How we publish
Frontiers' approach to publishing is driven by the principle of placing publishing back into the hands of researchers, enabled by scalable technology.
This means we distribute editorial responsibility to the editorial board who take acceptance or rejection decisions and have the independence to shape the direction of research. To help editors perform their roles and grow their journals quickly and efficiently, we have developed the most advanced IT platform in academic publishing.
Frontiers was founded by scientists and our focus has always been to empower researchers in the publishing process. Our journals are driven and peer-reviewed by active researchers, who are experts in their fields and have been appointed to the editorial boards according to strict selection criteria. The strong research community representation across our journals ensures that the direction of science is shaped collectively and collaboratively.
Transparency and accountability
All articles we publish are peer-reviewed, and the names of the handling editor and reviewers are featured on the final publication. Featuring the reviewers' names alongside the authors ensures accountability, provides credibility to the quality of the peer review, and is a way of recognizing their dedication and contribution.
Dedicated support teams
Our editors are fully supported by the Frontiers team of publishing experts who take responsibility for the quality of our publishing program – from recruiting editorial board members to carrying out quality checks on each submission. We collaborate with our editors to ensure we stay true to our mission, uphold our standards and work according to our values.
Our open science publishing platform is at the heart of our publishing operations. We want researchers working at the cutting-edge of science to benefit from the latest technology to validate and disseminate their findings. Leveraging software tools allows us to provide a rigorous, fast and efficient service. This also allows our editors to focus on the scientific content and improves manuscripts during peer review.
Rigorous peer review
Editorial decisions at Frontiers are guided by clear acceptance and rejection criteria during a single-blind, rigorous peer review. Editorial independence of acceptance decisions is assured by the involvement of external experts as editors and reviewers. Our in-house publishing professionals quality-control and monitor the process, may reject manuscripts at any point during the review and validate final editorial decisions to ensure our quality standards and policies are being adhered to.
All articles published by Frontiers are immediately and permanently accessible online free of charge and published under a Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and the source are credited. Open access publishing is, however, not free of costs and we operate a gold open access model with article processing charges for accepted papers. Our guiding principle is that any quality research paper is published while running a sustainable operation. Read more about our fee policy.
Frontiers' journals and editorial boards are structured to ensure rigor and the publication of high-quality research, as well as to support collaboration and future growth.
Academic journals on our platform are referred to as field journals
Each field journal is a collection of core communities, defined by specialty sections
Each specialty section operates as an independent editorial unit with its own editorial board
Organizing the journals into specialty sections supports journal growth by enabling field chief editors to strategically develop new sections as the field advances. This includes scaling the size of the editorial boards to meet the needs of a growing journal, whilst maintaining a stringent, streamlined, and efficient peer review process.
To accommodate the multidisciplinary approach of many scientific areas, the same section with its specialty chief editor and editorial board can appear in more than one journal. We call this cross-listing and it takes advantage of online-only publishing, transcending traditional journal boundaries for content visibility. For example, an author can decide whether to submit their manuscript to the section Cancer Genetics either in Frontiers in Genetics or in Frontiers in Oncology.
This cross-disciplinary approach is also applied to our Research Topics – multidisciplinary articles collections to which relevant journals can participate.
We're aware of the potential impact of published research both on future research and on society. That's why each Frontiers article strives for the highest quality, thanks to genuinely collaborative interactions between authors, editors, and reviewers, who include many of the world's best scientists and scholars.
Quality is assured by requiring that all submitted manuscripts adhere to the highest ethical standards and demonstrate rigorous and insightful research methodology and conclusions. Inclusion of appropriate reporting guidelines and the adherence of community standards for data availability to support reproducibility are also strict requirements. Failure to meet these requirements precludes review. Research must then be certified by peers before entering a stream of knowledge that may eventually reach the public – and shape society. Therefore, Frontiers only applies the most rigorous and unbiased reviews, established in the high standards of our peer review system.
Frontiers has procedures in place to support and ensure the quality of the research articles that are published.
Editorial board quality
Only leading experts and established members of the research community are appointed to Frontiers' editorial boards. Chief editors, associate editors, and review editors are all listed with their names and affiliations on the journal pages and are encouraged to publicly list their publication credentials.
Pre-peer review quality
Each submission must pass several quality checks before it moves into peer review. These quality checks are conducted by our research integrity team and aided by custom-built AI to assess quality more effectively. Our artificial intelligence review assistant (AIRA) checks every manuscript for language quality, the integrity of the figures, the detection of plagiarism, and potential conflicts of interest, among others. By highlighting where critical decisions need to be made, AIRA empowers our teams to make pre-peer-review editorial decisions quicker and more efficiently.
Associate editor assignment quality
Associate editors oversee the peer review and take the final acceptance decision on manuscripts. Editorial decision power is distributed in Frontiers because we believe that many experts within a community should be able to shape the direction of science for the benefit of society.
Associate editors follow clear conflicts of interest guidelines when accepting an editing invitation (as outlined here and upon accepting an invitation and assignment emails).
The associate editor initially checks that the article meets basic quality standards and has no obvious objective errors.
Reviewer assignment quality
The associate editor can then personally choose and invite the most appropriate reviewers to handle the peer review of the manuscript, including Review Editors from the board or external reviewers.
The associate editor is aided in this by AIRA, which suggests the most relevant review editors based on a match between their expertise and the topic of the manuscript. Associate editors can however choose any reviewer they deem adequate.
After a certain timeframe and if no reviewers have in the meantime accepted to review the manuscript, the Frontiers platform, and algorithmic safety-net steps in and invites the most appropriate Review Editors based on constantly updated and improved algorithms that match reviewer expertise with the submitted manuscript.
Review editors and reviewers follow clear conflicts of interest guidelines when accepting a review invitation (as outlined here and in their review invitation and assignment emails).
Independent review stage quality
Our team – supported by AIRA – runs several quality checks on each submission such as plagiarism and image manipulation checks.
In the independent review stage, the assigned reviewers perform an in-depth review of the article independently of each other and can recommend rejection at any stage during the review process after submitting their review report.
The reviewers are supported by an online standardized review questionnaire – adapted to each article type – with the goal to facilitate rigorous evaluation according to objective criteria and our peer review guidelines.
Interactive review stage quality
The associate editor assesses the reviews and activates the 'interactive review' – informing the authors of the extent of revisions that are required to address the reviewers' comments and starting the interactive discussion forum where authors and the reviewers get full access to all review reports.
Manuscript and review quality at this stage are enhanced by allowing authors and reviewers to discuss directly with each other until a final version of the manuscript is endorsed by the reviewers.
The process is single-blind with the reviewers' identities not known to the authors at this stage.
If a dispute arises, authors or reviewers can trigger an arbitration and will alert the associate editor, who can assign more reviewers and/or bring the dispute to the attention of the chief editor. The associate editor can also weigh in on the discussion and is asked to mediate the process to ensure a constructive revision stage.
Decision stage quality
The manuscript can only be accepted by the handling associate editor if at least two* reviewers endorse the submission for publication (*for full-length article types).
The names of the associate editor and reviewers are disclosed on published articles to encourage in depth and rigorous reviews, acknowledge work well done on the article and to bring transparency and accountability into peer review.
Associate editors can recommend the rejection of an article to the chief editor, who needs to check that the authors' rights have been upheld during the peer review process, and who can then ultimately reject the article if it is of insufficient quality, has objective errors or if the authors were unreasonably unwilling to address the points raised during the review.
Chief editors can step in to comment on the review process, change assigned editors, assign themselves as a reviewer or the handling editor, or reject the manuscript, at any stage of the peer review. They have full authority to ensure quality.
Frontiers' research integrity managers can override acceptance decisions and reject articles at any stage of the review process, should they not meet our quality criteria.
Safeguards against financial conflicts of interest
Only leading researchers acting as associate editors, who are not part of Frontiers staff, can make acceptance decisions based on reviews performed by external experts acting as Review Editors or reviewers. None have a financial incentive to accept articles, ie they are not paid for their role to act as associate or review editors, and any recognition scheme is not linked to acceptances of manuscripts.
Chief editors receive an honorarium if their section or field reaches certain submission levels and for their editorial project work. The honorarium is not based on the number of accepted articles, ensuring that editors have no incentive to accept manuscripts.
The Frontiers platform enables post-publication commenting and discussions on papers and hence the possibility to critically evaluate articles even after the peer-review process.
Frontiers has a community complaints protocol to handle all cases where serious concerns have been raised, including ethical concerns, researcher error, or misconduct. All such cases are handled according to COPE guidelines and will lead to a retraction of the article if warranted.
Frontiers editors are appointed to the boards of our journals according to strict seniority criteria and each role has specific responsibilities towards the quality and integrity of the publications.
The review editor
Frontiers' review editors are active experts in their field who review research in our journals. These researchers are appointed to our editorial boards to recognize their continuous contribution to the editorial process. They are familiar with Frontiers' peer review and can manage their review invitations actively in their profiles with us.
Review editors hold a PhD with post-doctoral experience, or an equivalent degree with several additional years of academic work, or the equivalent number of years to a recognized qualification in the relevant field of research. Review editors have a recognized affiliation and a proven publication record in the specialty area and are listed on our editorial board pages. Individual journals may have additional requirements and restrictions for this role.
The associate editor
Frontiers' associate editors act as handling editors and make an initial assessment to ensure a manuscript fits within the scope of the specialty section and is scientifically valid. They invite reviewers and directly oversee the interaction between the reviewers and authors during the collaborative peer-review process. Based on the reviewers' recommendations, and ensuring all quality, validity and ethical standards have been met, Associate editors make the final decision on acceptance or recommend a manuscript for rejection to the specialty chief editor.
Associate editors are high-impact researchers and recognized leaders in their field, with a strong publication record in international, peer-reviewed journals and with a recognized affiliation. They are typically associate professor level or higher, or an equivalent position of equal standing in their field.
The specialty chief editor
Specialty chief editors in collaboration with Frontiers define the scope of their section and recruit editors to their boards. They have the responsibility for leading and supervising the activities related to their section and providing support and guidance to the editorial board. They act as the editorial escalation point and ensure that quality and integrity standards are upheld in the peer-review process.
Specialty chief editors are leading academics and active experts in their field, typically full professors from a recognized institution with a proven track record of publications in international, peer reviewed journals and with editorial experience.
The field chief editor
Field chief editors, in collaboration with Frontiers, define the overall scope of the journal with the aim to build a community of researchers, and drive publications to fully represent the research activity of the field. They lead the college of specialty chief editors in the implementation of the Frontiers publishing model overseeing all journal activities, encouraging team spirit, and taking the lead on building the reputation of the journal. The field chief editors are the editorial escalation point for the journal and provide support and guidance to the editorial board.
Field chief editors are internationally recognized in their area of research. They have an established academic career with an overarching understanding of their whole field and an extensive network of collaborating experts with a very strong track record of publications in international, peer reviewed journals and with editorial experience.
Frontiers staff span a wide range of expertise, from scientists to software engineers, who support the operations of the journals and our publishing platform.
Journal managers are the editorial counterpart for chief editors at Frontiers. They work with our chief editors in all aspects of ensuring overall journal quality, growth, and stewardship.
Peer review managers coordinate and quality-control the peer review process and support our editors, reviewers, and authors throughout the peer review process.
Research integrity managers ensure that manuscripts are fit for peer review and adhere to established ethical and quality guidelines. They can reject papers at any stage of the submission and review process.