PRL Editorial: Standards and Growth

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The definition of journal acceptance rate is the percentage of all articles submitted to Physical Review Letters that was accepted for publication. Based on the Journal Acceptance Rate Feedback System database, the latest acceptance rate of Physical Review Letters is 44.4%.

Relation to Prior Publications

PRL publishes papers reporting new results. In general, consideration of a later Letter is barred by the prior publication of a set of results. Furthermore, the results must not be merely a slight expansion of previously published work or a repetition of earlier findings on a comparable system without new physical understanding. When a manuscript is submitted, it is acknowledged as having not already been published and not being considered for publication elsewhere. If the editors determine that this is not the case, they withdraw the manuscript and it is not given further consideration.

If a manuscript has ever been considered for publication in another Physical Review journal, the authors must disclose this when submitting it. In that case, authors must provide the code number that was previously given to the manuscript.

When submitting a manuscript, authors should list any recent, pertinent, unpublished work they have done. For instance, authors should provide the title of a manuscript that has been submitted to another journal, the code number of a manuscript that is being considered by a Physical Review journal, or the e-print number of a manuscript that has been stored on a preprint server.

Letters and Comments must adhere to strict criteria for content and presentation as determined by thorough editing and refereeing. The purpose of PRL is to keep a large readership of physicists up to date with the crucial recent findings in all subfields. To achieve this, there must be strong justifications for publishing a result as a letter rather than in a more specialized journal.

Validity. A piece of work is valid if it is free from errors that can be seen and is presented in such a way that its validity can be determined. The new predictions and interpretations must be distinct from prior knowledge and not contradict experiment in manuscripts that advance new theoretical views on fundamental principles or theories.

Importance. Important findings are those that significantly advance a field, establish a significant new field of study, or resolve—or make a significant first step toward resolving—a significant outstanding problem, thereby enabling notable advancement in an established field. A new theoretical or experimental approach might make a good basis for a letter, but only if it results in the significant advancements described above. Results from mathematics and computation that do not apply to physics are typically not suitable. In manuscripts describing proposed experiments, strong evidence must be provided that the proposal is original, doable, and will result in significant new research.

Broad Interest. If a piece of work represents a significant advancement in the field of physics or has significant implications across subfield boundaries, it is of broad interest. A manuscript might also be of interest to many people if it presents exceptionally beautiful science.

Presentation. The diversity of PRL’s readership places special demands on style. A Letter must start with an introduction that states the issues it addresses and its main accomplishments in language that can be understood by people working in all areas of physics. Within the limitations of a brief communication, each Letter should present a thorough discussion. Letters must be written in plain English, free of superfluous jargon, with defined symbols, accurately drawn figures, and detailed captions for tables and figures.

Importance of Introductory Paragraphs. PRL is exceptional in its dedication to keeping readers who are broadly interested up to date on important current research in all fields of physics. Introduction paragraphs that list the topics covered in the manuscript and the main accomplishments accomplish this goal. These paragraphs should be clearly written and comprehensible to nonexperts. The referees are instructed to pay close attention to the introductory section in order to ensure compliance. Additionally, the editors will conduct their own evaluation of the introduction’s sufficiency and clarity.

Use of Previously Published Material. Reproduction of figures, tables, and text from earlier publications should be limited and properly cited. In order to reproduce figures, tables, etc. authors must demonstrate that they have complied with the publisher’s copyright or licensing requirements if they use an article, from another journal.

Long tables and other extra materials are acceptable as supplements that authors can submit. Supplemental Material can include multimedia, unprocessed or processed data, inputs or outputs from calculations, computer codes, and additional technical information about the work done. Referees may be consulted by the editors for advice regarding Supplemental Material; they will then review the material as necessary. Please refer to the Information for Authors for more details on Supplemental Material.

Only use new terminology when it is absolutely necessary. Excessive use of acronyms should be avoided. The proliferation of specialized jargon can serve to inhibit communication. New terminology should accurately convey its meaning to the reader. It shouldn’t be trivial, difficult to say, or based on a personal joke. New terminology should not be introduced in titles.

Manuscripts must correctly credit significant contributions made by nonauthors and reference relevant earlier work. Complete referencing benefits readers by accurately contextualizing the work in light of related research. At the time of submission, authors should make every effort to ensure that all references to previously published work are properly cited. These citations may refer to publications such as books and conference proceedings that go beyond abstracts. Before publishing, authors must include citations for any works that were published during the review process.

Even though an abstract may have been published, authors may cite unpublished work such as e-prints, preprints, internal reports, or findings that have only been verbally presented at meetings. A citation might be necessary for unpublished work that is discovered during the review process. Unpublished work has not yet undergone full peer review, so editorial judgment will be used to determine whether it needs to be cited.

Authors are not allowed to claim ownership of data and results that were obtained from others. In addition, authors are not allowed to use passages from another work (by them or others) without giving credit, not even when summarizing historical data or background information. If a direct quotation is appropriate, it must be identified as such, and the source must be properly cited. Manuscripts found to be in breach of this rule will be disregarded. Resubmitting the manuscript in such circumstances is typically not permitted, even if the copied text has been removed. However, if exceptional circumstances call for it, the editors may make exceptions to this rule.

Responsibility of the Corresponding Author

When there are multiple authors on a manuscript, one of them should be designated as the corresponding author, who will receive and respond to correspondence from the editors. This designation can be changed by notifying the editors. The corresponding author is in charge of speaking for everyone connected to the manuscript.

By submitting a manuscript, the corresponding author certifies:

  • The manuscript presents the original work of the listed authors.
  • The manuscript accurately reflects the scientific results.
  • The research study’s concept, design, execution, and interpretation were significantly influenced by all of the authors.
  • All those who contributed significantly were given the chance to be listed as authors.
  • Each and every one of the listed authors is aware of and consents to submitting the manuscript.
  • The manuscript is being considered here but has not yet been published, is not currently being considered by another journal, and will not be during that time.
  • The authors have informed the editors of any relevant unpublished works, including earlier drafts of this manuscript that may have been sent to a Physical Review journal.
  • The authors agree to abide by the practices used to choose which manuscripts to publish.

PRL publishes Letters, Comments, and Errata. All Journal sections’ scientific content is evaluated using the same standards. The various purposes for which the papers are intended set the sections apart. Letters are limited to 3750 words, while comments are limited to 750 words. The Length Guide contains details on how to estimate length.

Letters are succinct, comprehensive, and easily accessible accounts of significant new findings.

Corrections: Authors of recent papers may ask for the correction of self-contained errors. The Editors must first approve any changes before determining their significance for the accuracy of scientific claims, funding data, or metadata (such as an author’s name). Please be aware that there is a different policy for authors who want to modify or change their name on published papers; see APS Name Change Policy.

Once implemented, corrections will be listed by date in the online version of the paper with a brief description. Additionally, this data will show up after the references at the conclusion of the PDF version. The print version will be corrected if timing allows. Note that only errors that were known at the time of publication should be corrected. Information that changes after publication, such as author contact details or references published, should not be updated.

Errata: Notices about mistakes or omissions in previously published papers can be found in the Errata section. In addition to standard Errata, the following categories of documents may also be included in this section: Each has links that go both ways between the document and the errata section of the original article. The title of the corrective document and the link to the original article both specify its category.

The standard Erratum is a declaration made by the authors of the original paper that briefly describes any corrections made and, as necessary, any impacts they may have had on the paper’s conclusions.

An editorial note is a statement made by the journal’s editors about a paper that they believe should be shared with the article’s readers.

An Expression of Concern draws attention to a potential issue in a paper. It is employed when a problem with the paper has been brought to the Editors’ attention and when a potential solution either takes a very long time or cannot be found.

Retractions are notices that a piece of research should not be taken seriously as part of the body of knowledge. There are a number of potential causes for this, including the presentation of false results and the inclusion of results that have already been published but in a substantially similar manner. (In the latter scenario, the earlier publication should be regarded as the information’s source rather than the retracted article. The retracted article is not taken down from the online journal in order to preserve the integrity of the record; instead, notice of Retraction is provided. When authors find significant scientific errors, retraction is occasionally published; in other instances, the editors decide that retraction is necessary. Every time, the Retraction explains why the action was taken and who was in charge of the decision. Without the consent of all authors, a retraction cannot be made; instead, the APS editor-in-chief must give his or her approval.

A manuscript’s length is estimated when it is received. The paper is given to the appropriate editor, who selects the paper’s referees, if the length is not excessive. (The editors share responsibility for the various physics subfields.) (If the paper’s length is predicted to be greater than 3750 words, it is not sent for review and the authors are given a length estimate. The authors may make suitable changes and resubmit the manuscript.

Review Procedure for a Letter

When reviewing manuscripts, the editors ask specialists in the field for their input. In a box on the submission website, authors must explain why their manuscript needs to be published in PRL. This text may be forwarded to the referees. When a manuscript is clearly unfit for publication in the editors’ opinion, it will be rejected without external review. Such manuscript authors are entitled to appeal in the same manner as other authors.

Referees are asked to provide frank feedback on the validity and significance of the manuscript and to express their views on how much the manuscript will interest PRL readers. Referees are asked to give their justifications for recommending publication when they submit favorable reports. The referees’ comments on how to improve the style, grammar, completeness of references, etc. are also appreciated by the editors. A manuscript’s referees’ recommendations regarding its scientific merits are taken very seriously; typically, no manuscript that receives significant scientific criticism from a referee will be accepted without additional review. The editors will consider their own perceptions of the manuscript and of the journal, as well as their understanding of the opinions of the journal’s readers, in reaching their conclusions on these aspects of acceptability, even though they will solicit and consider referees’ advice regarding the suitability of the paper for the journal in terms of importance, broad interest, and accessibility.

Within a week of receiving the reference, the referee is asked to send a critique. A reminder message is sent if a timely response is not received, and we ask the referee to let us know if there will be any additional delays. The editor examines the file if no response is received after a suitable additional period of time. Sometimes it is appropriate to base a decision on information that is already available. Editors can decide when they feel they have enough information and are not required to obtain two referee reports. However, the editor might determine that additional counsel is required or that a longer delay is acceptable (typically based on contact with the referee). Naturally, the editors stop using referees who commit crimes too frequently.

The editor reviews the referees’ reports after receiving them and decides whether to publish them. A small percentage of manuscripts receive reports that are convincing and favorable without any qualifications, and those manuscripts are immediately put into production. Some manuscripts are conditionally accepted after the authors take into account any changes that the referees and editors have recommended. The majority of manuscripts are not accepted at this point, and the authors are required to address the referees’ criticisms. The editors consider referees’ objections to be criticism by reputable scholars who are part of the particular group of experts addressed by the manuscript, and they do demand that the author take those criticisms seriously, even though they do not assume that the referees’ views take precedence over the authors’ well-considered arguments.

Referee reports should be written in a collegial manner because they are advisory to the editors but are typically sent by the editors to the authors. The editors may withhold or edit reports for cause.

A list of the modifications made and a succinct response to each suggestion and criticism should be included with any resubmission. Normally, reviewers will be sent this material, so it should be written in a collegial tone. Authors should clearly identify and separate their comments intended only for the editors from the summary and response.

The editor may execute any number of procedures when the manuscript is resubmitted following the initial round of referee reports. The author’s response and revisions might persuade the editor, who would then approve publication. But typically, the editor decides that additional review is required, possibly by the previous referees or possibly by additional referees. The anonymous review process will typically conclude with the reports received following the authors’ initial resubmission of the manuscript in an effort to reduce the amount of time between initial submission of a manuscript and final disposition. As a result, the editor will let the authors know whether their manuscript will be published (possibly with minor revisions) or whether it will not be appropriate for this journal. The appeal process will start if the editors’ unfavorable decision is not upheld and the authors submit the manuscript once more.

Although it is impossible to define acceptability precisely, the editor will typically only accept those papers for which there is evidence that a significant portion of knowledgeable readers interested in the topic would find the paper to be important, interesting, and appropriate for publication in PRL. Keep in mind that rejection does not always mean that the editors or their advisors have determined that the paper is incorrect, unimportant, or boring. Instead, rejection implies that the authors have not persuaded this jury that the paper meets the specific requirements of PRL and is credible, significant, and interesting. Recently, fewer than 25% of submitted papers have been finally accepted for publication in PRL This value is not an acceptance rate fixed by policy. It reflects the community’s consensus opinion on how much to publish (reviewers, not editors).

In some cases, information regarding a manuscript that PRL has reviewed and that has since been submitted to another journal may be given to the editor of that journal. Such information might include the comments and identities of referees.

The Editors will consider it an obligation to review the acceptance decision if they receive additional information after accepting a manuscript that appears to warrant investigation.

Procedure for Joint Submissions

Authors may think about concurrently submitting a longer version of the Letter to one of the specialized Physical Review journals when submitting a Letter to PRL. If not, using the Supplemental Material may be preferable as it will likely result in a significantly greater understanding of the topic.

It is standard procedure to submit an expanded version of a PRL to a relevant Physical Review journal, giving readers easier access to crucial supplementary information. The two manuscripts are then reviewed coherently, usually by the same referees, if authors simultaneously submit a Letter to PRL and a regular paper to one of the Physical Review journals. The journals hope to publish both manuscripts concurrently if they both receive positive reviews, unless this causes an undue delay for one of the papers. We also make sure that the paper and the letter properly credit one another.

Mention the companion manuscripts in the cover letter when submitting manuscripts for review as joint publications to notify the editors.

Comments are generally processed according to the following procedure.

(1) The authors of the criticized work are sent the Comment for their response. The Comment is not to be reviewed by the authors of the object Letter as anonymous referees. Instead, they are requested to offer a written assessment of the Comment that can be forwarded to the Comment’s authors. The manuscript may be recommended for acceptance, acceptance following revision, or rejection by the authors of the object paper. Along with the Comment, they may also submit a Reply for consideration.

(2) The Comment (and Reply, if any) and pertinent correspondence are sent to at least one uninvolved expert for anonymous review following appropriate exchanges between the parties involved. The authors of the object paper are given the chance to submit a Reply to the Comment if the referee recommends acceptance and they have not already done so. The Reply will also be examined, typically by the same impartial expert, but publication acceptance is not guaranteed. Whether or not a reply is published, if the Comment meets our requirements, it will be published.

(3) When both the Comment and Reply are accepted for publication, a copy of the Reply is sent to the Comment’s authors for their information; however, they should not change the Comment unless the editors specifically request it. The Comment is followed by a Reply in the same issue of the journal, and they are both published.

Comments and replies must be pertinent to our readers and error-free in order to be published. Regardless of whether a reply is published or not, a comment that meets our standards will be published. The editors won’t unreasonably postpone publishing a suitable Comment because there isn’t a sufficient response, The editors may decide to only publish a portion of the received Comments if a Letter prompts several similar Comments.

If the editors reject an author’s manuscript, they can formally appeal that decision. In this situation, the manuscript and all pertinent data, including the referees’ names, will be sent to a Divisional Associate Editor (DAE) on the Editorial Board. The DAE may review the case using the current documentation or may request a second expert opinion. The DAE will provide the editors with a signed advisory opinion, which they will send along with a decision regarding acceptance or rejection to the authors and/or referees. With the information at hand, the appeal process’ goal is to review the editorial decision to reject the manuscript; it is not another round of review.

A different DAE will review the manuscript on appeal if a DAE has already provided a referee report on it. Authors may recommend DAEs for conducting the review that they believe are appropriate (or not), but the editors are not required to follow their recommendations. The editors may designate a suitable scientist to review an appealed manuscript as an ad hoc DAE if no suitable DAE is available.

The author of a manuscript that has been declined after going through the DAE review process may ask for the case to be reviewed by the APS editor in chief. This request ought to be made to the editors, who will look over the document and, if necessary, send the entire document to the editor in chief. This type of appeal must center on the fairness of the processes used and not call for additional scientific review. The editor in chief’s decision is the highest level of review, and it must be supported by evidence that our procedures were followed correctly and that the paper was given a fair hearing.

The manuscript’s receipt date is the day the editorial office first received it. The date appears on manuscripts before they are reviewed and after they are published. Physical Review journals typically retain the original receipt date for manuscripts that are transferred between them. A revised date may be given to a manuscript if authors make significant changes; this date will also appear if the paper is published. A new receipt date is assigned to a resubmitted manuscript in the event of significant delays or changes.

Anonymity and Confidentiality of the Peer-Review Process

Anonymous peer review is critical to our publication process. Therefore, during and after the review process, the names of our referees are not disclosed to authors or other referees. For more information on how to release information about the review process, please refer to the Task Force Report on the Release of Peer Review Materials.

Referees are required to treat all records related to the review process as private and confidential. This information consists of the actual manuscript (along with any applicable Supplemental Material), any relevant materials supplied by the authors, referee reports, and any other correspondence. Referees are also prohibited from using any of the information given to them as part of the peer-review process for their own research. Referees may consult with and solicit counsel from other researchers or colleagues, but they must make sure that the privacy of these materials is maintained. Referees must provide the names and contact details of the researchers they have consulted in these situations.

The APS must acquire all required rights before publishing a manuscript. Most of the time, the corresponding author’s completed standard APS Transfer of Copyright Agreement suffices. However, a separate “license to publish” agreement (Grant of Publications Rights) may be necessary if one or more authors work for the government or if the authors opt for an Open Access publication option. The APS has created an online, interactive service that directs the completion of the proper agreement(s) for a specific manuscript to help manage this process. After an editor has reviewed the submission, authors are referred to this service via email. Authors should be aware that until APS receives all necessary agreements, accepted manuscripts will not be copyedited or formatted in preparation for publication. Please refer to the Copyright Policies FAQ for more details on copyright regulations.

For any given manuscript, only one copy of each type of agreement (Transfer of Copyright or Grant of Publication Rights) needs to be filled out. But each rights organization associated with an article must grant or transfer rights to their creation to the APS. We request that the corresponding author make arrangements for the completion of the necessary paperwork. The APS must acquire all of these rights in order to publish, share, redistribute, and archive the article. This can be done by requesting a transfer of copyright or a license to publish. If you need advice or help, please email help@aps. org.

Research Conducted by U.S., UK, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Government Employees

Many government agencies’ employees conduct research, which belongs to the sponsoring government. Therefore, the researchers lack the legal authority to grant the APS copyright. Instead, for U. S. Government employees, copyright does not apply because the work is in the public domain. The Crown or Government retains copyright for employees of the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand governments, and publishers are given permission to publish the work. The corresponding author should make sure the APS Grant of Publication Rights form is filled out and submitted in these circumstances.

Work Made For Hire

In some instances, employees have contractually granted their employer all rights to the work they produce while they are employed. Therefore, the employer assumes ownership of the rights, and the employee is unable to formally transfer those rights to APS or any other publisher. Since the employer owns the rights, APS must have a properly executed agreement bearing the signature of the employer’s legal representative. If this situation applies, the author should email help@aps. org, and you’ll receive a proper agreement form. You can email the completed agreement to the relevant journal or fax it to 1 (631) 591-4141.

Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects

Research involving experiments with human or animal subjects should conform to the ethical standards outlined in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. The relevant section is II.F., Protection of Human Subjects and Animals in Research.

When reporting experiments on human subjects, authors should indicate whether the procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the ethical principles outlined in the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. When applicable, institutional review board approval should be indicated in the manuscript. Also, the manuscript should describe the manner in which informed consent was obtained from any human subjects. When reporting experiments on animals, authors should indicate whether the institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed.

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Successful Letters in Physical Review Letters, a talk by Serena Dalena, Associate Editor


How long does it take to publish in physical review letters?

Journal TitlePhysical Review LettersDuration from Manuscript Submission to First Editorial Decision2Manuscript Revision Process 6 DaysDuration from Manuscripts Submission to First Revision Report38. 6 DaysDuration from Manuscripts Submission to Manuscripts Acceptance67. 3 Days.

How good is physical review applied?

The journal’s 2021 impact factor is 4, per Journal Citation Reports. 931.

Is physical review letters a good journal?

Many physicists and other scientists regard Physical Review Letters as one of the most esteemed journals in the field of physics, as supported by a number of measurement standards, such as the Journal Citation Reports impact factor and the journal h-index proposed by Google Scholar.

Is physical review research a good journal?

The world’s premier physics review journal, RMP maintains its #1 rank as the highest-impact journal among all titles in the Physics, Multidisciplinary category.

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