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IOP Science

Environmental Research: Ecology

Author guidelines

What we look for in your article

If you are an early career researcher you may find our PDF guides (available in both English and Chinese) helpful.

You can also watch our guide on How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper

IOP Publishing (IOP) considers for publication in our journals articles that:


Report original science and add significantly to research already published


Are of interest to the community


Are scientifically rigorous


Have sound motivation and purpose


Have not been published previously in the peer reviewed literature


Are not under consideration for publication in any other peer reviewed journal or book available through a library or by purchase


Comply with our preprint pre-publication policy (see below), and


Comply with our ethical policy.

It is particularly important for you to consider whether you have enough new results before starting to plan and write a paper for submission to an IOP journal. Reporting incremental steps forward from previous work is usually not sufficient.

Articles based on theses for higher degrees may be submitted. You should take care to ensure that such articles are prepared in the format of a research paper, which is more concise than is appropriate for a thesis.

Articles reporting work that was originally presented at a conference may be submitted, provided these articles do not appear in substantially the same form in a conference proceeding and provided that the journal paper would add some new contribution. Again, you should ensure the format of a research paper is used. The article length should also be appropriate to the content. In case of doubt, please enquire with the relevant journal.

Reports that are not available to the general public are not regarded by IOP as prior publications. Many journals published by IOP consider a range of different article types in addition to regular research papers, including special issue articles, topical reviews, comments and replies. However, please check via the journal homepage that your article is of an acceptable article type and suitable scope before submission.

All articles are judged solely on their scientific merits. Unbiased consideration is given to all manuscripts offered for publication, regardless of whether or not the authors request publication on a gold open access basis and regardless of the race, gender, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, political philosophy, sexual orientation, age or reputation of the authors.

IOP Publishing reserves the right to refuse to publish any content that, in its opinion, could be deemed distasteful or illegal including, but not limited to, libellous, defamatory, offensive or hate speech.

We treat all submitted articles as confidential until they are published and they will only be shared with those reviewers, board members, editors and IOP staff who are directly involved in the peer review of the article. (An exception to this would be if it is felt necessary to share the article with additional external parties in order to investigate a possible breach of the ethical policy.)

Can I submit an article that has been posted as a Preprint?

IOP’s Preprint pre-publication policy allows authors to share a Preprint of their article anywhere at any time, subject to two restrictions.

This means that IOP will consider articles which have already been posted as a Preprint anywhere online, provided that (i) you did not and do not transfer (assign) ownership of its copyright, and (ii) you did not and do not grant an exclusive licence to it.

Additionally, IOP will also consider articles that have been included as a preprint in a thesis or dissertation, provided (i) you did not and do not transfer (assign) ownership of its copyright, and (ii) you did not and do not grant an exclusive licence to it.


All papers should be written in English.


Articles should be clearly and concisely written, and be accessible to an international audience. It is important to avoid colloquial terms and sayings that may not be widely understood. Short sentences and paragraphs make for easier reading. You should aim for consistency within your article in matters such as hyphenation and spelling. All acronyms and abbreviations should be clearly explained when they first appear in the text. Introduce any ideas that may be unfamiliar to readers early in the paper so that your results can be easily understood. IOP Publishing follows Guidelines on Inclusive Language and Images in Scholarly Communication to ensure that journal articles use bias-free and culturally sensitive communication. We ask authors to please follow these guidelines in their manuscript submissions.


On completion of the first draft, carefully re-read your paper and make any amendments that will improve the content. When complete, send the paper to colleagues and co-authors, and use their feedback to improve the clarity of the text. When all co-authors are satisfied that the draft is ready to be submitted to a journal, carry out one final spelling and grammar check before submission.

IOP Editing Services, in partnership with Editage, provides editorial support if you need it. We also have support for authors based in China with our China IOP Editing Services.

You can choose from a range of options, including:

  • English-language editing
  • Translation services
  • Plagiarism checking
  • Technical review.

Visit our language editing service to find out more.

Article types

When you submit to a journal you will be asked to select an article type for your manuscript. The most common article types are

Reports of high-quality original research with conclusions representing a significant advance in the field
Outstanding concise articles, reporting important, new and timely developments. These articles should be deserving of priority review, and you are required to upload a justification statement along with your submission
Special issue article
Invited articles, which will form a special collection of papers on a specific theme. When asked to select 'Article Type' on the submission system, please select 'Special Issue Article'. Then select the special issue you're submitting to in the drop down box that appears
Topical review
Written by leading researchers in their fields, these articles present the background to and overview of a particular field, and the current state of the art. Topical review articles are normally invited by the Editorial Board
Comment or criticism on (the final, published Version of Record) work previously published in the journal. If the Comment is deemed appropriate, the author(s) of the original article will be invited to submit a Reply.
An article to correct an omission or error in an author’s article.
Additional information for work previously published in the journal, usually written by the original author(s). The content is considered insufficient for a research article.

Article format and templates

You can format your paper in the way that you choose! It is not necessary to try to produce pages that look like published journal pages, as the detailed design (typesetting) work will be undertaken by IOP as part of the production process.

If you would prefer to work from a template, we do provide this for both LaTeX and Word.

LaTeX template
Word template

When submitting a new article, we only require you to upload a single PDF file (and any relevant supplementary data). Check the peer review model for the journal you are submitting to. If the peer review model is single-anonymous then your PDF will need to contain the names and institutes of authors at the start of the text. Figures and tables also need to be included within the text. If double-anonymous then you will need to anonymise your manuscript.

We do ask that you consider the readability for reviewers when formatting your manuscript. For example, please use a reasonable font size (at least 12 point) and line spacing. There is no need for you to include line numbers in your manuscript as these will automatically be added on submission. Figures and tables should be embedded at the appropriate point within the text, rather than placed at the end of the manuscript. Papers must be written in English.

Need help formatting your paper?

IOP Editing Services, in partnership with Editage, also provides formatting and artwork services if you would like help preparing your paper for submission.

Article length

Some of our journals have guidelines for the maximum recommended length for each different type of article (see the ‘About the journal’ section of the Journal you are submitting to on IOPscience).

If there is a maximum article length then it is important that you follow this guidance when preparing your submission. Articles that are longer than the length limit may still be considered for publication, provided the length is clearly justified by the scientific content.


Carefully chosen and well-prepared figures, such as diagrams and photographs, can greatly enhance your article. You are encouraged to prepare figures that are clear, easy to read and of the best possible quality and resolution.

To make your figures accessible to as many readers as possible, try to avoid using colour as the only means of conveying information. For example, in charts and graphs use different line styles and symbols. Where colours are used try to ensure that:

  • there is good contrast between adjacent colours;
  • colours are distinguishable if the figure is converted to greyscale;
  • different line styles, fill styles, symbols or labels are used in addition to different colours.

We accept that it is not always possible to follow these guidelines, for example with figures that use colour gradient scales to convey information, or for photographic images. As with all figures, it is important to use the figure caption to describe the information conveyed by the figure. See below for further details.

Figures are converted and sized to the journal template as part of the production process for accepted articles, but they are not normally edited further. It is your responsibility to ensure that the figures you supply are legible and technically correct.
Characters should appear as they would be set in the main body of the article. Aim for text sizes of 8 to 12 pt at the final figure size: typically 8.5cm for a small/single-column figure and 15cm for a large/double-column figure. Micrographs should include a scale bar of appropriate size, e.g. 1 μm. Figures should be numbered in the order in which they are referred to in the text, using sequential numerals (e.g. figure 1, figure 2, etc.).

If there is more than one part to a figure (e.g. figure 1(a), figure 1(b), etc.), the parts should be identified by a lower-case letter in parentheses close to or within the area of the figure.

File types

For articles prepared using LaTeX2e, please make sure that your figures are all supplied as vector Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) and linked to your main TeX files using appropriate figure inclusion commands such as \includegraphics. For articles prepared using Word, where possible please also supply all figures as separate graphics files (in addition to being embedded in the text). Our preferred graphics format is EPS. These files can be used directly to give high-quality results, and file sizes are small in comparison with most bitmap forms.
If you are unable to send us images in EPS, we can also accept:

  • TIFF
  • JPEG
  • PDF (and images embedded within PDF files)
  • Images/drawings coded using TeX/LaTeX package
  • Images/figures embedded in MS Word, Excel or PowerPoint
  • Graphics application source files (Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw).

Vector formats

The advantage of vector graphics is that they give the best possible quality at all output resolutions. In order to get the best possible results, please note the following important points:

  • Fonts used should be restricted to the standard font families (Times, Helvetica, Courier or Symbol).
  • Certain proprietary vector graphics formats such as Origin, Kaleidagraph, Cricket Graph and Gnu Plot should not be sent in their native format. If you use these applications to create your figures, please export them as EPS.


Note that it is also your responsibility to obtain written permission from the copyright holder for any figures you have reused from elsewhere. This will also include any figures that you created yourself but have previously been published by another publisher, unless that publisher allows you to reuse them without permission under their author rights policy. Check individual publisher’s policies for details. Many scientific, technical and medical publishers use RightsLink to grant permission. Information on how to request permission can usually be found on the website of each publisher. For further information about permissions and when permission is required, please see the Permissions section.

Inappropriate images

Please carefully consider both the subject matter and provenance of images included in your work before submitting to the journal. If the submitted images could be potentially offensive to the journal’s readership, IOP Publishing reserves the right to request that authors seek alternative images or other means to express the same results before the final version is published.

IOP Publishing will not consider submissions which feature the Lena/Lenna image (a crop of an image of Lena Söderberg from a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine), as the image and its history conflicts with our commitment to inclusivity in science. Alternatives to the Lena image are widely available, see for examples.

Figure captions

Captions should be included in the text and not in the graphics files. Figure captions should contain relevant key terms and be self-contained (avoiding acronyms) so that a reader can understand the figure without having to refer to the text. To make your figures accessible to as many readers as possible, include the main points that the figure demonstrates in the caption. We provide further information and examples on this page.

Figure captions should also reference the source of the figure if the figure has been reused from elsewhere, including any permission statement required.

Need help with your figures?

IOP Editing Services, in partnership with Editage, can help to check and refine all technical aspects of your artwork to adhere to journal requirements, including resolution, colour and image and file size. Find out more about our figure preparation services.

Article multimedia

IOPscience allows inline presentation of multimedia files within journal articles, with videos, animations or sound files that are supplied by authors as part of the main article treated as figures (please note that multimedia files must not include any music). Multimedia figures are represented in the PDF by a static image with appropriate caption. In the HTML the same image and caption are displayed, readers can click/tap the image to play the multimedia file inline.

If a figure has more than one multimedia file, there must be a separate image for each file (e.g. parts a and b for a figure with two videos). This is necessary so that the files both display in the HTML.

Technical specifications

We strongly recommend video files be delivered in the MPEG-4 container, encoded with the H264 codec. Other formats may be provided, but using MPEG-4 will provide the most faithful rendering of your video in the HTML journal article.

Video files should be a maximum of 10 MB file size each. Exceptions can be made in cases where larger files are essential for the science being presented.

Recommended settings:

  • Frame rate: 15 frames s-1
  • Frame size: 480 x 360 pixels
  • Data rate: 150 kB s-1

Interactive figures

Authors may prepare interactive models to enhance the communication of their research. These models are treated as figures in the article. Each model is represented in the PDF by a static image with an appropriate caption. The HTML in IOPscience displays the figure and caption with a ‘Start interaction’ button which loads the interactive model within the flow of the article.

Example images: figures 2 and 3 figures 1 and 5

Interactive models should use the X3D standard. This is an open-source, XML-based format curated by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). By using the X3DOM javascript/CSS combination, X3D models can be incorporated directly into HTML without the need for browser plug-ins. This can be downloaded at

We strongly recommend the use of X3D/X3DOM but stand-alone interactive figures produced using alternative packages (such as Plotly or Bokeh are also accepted.

Authors interested in using this functionality need to create and supply the interactive model and an HTML file that presents the model, along with all .JS and .CSS files used.

Supplementary material and data in journal articles

IOP Publishing encourages authors to submit supplementary material at submission that will enhance the online version of a published research article and aid its discoverability. Supplementary material typically includes relevant material that does not form part of the main article, which may include additional data such as computer code, large tables, additional figures or appendices. It may also include multimedia files, such as video clips, animations or sound files, which are not suitable to form part of the main article (please note that multimedia files must not include any music). Supplementary material can include primary datasets where they fall within the file size limits outlined below. If the material is integral to the article then it should be submitted as part of the article rather than as supplementary material.

Supplementary material is not included in the PDF of the article or in any print version and does not form part of the Version of Record. As it is not considered integral to the article it is not subject to peer review and cannot be formally cited. Supplementary material is hosted for free with an article on IOPscience, in the format supplied by the author, and is accessible to the whole readership. Supplementary material is not formatted or edited by our production team, and so proofs are not provided to authors.

Files for supplementary material can be up to a maximum of 10 MB each. Authors wishing to associate larger amounts of supplementary material with their article are recommended make use of a data repository.

Authors should ensure the necessary permissions are obtained before including any third party supplementary material with their submission.


It is vitally important that you fully acknowledge all relevant work. You should also consult the IOP ethical policy for journals for general guidance on compiling your reference list. You can find information on how to structure and format your references in the style guide for journal articles. Please note it is not necessary to format your references in the ways shown in the guidelines, however we find some authors like to have a style to work to. We will ensure your references adhere to house style during the production process, whatever format you submit them in.

A reference should give your reader enough information to locate the article concerned, and you should take particular care to ensure that the information is correct so that links to referenced articles can be made successfully.

Please also note the following:

  • Material that is really a footnote to the text should not be included in the reference list.
  • Copies of cited publications not yet available publicly should be submitted for the benefit of the reviewers.
  • Unpublished results and lectures should be cited for exceptional reasons only.
  • Please reference and link to the original Version of Record (where it was first published) rather than to other versions of an article and/or a link to a repository or third party database.
  • We discourage the referencing of online material hosted at web addresses that have no guarantee of perpetuity. Permanent or persistent web links should be used, as these are intended to remain unchanged for many years into the future, yielding hyperlinks that are less susceptible to ‘link rot’. Examples of acceptable links include: Digital Object Identifier (DOI), PubMed identifier (PMID), PubMed Central reference number (PMCID), SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) Bibliographic Code, and arXiv e-print number. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes an acceptable web link then please email the journal.
  • Before submitting your article, please ensure you have conducted a literature search to check for any relevant references you may have missed.

Be sure to check the ‘About the journal’ page for the journal your submitting to see if you need to list page numbers, article titles or a particular reference style in your submission.

Reference labelling systems

There are two main systems for labelling references.

In the Vancouver numerical system, references are numbered sequentially through the text. The numbers should be given in square brackets, e.g. [1], [4-7] etc., and one number can be used to refer to several instances of the same reference. The reference list at the end of the article then lists the references in numerical order, not alphabetically.

Alternatively, in the Harvard alphabetical system, the name of the author appears in the text together with the year of publication, e.g. (Smith 2001) or Smith (2001) (as appropriate). Where there are only two authors, both names should be given in the text, e.g. (Smith and Jones 2001) or Smith and Jones (2001). However, if there are more than two authors only the first name should appear followed by et al: (Smith et al 2001) or Smith et al (2001). If you refer to different works by one author or group of authors in the same year they should be differentiated by including a, b, etc, after the date (e.g. 2001a). If you refer to different pages of the same article, the page number may be given in the text, e.g. Smith (2001, p 39). The reference list at the end of your article using this system should be in alphabetical order.

Please use a single referencing system consistently throughout your article. You may use either of these two systems for your references (unless you are submitting to Fluid Dynamics Research, Physics in Medicine and Biology or Physiological Measurement, which require all references to be written using the Harvard alphabetical style, or Nuclear Fusion, which requires all references to be written using the Vancouver numerical system).

Preparing your source files for journal articles

The guidelines below provide the essential information you need to prepare your article source files (i.e. the files that you use to create your complete PDF).

Naming your files

Please name all your files according to the following guidelines:


Use only characters from the set a to z, A to Z, 0 to 9 and underscore (_)


Do not use spaces in file names


Include an extension to indicate the file type (for example, .doc, .txt, .eps, etc)


Do not use any accented characters (for example, à, ê, ñ, ö, ý, etc) because these can cause difficulties when processing your files.

In addition to the above points, please give figure files names indicating the numbers of the figures they contain; for example, figure1.eps, figure2.tif, figure2a.gif, etc. If a figure file contains a figure with multiple parts, for example figure 2(a) to 2(e), give it a name such as figure2a_2e.jpg, and so forth.

Article text files

TeX and LaTeX

The text of articles may be submitted in any common variant of TeX including LaTeX2e, REVTeX, AmSTeX, AmSLaTeX and plain TeX (including pdfTeX/pdfLaTeX).

A LaTeX2e class file is available to help authors prepare articles for consideration by IOP Journals, should you wish to use it. The files are available in zipped format and Unix tar gzipped format:



Note that there is an incompatibility between amsmath.sty and iopart.cls which cannot be completely worked around. If your article relies on commands in amsmath.sty that are not available in iopart.cls, you may wish to consider using a different class file.

Microsoft Word

  • Articles can be prepared using Microsoft Word for Windows or Mac
  • Fonts used should be restricted to the standard font families (Times, Helvetica, Courier or Symbol)
  • If special symbols are needed (e.g. Greek characters, accented characters or mathematical symbols), these should be typed using the appropriate TrueType font. Do not use the Symbol facility on the ‘Insert’ menu as this often results in font conversion problems
  • Equations must be prepared using Microsoft Word Equation Editor or the full commercial MathType package.

Figure files

For articles prepared using LaTeX2e, please make sure that your figures are all supplied as vector Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) and linked to your main TeX files using appropriate figure inclusion commands such as \includegraphics. For articles prepared using Word, where possible please also supply all figures as separate graphics files (in addition to being embedded in the text). Our preferred graphics format is EPS. These files can be used directly to give high-quality results, and file sizes are small in comparison with most bitmap forms.

Vector formats

The advantage of vector graphics is that they give the best possible quality at all output resolutions.

In order to get the best possible results, please note the following important points:

  • Fonts used should be restricted to the standard font families (Times, Helvetica, Courier or Symbol)
  • Certain proprietary vector graphics formats such as Origin, Kaleidagraph, Cricket Graph and Gnu Plot should not be sent in their native format. If you do use these applications to create your figures, please export them as EPS.

Archive and compress your files

You may combine all your files (article text, graphics files and, if applicable, the readme.txt file) into a single compressed archive file for ease of handling and to save you time and space. Please archive your files into a zip file. To upload this file type, choose the ‘source files’ designation when you submit. If you have any difficulty archiving or submitting files, please contact us for assistance.

The following information is available to help you with our copyright and permissions policies.



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