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Guidelines for Authors

Submission process

Submission: To submit a work to Science Advance, follow the instructions in the text below. There is no fee upon submission or publication.

Format: There are no typesetting, format or length constraints. Nevertheless, please formulate the title and abstract more general so that a wide audience would benefit from it. The title should be chosen in such a way that it arouses great interest. Reviews should contain the word “review” in the title and state the intended target audience in the abstract.

Terms and conditions: By submitting a manuscript to Science Advance, you confirm that you agree with Science Advance’s terms and conditions and editorial policies. In particular, you certify that:

  • you have the permission of all co-authors and other right holders to pursue publication of the work in Science Advance,
  • you are not infringing on anyone’s copyright with the material contained in your work,
  • you will be fully liable for any charges resulting from copyright infringement, and
  • you will not submit this work to any other publishing venue unless it is terminally rejected by Science Advance.
  • the work is not currently under consideration at and has not previously been published in any other journal.

In addition, authors, referees and members of all boards of Science Advancecommit to follow the code of conduct laid out in the terms and conditions.

You will be taken to editorial platform, our peer review platform. You will be asked to log in or create an account. Cover letters are necessary. 

Editorial criteria

What: Science Advance is a highly selective journal, publishing original research and reviews (theoretical, experimental, and numerical) in the wide field of science.

Acceptance criteria: Science Advance aims to select:

  1. Original research that:
    • Significantly advances the particular sub-field of science
    • Contains a very significant technical or conceptual contribution
    • Provides evidence that the employed methods or obtained results go significantly beyond the state of the art
  2. Reviews that:
    • Address a need for a standard reference on a topic or fill a gap in the literature
    • Summarize a coherent body of knowledge in a way that facilitates further progress
    • Cover the relevant literature comprehensively and concisely

Acceptance threshold: Correct but incremental work is below threshold and an absence of negative reviews is not in itself sufficient for acceptance; referees should make a case for why a work deserves to be published. Submissions are judged based on the following editorial criteria:

  • Technical correctness
  • Significance of the contribution
  • Clarity of presentation and verifiability/reproducaibility
  • Honest statement of scope and limitations

Not taken into account are:

  • Expected number of citations.
  • Wide scope / whether a work is aiming at a broad or interdisciplinary audience.

Science Advance reserves the right to desk reject a work in case the editors have substantial doubt whether it meets the acceptance criteria and would thus be unlikely to make it through peer-review.

Timeline and peer-review process

Expected timeline: Due to increased submission rates, submissions are currently taking a time to process. Referees and editors are full-time researchers and their volunteer work is not always recognized by their institutions or grant committees. Science Advance respects the referees’ time and work and asks authors for some patience. To put some concrete numbers to this: it takes on average one day to assign a new submission to an expert editor (with high variance, depending on the field and availability of editors). It then takes on average one weeks for the editor to make a first decision (details below). If the paper is sent to additional external referees, it can take one to two months to collect all the necessary reports and make a decision. If that’s a “revise and resubmit”, authors can submit the new version at their own convenience (no deadlines), and then it can take one months for the final decision (faster if all referee and editorial concerns are addressed). When a paper is accepted, authors update the arXiv and fill in the publication form at their convenience. It then takes up to one week for the paper to be published. These numbers are highly variable: it tends to be slower for long, mathematically involved papers, as it’s harder to find referees, and they need more time to carefully check the correctness of the paper; other areas are experiencing a surge in papers (for example NISQ) and even if papers are short, referees and editors in those fields are handling too many submissions and the paper waits in queue for longer; there are slower periods over the year (like holiday season and conference review months); finally, the global pandemic has increased review times across all fields. Referees and editors are human, and the last two years have not been easy on humans; voluntary, unpaid and anonymous work is likely to suffer.

In the following we detail the steps of the peer review process at Science Advance.

Assigning an editor and first reading: In a first step, our admins look for a Science Advance editor who is an expert in the field of your manuscript and is currently available; it helps if authors list suitable editors by using the field “suggested referees”. Editors only accept to handle a paper if they are experts in the field (to the extent that they could comfortably act as referees for the paper) and are presently available. The editor then reads the paper: make sure that your main results and assumptions are listed clearly in the first couple of pages. Editors are not expected to read through proofs at this point, just the main text and statements, so that they can make a decision about suitability of the paper for Science Advance; for very long papers, editors are only required to read the first few pages at this stage. Therefore it may help your submission if you aim the introduction at convincing an expert in the field of the value of your contributions (rather than an overly general overview, unless it is a very niche area).

Internal editorial review and first decision: After reading the manuscript, the editor makes a first decision of either (1) desk reject the paper, (2) send it back to authors for a revision, or (3) send it out to external referees for a thorough analysis. In the vast majority of cases, this first decision is discussed with several editors until there is a consensus on the merits of the paper and its suitability for Science Advance.  Let us go in more detail through the different options.

  1. If the paper is rejected, the editor will justify their decision in the rejection letter, which we hope will help the authors submit to another venue. Note that this is a decision based solely on the scientific merit of the paper, made by expert editors who are very familiar with both the topic and the journal’s acceptance thresholds. In other words, this phase of internal editorial review is a thorough expert peer review on itself.
  2. If the editors believe that the paper needs clarifications or some extra work before it can be published, they can either start a discussion with authors (usually for short clarifications) or make already a “revise and resubmit” decision at this point. For example, this happens if the editors judge that the paper could only make it to Science Advance if a conjecture was proved, if the code was publicly available, or if presentation was improved.
  3. If the editors are convinced that the paper is already in good shape, and that its scientific contribution merits acceptance in Science Advance, they send the paper to external referees for additional analysis. This could be a global review of the paper, or a more pointed check. Typically, a paper is only sent out to external referees if it has very good chances of being accepted after revisions, unless the referees find major problems. There are exceptions: sometimes none of the available editors has the expertise in the topic of the paper needed to make the first decision on its significance, and external referees are necessary to make that call; this is rare, and we react to repeated instances by recruiting more editors to cover that topic, but it can happen.

External review and second decision: When a paper goes out to external reviewers, we aim to obtain two independent referee reports. Depending on the field, the paper and external factors like the time of the year, this is not always attainable. Referees are given 1 month to review the paper but in practice it often takes longer, up to 2-4 months, to receive enough reports in order to make a well-founded editorial decision. If the decision is not clear after reports, the handling editor will again consult with other editors in the field. They may also write to the authors and referees for additional clarifications before making a decision. There are some rejections at this point, a few rare straight acceptance decisions, and the vast majority are a “revise and resubmit” where the editor explicitly states what needs to change for the paper to be published (sometimes this is “please address all comments by referees” but often it is “… and in particular you should correct the proof of lemma 4, clarify assumption 2 and cite the work of X appropriately”).

Additional rounds of review and final decision: When authors submit a revised version and response to referees, the editor decides whether the paper should (1) be accepted right away, if the changes are satisfying and there are only cosmetic comments left, (2) be rejected, if the previous concerns were ignored, (3) go back to the referees, in case the editor believes that referees should check by themselves. Again, the editor is encouraged to consult with other editorial board members in case of doubts.

Editorial decision and publication

Upon acceptance: Authors upload an approved final version of the manuscript to the arXiv, which will become the published version of the paper. 

DOI: For the final accepted version of the manuscript, DOI linking is mandatory. Science Advance is a member of Crossref, therefore in all publications by Science Advance all references to works that have a DOI must contain clickable hyper-links to the URLs under associated with the work’s DOI. A link to the publisher homepage is not sufficient. Also shortDOIs are unfortunately not accepted by Crossref. Works that do not have a DOI may, of course, be cited without giving a link. 

Publication: The published work is given a DOI and is announced in Science Advance. Authors and other copyright holders retain the copyright on their works without restrictions.

Publicity: If provided by the authors, a non-technical abstract or popular summary is also released by Science Advance and publicized in social media. For exceptional publications, the editor may ask a referee or external expert to write a short viewpoint about the paper.

Appeal: To submit an appeal against an editorial decision, please use the appeal form, on which you can also find further information on how appeals are handled.

Post publication

Errata: Authors are strongly encouraged to notify Science Advance of any corrections and modifications made to already published papers. Errata to papers published in Science Advance can be uploaded by the authors as a new version to the arXiv. 

Name change policy: If your name has changed after your manuscripts’ publication, write us an email and we will change it everywhere on the website and in our systems.  We recommend changing your name on the arXiv before [instructions here] but this is not necessary. If you have updated the arXiv version of your published papers, let us know.

Science Advance will never ask you for “proof” of name change, notify your coauthors or list the previous name, unless you explicitly ask us to. We want to make this process as easy as possible for authors, so if you’ve gone through it please let us know if there’s anything we could improve.

The fastest way of getting your request processed is to email, which forwards to the executive board (Christian Gogolin, Lídia del Rio and Marcus Huber) and to the two editorial assistants (who are not researchers). Alternatively, you can email any individual member of the executive board. In the latter case, whoever receives your email will keep it confidential even from the remaining members of the executive board, unless you explicitly tell us otherwise.

Some technicalities: we can change the name on the paper’s webpage, the paper’s PDF, the DOI metadata, and internal systems. We can also change it in the list of references of other papers published in Science Advance that refer to yours. We cannot easily change it on records (the external platform where the peer review process takes place, and which stores for example the reviews your paper received and editorial discussions). 

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