Editorial policies

About Science Translational Medicine

Science Translational Medicine is a weekly journal devoted to research and issues of strong interest to the translational medicine community. Translational medicine topics suitable for submission include any original research findings, discussions or analyses that move the field closer to the goal of improving human health, or the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged, for example, studies at the interface of engineering and diagnostics, chemistry and drug development, or cell biology and clinical medicine. We accept original research, as well as Reviews, Perspectives and Commentaries.

A major goal of the journal is to publish papers that identify and fill scientific knowledge gaps at the junction of basic research and human applications. In this vein, original research published in Science Translational Medicine should report significant progress toward the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of disease; serve as templates for future explorations and investments in the field of translational medicine; transform our understanding of human biology; be exceptionally innovative in its conceptual approach to a given problem; or catalyze new directions of explorations toward improved human health. These papers preferably will provide insights and evidence with influence beyond their own fields of research. Finally, we will publish papers that meet rigorous criteria of excellence and innovation, while providing authors with prompt and expert editing and peer review.

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Submission Requirements

Authorship

Authorship on a paper published in Science Translational Medicine requires that the individual has made one or more specific type of contribution to the research paper. Authors in Science Translational Medicine must fulfill the criteria laid out in the October 2005 update of the ISMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) definition of authorship. Specifically,

"Authorship credit should be based on (i) substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (ii) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and (iii) final approval of the version to be published. Authors should meet conditions i, ii, and iii. All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and all those who qualify should be listed."

Ghost authorship (in which individuals who have made author-level contributions to the paper are not included in the author list) is not permitted for papers published in Science Translational Medicine. Nor is guest or honorary authorship. Other individuals who have participated in generation of the research paper but who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in the acknowledgement section with a brief indication of the nature of their contribution.

In addition, all authors must agree to be so listed and must have seen and approved the manuscript, its content, and its submission to Science Translational Medicine. Any changes in authorship must be approved in writing by all of the original authors. Science Translational Medicine will send an email to all authors to confirm receipt of each paper. Submission of a paper that has not been approved by all authors may result in immediate rejection without appeal.

Finally, in order to more explicitly detail the part that each author played in generating the published work, all authors must state his or her contribution to the study in the last reference of the paper; this information will be published in the paper.

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Prior Publication and Presentations at Meetings

Science Translational Medicine will not consider any original research paper or component of a research paper that has been published or is under consideration for publication elsewhere. Distribution on the Internet may be considered prior publication and may compromise the originality of the paper as a submission to Science Translational Medicine. Please contact the editors if you have questions regarding allowable postings.

We generally encourage presentation of original results prior to publication at scientific meetings. Nevertheless, press coverage and presentation at scientific conferences can sometimes affect consideration of papers at Science Translational Medicine. For example, reporting the main findings of a paper in the mass media can compromise the novelty of the work and thus its appropriateness for Science Translational Medicine. Therefore, authors should feel free to present their data at scientific meetings but should not overtly seek media attention or give copies of the figures or data from their manuscript to any reporter. If a reporter attends an author's session at a meeting and writes a story based only on the presentation, such coverage will not affect Science Translational Medicine's consideration of the author's paper.

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Study Design

In an ideal study, the following components will be specified before the initiation of the experiments or trial. In the first section of the Materials and Methods, which should be titled Study Design, state how you have addressed each of these points (if applicable):

  • Sample size. How did you select your sample size? Did you use a power analysis to calculate the sample size necessary to achieve a reliable measurement of the effect? Did you alter this number during the course of the study and, if so, why?
  • Rules for stopping data collection. Did you define rules for stopping data collection in advance (for example, specific intermediary and final endpoints)?
  • Data inclusion/exclusion criteria. What criteria did you apply for inclusion and exclusion of data? Were these criteria established prospectively?
  • Outliers. How were outliers defined and handled? Were they defined before the beginning of the study? Have you reported outliers that were excluded?
  • Selection of endpoints. Were the primary and secondary endpoints prospectively selected? If multiple endpoints were assessed, were the appropriate statistical corrections should be applied.
  • Replicates. How many times was each experiment performed? How were the number and composition of replicates determined? Specify both sampling and experimental replicates. Were the results substantiated by repetition under a range of conditions?

In addition, the Study Design section must describe how and why the study was conducted and how the data were collected. Specifically,

  • Research objectives. State the objectives of the research, clearly distinguishing pre-specified hypotheses from hypotheses suggested after initiation of the data analyses.
  • Research subjects or units of investigation. Describe the type of research subjects (e.g., cancer patients, healthy volunteers), animals, or experimental units (e.g., cell cultures) studied.
  • Experimental design. Describe the overall design (e.g., randomized controlled clinical trial, controlled laboratory experiment, observational study, survey). Include the treatments that were applied, the types of observations made and the measurement techniques used. The details of the measurement methods should be described in separate sections. If a questionnaire was used to obtain information from human subjects, include it as part of the supplementary materials.
  • Randomization. Include in the description of the study whether the subject or other experimental units were assigned randomly to the various experimental groups and, if not, how the sample was selected (e.g., random sample, stratified sample, matched case-control sets). The population from which they were taken should be specified. How was randomization performed? Were the data collected and processed randomly or were they grouped?
  • Blinding. Include whether the study was blinded and the method used for allocation concealment, blinded conduct of the experiment, and blinded assessment of outcomes. Was the investigator aware to which group a particular animal taken from a cage (for example) was allocated? Were the animal caretakers and investigators conducting the experiments blinded to the allocation sequence? Were the investigators who assessed, measured, or quantified the results blinded to the intervention?

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Statistical Analysis

Generally, authors should describe statistical methods with enough detail to enable a knowledgeable reader with access to the original data to verify the results.

  • Data pre-processing steps such as transformations, re-coding, re-scaling, normalization, truncation, and handling of below detectable level readings and outliers should be fully described; any removal or modification of data values must be fully acknowledged and justified.
  • Descriptive statistics should be presented for variables that are integral to subsequent analyses and interpretation of the study findings.
  • The number of sampled units, N, upon which each reported statistic is based must be stated.
  • For continuous variables, distributions should be described using graphical displays such as scatterplots, boxplots, or histograms or by reporting measures of central tendency (e.g., mean or median) and dispersion (e.g., SD, interquartile range)./li>
  • For continuous variables that are approximately normally distributed, mean and SD are suitable measures for center and dispersion, respectively.
  • For continuous variables with asymmetrical distributions, median and range (or interquartile range) are preferred to mean and SD.
  • All measures of central tendency or dispersion that are used should be identified.
  • For very small samples sizes (e.g., N < 20), presentation of all data values in tabular format is desirable unless presentation would violate restrictions for privacy or confidentiality for human subjects.
  • Units should be supplied for all measurements.
  • Methods used for conducting statistical tests (e.g., t-test, Wilcoxon signed rank test, Wald test of regression coefficient) and for constructing confidence intervals (e.g., normal-based 95% CI: mean ± 2SD, likelihood ratio-based interval) should be clearly stated. Mention methods used in the Materials and Methods and then provide the individual test name in the figure legend for each experiment.
  • The testing level (alpha) and whether one-sided or two-sided testing was used should be reported for each statistical test; typically two-sided testing is appropriate, but if one-sided testing is used its use should be justified.
  • Adjustments made to alpha levels (e.g., Bonferroni correction) or other procedure used to account for multiple testing (e.g., false discovery rate control) should be reported.
  • When Bayesian analyses are conducted, any assumptions made for prior distributions must be fully described.
  • Sufficient information should be supplied to allow readers to judge whether any assumptions necessary for the validity of statistical approaches (e.g., data are normally distributed, survival data are consistent with proportional hazards in a Cox regression model) have been verified.
  • An accounting of missing data values should be provided; if imputed data values are used in statistical analyses, the methods used for imputation should be fully described.
  • Novel or highly complex statistical methods or computational algorithms should be adequately described with references supplied to allow readers the opportunity to recreate the calculations; at its discretion, the Journal may require that computer code and data be made available as supplementary information as a condition of publication.

Authors should present results in complete and transparent fashion so that stated conclusions are backed by appropriate statistical evaluation and limitations of the study are frankly discussed.

  • Point estimates of population parameters (e.g., mean, correlation coefficient, slope) or comparative measures (e.g., mean difference, odds ratio, hazard ratio) should be accompanied by a measure of uncertainty such as a standard error or a confidence interval.
  • Results of each statistical test should be reported in full with the value of the test statistic and p-value, and not simply reported as significant or non-significant; more than two significant digits on p-values are usually not needed except in situations of extreme multiple testing such as in genetic association studies where stringent corrections for multiple testing might be used.
  • Any results that are reported to constitute a blinded, independent validation of a statistical model (or mathematical classifier or predictor) must be accompanied by a detailed explanation that includes: 1) specification of the exact “locked down” form of the model, including all data processing steps, algorithm for calculating the model output, and any cutpoints that might be applied to the model output for final classification, 2) date on which the model or predictor was fully locked down in exactly the form described, 3) name of the individual(s) who maintained the blinded data and oversaw the evaluation (e.g., honest broker), 4) statement of assurance that no modifications, additions, or exclusion were made to the validation data set from the point at which the model was locked down and that neither the validation data nor any subset of it had ever been used to assess or refine the model being tested.

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Reporting Guidelines

Authors are encouraged to follow published standard reporting guidelines for the study discipline. Many of these can be found at the EQUATOR website.

Type of Study Guidelines
Animal studies ARRIVE
Prognostic marker studies REMARK
Diagnostic markers STARD
Meta-analysis of observational studies in medicine MOOSE
Stroup et al. JAMA. 2000;283:2008-2012
Systematic reviews and meta-analysis of health care interventions PRISMA
Cohort and case-control studies STROBE
Genetic association studies STROBE Extension STREGA
Tumor marker studies Simon RM, Paik S, and Hayes DF J Natl Cancer Inst 2009;101:1446-1452
Studies using biospecimens BRISQ
Rodent model studies Hollingshead MG J. Natl Cancer Inst
2008;100:1500-1510
Microarray-based studies for clinical outcomes Table 3 in Dupuy A and Simon RM J. Natl Cancer Inst 2007; 99:147-57

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Guidelines for Specific Types of Studies

Human subjects research

Informed consent must be obtained for studies on humans after the nature and possible consequences of the studies are explained. A statement that informed consent was obtained must also appear in the manuscript. All research on humans must have approval from the institutional IRB (Institutional Review Board) or an equivalent body. The editors reserve the right to request IRB documents associated with a particular paper.

Clinical trials

A CONSORT Statement. CONSORT includes recommendations, a checklist of items that should be included in a comprehensive report, and a participant flow diagram. The recommended checklist should be completed and provided at the time of manuscript submission. The recommended trial flow diagram may be presented as a figure (usually Fig. 1). Reports of randomized controlled trials that do not conform to the CONSORT guidelines may be returned to authors for revision prior to formal review.

Registration of clinical trials.

Clinical trials should generally be registered in accordance with the criteria outlined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (http://www.icmje.org/), including the June 2007 update. Authors should provide the trial registration number in the Acknowledgements section and provide a link to the trial registration, to be cited as a reference.

Biomarker studies

Putative biomarkers must be evaluated with an independent validation set. Reports of unvalidated biomarkers will only be considered in the context of a clear experimental, mechanistic connection to disease or other unique contribution to understanding of disease or clinical practice. A statement should be included in all biomarker papers describing how overfitting (training models on large numbers of variables measured on small numbers of subjects) and other forms of bias were avoided. We strongly recommend all papers reporting potential new biomarkers be evaluated by an independent statistician before submission.

Modeling studies

Computational models should be validated either experimentally or through a dataset independent of the training set. All assumptions should be clearly stated with sources provided in the references and notes section. The code/algorithm used for the study must be included as a file in the Supplementary Materials to allow replication of the results by interested readers.

Animal studies

For all animal experimentation described in the manuscript, Science Translational Medicine requires that authors state in the Methods section their adherence to the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or the equivalent.

Genetically modified animals. To avoid confounding effects of inbred strain background, littermate controls should generally be used, although exceptions may be allowed. Justification for other control animals should be included. Authors should fully describe the source of their animals and number of times backcrosses were performed.

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Unpublished Data and Personal Communications

Citations to unpublished data and personal communications cannot be used to support significant claims in the paper.

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Related Papers

Copies of papers submitted to other journals or that are in press as of the date that the revised manuscript is returned by any of the authors that relate to the paper submitted to Science Translational Medicine must be included with the submission or revision. Access to this material will let the editors put the results in the submission in the proper context and make the best decision regarding the submitted manuscript.

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Conditions of Acceptance

Funding and Conflict of Interest

Authors. Before acceptance, each author will be asked to disclose all affiliations, funding sources, and financial or management relationships related to the reported research, including those that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. Patents (whether applications or awards to the authors or home institutions) related to the work should also be declared. The editors will decide whether this information will be included in the published manuscript as competing interests.

Reviewers. Reviewers form the cornerstone of the peer-review process, and their evaluations ensure the quality of published research. Therefore, the editors seek reviewers for Science Translational Medicine who do not have conflicts of interest with the authors or reported research in the manuscripts they read. In addition to this precaution, reviewers are required to disclose any previously unreported conflicts with the evaluation of the paper, and this information is taken into account by the editors when decisions are made.

Editorial Staff. Editors for Science Translational Medicine are required to fill out a conflict of interest form, which is then evaluated by Science/AAAS management. Editors for Science Translational Medicine may not have any financial or management interest in any biotechnology, pharmaceutical or biomedical or engineering device institution or company.

Advisory Board. The members of the Advisory Board are required to fill out a conflict of interest form, which is then maintained and evaluated by the editorial staff. Advisors who have conflicts with any particular paper are recused from seeing that paper at any stage in the evaluation process. Staff editors, who are required to have no conflicts of interest, make all final decisions on manuscripts.

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Data Availability after Publication

After publication, all data necessary to understand, assess, and extend the conclusions of the manuscript must be available to any reader of Science Translational Medicine. These data must be in the body of the paper, in the Supplementary Materials, or archived in an approved database (with accession number included in the acknowledgements) (see section below on data deposition). Exceptions must be discussed with an editor.

We recognize that discipline-specific conventions or special circumstances may occasionally apply, and we will consider these in negotiating compliance with requests. Any concerns about your ability to meet Science Translational Medicine's requirements must be disclosed and discussed with an editor. For further information about accessibility of data and materials, see the following resources.

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Data Deposition

Science Translational Medicine supports the efforts of databases that aggregate published data for the use of the scientific community. Therefore, before publication, large data sets (including microarray data, protein or DNA sequences, and atomic coordinates or electron microscopy maps for macromolecular structures) must be deposited in an approved database and an accession number provided for inclusion in the published paper.

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Materials Sharing

After publication, all reasonable requests for materials must be fulfilled. A charge for time and materials involved in the transfer may be made. Science Translational Medicine must be informed of any restrictions on sharing of materials (including Material Transfer Agreements) applying to materials used or created in the reported research. Any such restrictions should be indicated in the cover letter at the time of submission, and each individual author will be asked to reaffirm this when he or she submits the final version of the manuscript. The editors reserve the right to request a copy of the MTA. The nature of the restrictions should be noted in the paper. Unreasonable restrictions may preclude publication.

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Copyright and License to Publish

Authors retain copyright but agree to grant to Science Translational Medicine an exclusive license to publish.

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Access Policies and Deposition of Papers into Public Archives

Immediately after publication, authors may post the "accepted" version of the paper on the author's personal or institutional archival Web site. In addition, one author is provided a "referrer" link, which can be posted on a personal or institutional Web page and through which users can freely access the final, published paper on Science Translational Medicine's Web site.

For research papers created under grants for which the authors are required by their funding agencies to make their research results publicly available (for example, from NIH, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or Wellcome Trust), Science Translational Medicine allows posting of the accepted" version of research content (Research Articles and Reports) to the funding body's archive or designated repository (such as PubMed Central) no sooner than six months after publication, provided that a link to the final version of the paper published in Science Translational Medicine is included. The accepted version is the version of the paper accepted for publication after changes resulting from peer review, but before editing by Science Translational Medicine editorial and copyediting staff, image quality control, and production of the final PDF.

Like all original research papers published in Science journals, original research papers in Science Translational Medicine are freely accessible with registration to any reader on Science Translational Medicine's Web site 12 months after publication.

Authors from institutions that might limit the authors' ability to grant to AAAS any of the rights described in AAAS's license must obtain an approved waiver from their institution to publish with Science Translational Medicine.

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Figure Processing Fees

To help offset the costs of processing figures for publication, authors of original research papers are asked to pay $300 per figure published in the main paper. The fee is the same for color or black and white figures. There is no charge for figures in Supplementary Materials.

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Embargo Policy

Submitted and accepted papers must remain privileged documents and must not be released to the press or the public before publication. Questions should be referred to the AAAS Office of Public Programs (202-326-6440).

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Detailed Instructions for Individual Manuscript Types

The detailed instructions for each manuscript type outline the format and style requirements for each type of article published in Science Translational Medicine are available in Information for Authors. These instructions also include directions for preparation of text and figures, as well as required file formats, electronic submission instructions and a submission checklist.

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