We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Skip to Main Content


Scope and Criteria

Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) is a full Open Access journal publishing the results of leading edge research into physical, chemical, biochemical and biological aspects of nucleic acids and proteins directly involved in nucleic acid metabolism and/or interactions.

NAR receives far more submissions than it can publish. In order to be considered for publication, a manuscript must present some novel development and meet the general criteria of originality , timeliness , significance and scientific excellence .

The full criteria for consideration for all manuscript types can be consulted here .

The Peer-Review Process

Upon receipt, manuscripts are assessed for their suitability for publication by the Senior Executive Editors and the editorial staff. Only the manuscripts meeting the journal’s general criteria for consideration are sent out for review, saving time both for the Authors and the Referees.

These manuscripts are assigned to Executive Editors who take overall responsibility for the peer-review process. Typically, a minimum of two reviews are required for each manuscript. Referees are chosen first and foremost for their expertise in the field. Referees can also be recommended by the Authors, the Editors and other Referees. Once they have agreed to review a manuscript, Referees have two weeks to submit their comments via our online manuscript tracking system. We aim to reach a decision on all manuscripts within 4 weeks of submission; hence a prompt delivery of the Referee’s reports is essential.

Accessing the Referee Report

All reviews must be submitted via our online manuscript tracking system, ScholarOne Manuscripts .

There are two ways to access the manuscript, (i) by clicking on the link provided in the instruction email, or (ii) by logging directly into the Referee centre on ScholarOne Manuscripts. The manuscript can be found in the Referee centre under 'Review and Score'. Clicking on the 'Perform Review' button will give access to the score sheet and full instructions.

Each manuscript record contains 3 tabs: the Instructions tab, the Details tab which provides basic information such as the manuscript title and keywords, and the Score Sheet tab.

Clicking on the green 'Original files' icon gives access to the manuscript file(s) and the Author’s response to previous Referees’ comments for revised or resubmitted manuscripts. Supplementary Information, if provided, can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Supplementary Files’ green icon. Click the ‘HTML’ or ‘PDF’ green icons to view all the manuscripts files consolidated into a single HTML or PDF file. Please note: the supplementary files are not displayed in the final HTML or PDF .

To do external searches by keywords in PubMed, HighWire or Google, click on the ‘External Searches’ blue icon.

Important: Please click on the ‘Save as Draft’ button regularly to avoid being logged out of the system and losing any work in progress .

Completing the Referee Report

The Referee’s report is made up of 6 different sections; all sections must be completed before submission.

  • Section 1: manuscript rating on Significance, Originality, Scientific Quality and General Interest. We rely on these in making editorial decisions, and only those manuscripts that merit a high rating will receive maximum consideration for publication.
  • Section 2: custom questions regarding manuscript length, figures, methods, supplementary material, sequence information and quality of English.
  • Section 3: Breakthrough Articles (see below)
  • Section 4: recommendation (Accept, Reject etc…).
  • Section 5: confidential comments to the Editor.
  • Section 6: comments for the Authors.

Referees should approach each manuscript with an impartial and positive but critical mind. Comments to the Authors must be constructive, clearly identifying the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, and providing tangible suggestions for improvement. Offensive language is not acceptable. Referees will not be able to edit their report once it is submitted, so should not include anything in the Comments for the Authors that they would not wish the Authors to read.

The ideal report should be organized as follows:

  • An introductory paragraph placing the manuscript in a broader context, describing the contribution of the manuscript to the field, summarizing the manuscript’s main findings and claims, and giving the Referee’s overall impression of the manuscript.
  • Specific comments which should be further divided into Major and Minor Comments.
  • Suggestions to improve the manuscript. These may include:
    - new experiments or improvements to the described experiments
    - addition/deletion of references
    - changes to the text to improve presentation, quality of English, length etc.

Instructions regarding Survey and Summary manuscripts

The Survey and Summary category accommodates primarily review articles, although it is flexible in content and format. The best of the Survey and Summary articles present a synthesis of ideas within a field, explain why the subject is important, and draw in both the specialist and the nonspecialist. Several Survey and Summary articles have been highlighted on our web site as among our frequently downloaded papers, and articles may be cited for many years depending on the area. It would be helpful to have your opinion both on the details (Are the citations accurate? Is the article balanced?) as well as its overall significance, originality, and potential impact on its field.

Instructions regarding statistical analyses and validations

Methods and Materials, and corresponding descriptions of actual experimental should contain, anywhere relevant:

1. The exact sample size (n) for each experimental group/condition, given as a number, not a range.

2. A description of the sample collection allowing the reader to understand whether the samples represent technical or biological replicates (including how many animals, litters, cultures, etc.)

3. A statement of how many times an experiment shown was replicated in the laboratory.

4. Definitions of statistical methods and measures:
- Very common tests, such as t-test, simple χ2 tests, Wilcoxon and Mann-Whitney tests, can be unambiguously identified by name only, but more complex techniques should be described in detail.

  • Are tests one-sided or two-sided?
  • Are there adjustments for multiple comparisons?
  • Statistical test results, e.g., P values;
  • Definition of ‘center values’ as median or average; definition of error bars as standard deviations (s.d.) or standard error of the mean (s.e.m.)

Instructions regarding the presentation of experimental data as computer images

  • No specific feature within an image may be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced.
  • The grouping of images from different parts of the same gel, or from different gels, fields, or exposures (i.e. the creation of a "composite image") must be made absolutely explicit by the arrangement of the figure (i.e., using dividing lines) and by the text of the figure legend.
  • Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to the whole image and as long as they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information present in the original, including the background. Non-linear adjustments (e.g., changes to gamma settings) must be disclosed in the figure legend. Alteration of brightness or contrast that results in the disappearance of any features in a gel (either bands or cosmetic blemishes) or similar alterations in other experimental images is strictly forbidden.

Breakthrough Articles

'Breakthrough Articles’ present high-impact studies answering long-standing questions in the field of nucleic acids research and/or opening up new areas and mechanistic hypotheses for investigation. These articles are chosen by the Editors on the recommendation of Editorial Board Members and Referees. Articles are accompanied by a brief synopsis explaining the findings of the paper and where they fit in the broader context of nucleic acids research. Breakthrough Articles replace the older 'Featured Articles’, which have been discontinued. They represent the very best papers published at NAR.

Editorial Decision

Referees should not include a recommendation regarding publication in their comments to the Authors. This decision rests solely with the Editor. However, Referees may use Section 4 of the Referee report to make confidential comments to the Editor regarding the suitability of the manuscript for publication.

In the event of conflicting Referee reports, the Editor may invite a new Referee, possibly a member of the Editorial Board, to comment on the manuscript. The Editor may inform the new Referee of the conflict and may give him/her access to the previous Referee reports without disclosing the Referees’ names.

Based on the Referees’ comments, the Editor may then take one of the following decisions:

  • Reject: usually due to a lack of novelty or because the manuscript is too specialized/lacks general interest, the conclusions are not supported by the evidence or the manuscript is experimentally not sound.
  • Reject with possible resubmission: the manuscript could be reconsidered for publication but would require a significant amount of additional experimental work.
  • Major revisions
  • Accept with minor revisions
  • Accept

Referees’ reports are generally not edited by the Editor before being sent to the Authors. However, Editors retain the right to remove any inappropriate language, confidential information or recommendation for publication without consultation with the Referee.

Copies of all the reviews are sent anonymously to the Referees once the Editor has reached a decision. These are for information only.

Ethical Considerations

The review process is strictly confidential. Referees should not discuss the manuscript with anyone not directly involved in the review process. Referees may consult with colleagues or other experts in the field only upon approval from the Executive Editor. Under no circumstances should the Referees disclose, copy, share or distribute any of the manuscript files or any of their comments. In the event of queries, the Referees must not contact the Authors directly but must raise the queries with the Executive Editor.

Conflict of Interest
We expect Referees to disclose conflicts of interest when they are first invited to review a manuscript. The following may constitute a conflict of interest:

  • One or more of the Authors are from the same institution as the Referee.
  • Recent or ongoing collaboration with one or more of the Authors.
  • Referee saw a draft of the manuscript before submission.
  • Authors and Referee are in direct competition.
  • Conflict or dispute with the Authors
  • Financial/commercial interest.

However, the fact that a Referee has previously reviewed the same manuscript for another journal does not constitute a conflict of interest.

Publishing Ethics
Referees should report any breach of publishing ethics that they identify directly to the Editor. The following may constitute a breach:

  • Plagiarism
  • Manipulated images/photos/figures
  • Biased reference list
  • Duplicate publication
  • Data from previous publication reused without proper referencing

Anonymous Entry to Authors' Websites

Some manuscripts include information held on the Author's website which you may need to access in the course of reviewing the manuscript. In order to avoid any compromise of Referee anonymity you may wish to do this using an anonymizer. You will find a list of free anonymous surfing servers at http://www.thefreecountry.com/security/anonymous.shtml . Please note that neither Oxford University Press nor the Nucleic Acids Research Editors endorse or recommend any particular anonymizer, and can accept no responsibility for any such site.

Referee Reward Scheme

For each prompt and useful review received within the 14 days deadline, Referees are entitled to either a free CD ( Chandos catalogue ) or a £5 discount on an OUP book. Remuneration takes place annually in October-November.

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

View Article Abstract & Purchase Options

For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.

Subscribe Now