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Editorial standards and processes

Editorial independence

Editorial independence is respected. The content of Royal Society journals is entirely independent of the Society’s views on any scientific or policy issues. The editor’s decision is final and will not be influenced or compromised in any way by the Society.

Peer review systems

We do all we can to ensure the peer review process is fair and we aim to minimise bias.

Papers submitted to Royal Society research journals are normally peer reviewed in a single-blind fashion (author names are not concealed, but referee names are). For Royal Society Open Science and Proceedings A, we offer authors the option of open peer review. Unless you have opted for open peer review, the referee reports and other correspondence relating to your paper must remain confidential and should not be shared or made publically available.

For submissions to the Philosophical Transactions journals, the guest editor of the issue manages the review process and is encouraged to seek at least two referees for each paper.

If discussions between an author, editor, and referee have taken place in confidence they will remain in confidence unless explicit consent has been given by all parties or there are exceptional circumstances.

Editors or board members are never involved in editorial decisions about their own work and in these cases papers may be referred to other editors or the editor-in-chief.

Note that the Royal Society does not tolerate abusive behaviour or correspondence towards either its staff or academic editors. Any author of a paper submitted to a Royal Society journal who engages in abusive behaviour or correspondence towards staff or editors will have their paper immediately withdrawn from consideration for publication by the journal concerned. Consideration of subsequent submissions to Royal Society journals will be at the discretion of the Editor.

Appeals

Authors have a right to appeal editorial decisions.

The author should submit the grounds for their appeal to the editorial office, addressed to the editor. Authors are discouraged from directly contacting editorial board members and editors with appeals.

Following an appeal, all editorial decisions are final.

Editors will mediate all exchanges between authors and referees during the peer review process (ie prior to publication). If agreement cannot be reached, editors may consider inviting comments from additional referee(s) if appropriate.

Standards of accuracy

We have a duty to publish corrections or other notifications when errors or fraud could affect the interpretation of data or information.

A ‘correction’ is normally used when a small portion of an otherwise reliable publication proves to be misleading. A ‘retraction’ (notification of invalid results) will be issued if work is proven to be fraudulent or as a result of a significant but honest error. Other variants include 'expression of concern' (notification where the validity of the results are in doubt), ‘notice of redundant publication’ (the same work has been published in more than 1 article without justification) and ‘addendum’ (provides additional information or clarification).

Format of notices (correction/retraction/notice of redundant publication/addendum):

  • Notices are written in a way that enables the reader to identify and understand the correction in context with the errors made, why the article is being retracted, or the editor's concerns about the contents of the article.
  • Notices have their own DOI but are linked electronically with the original publication.
  • They are published in a form that enables indexing and abstracting services to identify and link corrections and retractions.
  • The notice will be published at the end of the latest issue and will appear on the table of contents (TOC).
  • A retraction must be signed by 1 of the following: the author, the author's legal counsel, the author's sponsoring institution, or the editor of the journal.
  • A notice of redundant publication will reference both of the duplicate articles.

To remain consistent with the version of record, the original article is not changed or removed, but is clearly marked as corrected/retracted etc.

The Royal Society participates in the CrossMark initiative which identifies the most recent version of an article and alerts readers to notifications such as corrections or retractions.

Open criticism and debate

We encourage academic debate and constructive criticism of the research published in our journals.

We invite authors to respond to any editorial correspondence before publication. Authors do not have a right to veto unfavourable comments about their work, but they may choose not to respond to criticisms. Any appeals must be dealt with according to the section on ‘Appeals’ above.

No referee comment or published correspondence may contain a personal attack on any of the authors. Criticism of the work (not the researcher) is encouraged and editors should edit (or reject) personal or offensive statements.