientific conduct.
  • Journals may look for various types of misconduct including:
    • Fabrication of data/results
    • Falsification of data
    • Lack of correct ethical/legal permits
    • Failure to disclose conflicts of interest
  • You should provide full accounts of your methodology and research materials so that your study can be replicated, as well as any legal and ethical permits.


  • The order of authorship and who is included as an author should be decided on by all those involved in the work in advance of submission.
  • Journals generally do not get involved in authorship disputes.
  • You may have to declare how each author contributed to the paper. The format this will take varies between journals. 

Dual/Redundant Publication and Plagiarism

  • You should not submit your manuscript to multiple journals simultaneously.
  • You should also ensure your work does not significantly overlap any previously published papers, or present only a very small portion of a larger study.
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of ideas, processes, results or words without credit, including from your own published works. 
  • All text and figures should be properly cited to avoid plagiarism.


  • All journals will require you to agree to a copyright transfer or a license to publish.
  • You should check that the license you sign meets your own requirements as well as those of your funder and institution. 
  • The type of license will affect what you can do with your work after publication.
  • If you are unsure about the license terms, you should contact the journal with queries prior to signing.

Open Access

  • It is now common for funders/institutions to require work to be published under an open access license. 
  • You should check how much the fee for open access publishing is at the journal, who pays this fee, and if there are any fee waiver schemes available. 
  • Open access publishing can take several different forms but may not be available at every journal.
  • Under gold open access, the final version of the article is freely and permanently available to everyone upon publication, with copyright retained by the authors. It usually entails a fee during the publication process.
  • Under green open access (or ‘self-archiving’) a version of the manuscript is deposited in a repository where it is freely accessible to all. This is a free form of open access, but what exactly can be deposited and when will likely be determined by the publisher.


  • You may choose to put your manuscript on a preprint server before formal submission to increase the visibility of your work, or to get informal feedback from your peers.
  • Not all journals will accept manuscripts that have previously been deposited in preprint servers. If you are not sure, check prior to submission.
  • Some common preprint servers include arXiv, ChemRxic and bioRxiv. 

Take a look at the Royal Society Publishing policies and author guidelines for information about requirements for Royal Society journal authors.