Guidelines for Authors



Manuscript specifications Inclusivity & accessibility
Readability and inclusive language Peer-review process
Ethical guidelines Plagiarism
Cover letter Revised manuscripts
Title page Appeals & complaints
Significance of findings Submission policies
Acknowledgements  Preprints & digital archiving
Funding Confidentiality & media embargoes
Permissions Conflicts of interest
Changes in authorship Permits
Format Suggested reviewers
References Supplementary material
Text Deposition of new sequences
Figures & tables Data availability
Length guidelines  


Production process
Publishing peer review reports
Copyright &
Article retraction
Responses and rebuttals

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Submissionarrow icon


The South African Journal of Science considers articles from any field on the understanding that they are the original work of the authors named, that they are being offered only to the South African Journal of Science and that the content is relevant to and for Africa.

Article types 

Various kinds and categories of article are welcome.

Front sectionarrow icon

Items for consideration for publication in the front section of the journal, such as Book Reviews and Scientific Correspondence, should be submitted online. Material considered for the front section is subject to the normal representations and warranties, that is, inter alia, that the material must be original and must conform to the specifications for manuscripts provided in the formatting guidelines. Submissions must be accompanied by a signed Publishing Agreement. The names, affiliations and full contact details of all authors must be provided together with the material submitted for consideration. Manuscripts submitted for consideration as front-section items are reviewed by the Editor-in-Chief who decides what should be included and in which issue of the journal. Commentaries and Perspectives deemed appropriate by the Editor-in-Chief will be subject to a double-anonymous assessment by two members of the Editorial Board or Editorial Advisory Board, or by external subject experts. Other submissions to the front section may be subject to such an assessment, at the Editor-in-Chief’s discretion. This assessment does not constitute a formal peer review and front-section contributions do not qualify for the Department of Higher Education and Training subsidy. For guidelines on specific front-section article types see Front-section articles.

Peer-reviewed research communications

Research Letters are short reports (no more than 2000 words, including abstract, significance and references) and should be up-to-date accounts of interesting and noteworthy scientific developments. Although these reports may be concerned with very particular advances, they should be of wider than specialist interest.

Research Articles are longer papers (no more than 6000 words, including abstract, significance and references). Although these reports may be concerned with very particular advances, they should be of wider than specialist interest.

Review Articles (no more than 6000 words, including abstract, significance and references) should be up-to-date surveys of important current developments in science. Although these reports may be concerned with very particular advances, they should be of wider than specialist interest.

Research Letters are always given priority in terms of publication after acceptance. Research and Review Articles that receive a high priority rating from at least two reviewers are given preference in terms of publication after acceptance.

See also general specifications for formatting and figure/table specifications.

Submission of manuscripts for consideration

Manuscripts for peer review must be submitted online. Please ensure that you have complied with the guidelines and completed the Publishing Agreement before you start the submission process. Submissions that are incomplete or do not comply with the instructions will be returned.


There are no submission fees or article-processing charges.

Readability and inclusive language  arrow icon

As the journal has a multidisciplinary focus, manuscripts must be written in a manner and style that is intelligible to specialists and non-specialists alike. Contributions should therefore be written clearly and simply so that they are accessible to readers in other disciplines and those for whom English is not a first language.

Contributions should also be written with inclusivity in mind. At its most fundamental, using inclusive language means taking care not to imply that one individual or group is superior to another individual or group – on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, health status, age, socio-economic status, or any other social marker – and avoids assumptions and prejudices of one group about another. Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, is sensitive to differences and conveys respect to all people.

Please ensure your manuscript adheres to the Inclusive Language Policy.


Plagiarism is when you use someone else’s work (book, article, website, etc.) or idea without acknowledging them as the source, whether it be copied verbatim or paraphrased. Manuscripts submitted online will be screened for potential plagiarism before peer review using similarity detection software. All cases of suspected or alleged plagiarism are considered very seriously in accordance with the journal’s Plagiarism Policy.


Permission must be obtained from the copyright owner for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables and other materials taken from previously published works that are not in the public domain. The author is responsible for the payment of any copyright fee(s) if these have not been waived. The letters of permission must accompany the manuscript. The original source(s) must be mentioned in the figure legend or as a footnote to a table.


Authors are responsible for obtaining all relevant permits, and the permit numbers and validity dates must be provided in the Methods. 

Ethical guidelinesarrow icon

Submissions involving research conducted on human or non-human vertebrates must meet the highest standards regarding both the ethical consideration given and reporting of the procedures followed. Full details are necessary so that a non-specialist reader can appreciate the need for the research undertaken.

All reported research involving humans or other animals must be approved by an institutional ethics committee prior to commencement of the study. Secondary use of data, except where such data are already anonymised, also requires ethical approval. The name of the approving body and a reference number (if provided) must be included in the Methods section of the manuscript.

In addition, all manuscripts describing research involving human subjects, tissue or data must also indicate that informed consent was obtained and that the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki were adhered to. All manuscripts describing research involving non-human animals must also indicate that the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting in vivo animal experiments were adhered to. Proper reporting should include the number, sex, age, weight, health status and source of the individuals used, as well as full details of anaesthesia and surgical procedures. The Declaration of Helsinki and the ARRIVE guidelines are also available from the Editorial Office. Manuscripts failing to adhere to these instructions will not be considered for publication.

Deposition of new sequences and structures

The reporting of new or not previously reported structures or sequences (such as chemical and crystallographic structures, synthetic compounds, genes and proteins) must include the accession numbers of the relevant database in which they have been deposited. Details of the synthesis of new structures and compounds must also be given. See Data sets for deposition of other data.

Authorshiparrow icon

Authorship of a manuscript should be agreed upon by authors prior to submission. Generally, a person attributed as an author should have contributed to (1) the conception and design of the study and data collection or data analysis; (2) writing or revising the manuscript; and (3) final approval of the version to be published. The corresponding author is responsible for ensuring that all listed authors have agreed to: (1) the authorship as listed and in the order given by the submitting author; (2) the content of the manuscript; and (3) its submission to the journal. All authors are fully responsible for the originality, validity, and integrity of the content of their manuscript and must ensure that it complies with research and publishing ethics and the policies of this Journal.

Where AI tools or large language models have been used, for example, in the conception and design of a study, creation of images or in editing or revising the writing, such use must be declared in your cover letter at submission and detailed in the Methods or Acknowledgements. Regardless of their contributions, because these tools cannot take responsibility for the content of a manuscript or be held accountable therefor, they do not meet the criteria for authorship. Please see the Policy on the Use of AI and Large Language Models.

All authors are required to sign the Publishing Agreement before submission, and in the order in which their names should appear in a published version. See below for changes in authorship after submission.

Changes in authorship

Changes in authorship constitute a significant change and it is strongly advised that authors clarify the authorship of their manuscripts, including the order of the authors’ names, before submission.

Changes to authorship after submission require approval from the Editor-in-Chief.

To request changes in authorship, send a letter by email to the Editor-in-Chief or publisher which includes:

  • A description of the change
  • The reason for the change
  • The requested final author list

The letter should be signed by all parties and the email through which the letter is sent should be copied to all parties. The email should also include a new Publishing Agreement signed by all final authors.

Requests for changes will be reviewed by the Editor-in-Chief in line with the authorship guidelines.

In order to come to a fair decision, we may approach any of the authors as well as their institutions for more information on the requested change. However, please note that it is not the responsibility of the Editors and Publisher to arbitrate authorship disputes; please consult your institutional policies in such cases.

Note: Approved changes post-publication will also necessitate a correction (see Corrections Policy).

Authors' contributions

The contributions of each author should be listed and submitted as a separate file. Contributions should be specified along the lines of: conceptualisation; methodology; data collection; sample analysis; data analysis; validation; data curation; writing – the initial draft; writing – revisions; student supervision; project leadership; project management; and funding acquisition. All authors read and approved the final
manuscript. For a brief description of each contribution please click here.

Author information

This section may be included should you wish to provide information on the author(s) that may be directly relevant to readers, such as qualifications, and positions or appointments.

If a group is given as the author, the individual members of the group can be listed in this section.


Authors must suggest three potential reviewers to evaluate their work. The names and full contact details (including email) of the suggested reviewers must be provided in the cover letter. Suggested reviewers should not be people with whom the authors have recently collaborated or published. Authors may also indicate if they oppose any potential reviewers. The final selection of reviewers is, however, at the discretion of the editors. Please see Peer-review Process for more information on the peer-review process.

Cover letterarrow icon

The cover letter should outline the study and the article’s relevance to the broad readership of the South African Journal of Science. The cover letter should identify the author to whom all correspondence should be addressed and detail any conflicts of interest. The cover letter should also include the names and full contact details (including email) of the suggested reviewers. Details of the significance of the findings can also be provided.

Significance of the main findings

The significance of the main findings or conclusions should be given in the main document below the abstract [a minimum of two and maximum of five should be given; no more than 100 words]. The significance of the findings should not be a summary of the results, but should reflect the contribution the results make to the field, and how the results are applicable in their respective field and in other fields. The points of significance should start with general contributions and proceed with more specific contributions. The significance of the findings will be published with the aim of promoting greater interest not only from readers in the field but also from a wider readership. The points of significance should therefore be written for a non-specialist.

Title page

The title page must include the title of the article (a maximum of 95 characters including spaces); a running head (a shortened version of the title, 65 characters or less); five keywords; the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which your article contributes (if any); the authors’ names, affiliations and ORCIDs; and the name and email of the corresponding author. The title page must be submitted as a separate document during the submission process [select Title Page as the file format when uploading the file during submission].

Acknowledgements arrow icon

Any significant help received in conceiving, designing or carrying out the work, as well as provision of a service or material must be acknowledged. Authors should always acknowledge outside reviewers of their drafts. The Acknowledgements must be submitted as a separate document during the submission process [select Acknowledgements as the file format when uploading the file during submission].


Authors should acknowledge all sources of funding that supported their research. In addition to including funding sources in their Acknowledgements, authors will be able to select funding bodies under the Funding field during the submission process.


Articles and letters must begin with a summary paragraph (of up to 250 words) aimed at readers in other disciplines. The paragraph should start with 2–3 sentences that provide an introduction to the field and the particular problem investigated, followed by a one-sentence statement of your main findings (or conclusions, in the case of a Review Article), and a further 2–3 sentences placing these findings/conclusions in a general context so that readers are made aware of the implications of the findings. Summary paragraphs typically do not include references, but if a reference is essential, the full reference must be given.

Referencesarrow icon

The reference list should begin on a separate page. The number of references is limited to 30 for Research Letters, 60 for Research Articles and 80 for Review Articles.

Authors should ensure that their manuscripts and reference lists are not contaminated with citations to articles published in predatory journals. Where authors are in doubt, please contact the Editor-in-Chief.

The South African Journal of Science uses the Vancouver referencing style; no other style will be permitted. Click here for examples.

To expedite the publication process, the reference list should include a DOI (digital object identifier) for each applicable reference. The DOIs can be retrieved easily using Crossref’s Metadata Search. The tool is user friendly and free to access.

Online supplementary material

Online supplementary material is material additional to but directly relevant to your article that cannot be included within the article for reasons of space or medium (such as videos). Various formats are allowed (e.g. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, video files). The material is peer reviewed in conjunction with the article and must be submitted as supplementary material during online submission. Supplementary material must be numbered separately when referred to in the article (e.g. Supplementary table 1) and must conform with the journal’s formatting guidelines. Online supplementary material undergoes copy-editing but not layout and is published separately on the article page. As it is published separately, any references must be given in a self-contained reference list. Supplementary material should be limited to 10 figures/tables and 2000 words.

Dataarrow icon

Data availability

The availability of your data should be indicated in your published article in the form of: open data set, all data included, on request from authors, not available, or not applicable:

Open data set*

The entire data set supporting the results of this study has been deposited in a recognised repository and is openly accessible via the link included.

All data included

All the data supporting the results of this study are included in the article itself.

On request from authors

The data supporting the results of this study are available upon request to the corresponding author.

Not available

The data supporting the results of this study have not been made available by the authors in any format.

Not applicable

There are no data pertaining to this study/article.

*Authors should only select "Open data set" if the data set supporting the results of their paper is openly accessible on a recognised repository that follows the principles of data management and citation. A persistent link to the data set in the repository must be provided to the Editorial Office before publication of the article and will be published on the article landing page on the Journal website, ensuring that the data set is visible and accessible to readers.

Data sets

Although only the deposition of some data – specifically new sequences and structures – is compulsory, we welcome and encourage the publication of the data set on which an article is based. Wherever possible, access to such data sets must be open.

The publication of data sets serves several objectives and these objectives should be kept in mind when depositing and referring to data. These objectives broadly follow the FAIR Guiding Principles of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusibility.

Data sets can take the form of computational or curated data or those produced through experimental or observational procedures and should be provided in the ‘rawest’ form that will permit reuse. Raw data should be treated as a data set and not as supplementary material.

Data sets are citable sources. Published data sets must be cited within the manuscript (numbered as for figures and tables, e.g. Data set 1) and the citations must appear in the reference list. A description of the data set must be provided in the manuscript, which must include the format of the data and details of any software that is required to view the data.

Authors should only select "Open data set" if the data set supporting the results of their paper is openly accessible on a recognised repository that follows the principles of data management and citation. A persistent link to the data set in the repository must be provided to the Editorial Office before publication of the article and will be published on the article landing page on the Journal website, ensuring that the data set is visible and accessible to readers.

The repository selected must: be actively managed; include quality control measures; enable unrestricted access to the data set (except for reasons of privacy); enable searching and retrieval of data sets; include a globally unique persistent ID (or DOI) which resolves to a publicly accessible landing page which is maintained even if the data are retracted; appropriately describe the data and include metadata; ensure data set persistence; include version control and ensure data set stability (which means that the specific version cited can be retrieved). If for good reason the data are removed from the repository after publication, the Editorial Office must be informed.

The following is a list of recognised repositories for general data (please confirm suitability for your data type and adherence to best practice before choosing a repository): DataverseDryadFigshareOpen Science Framework (for open data); and Zenodo.

In the context of data publication, the South African Journal of Science follows community best practices on data publishing ethics and aligns with the recommendations and workflows published by the FORCE11 & COPE Research Data Publishing Ethics Working Group.

Read our policy on Data publishing ethics

General specifications of manuscripts arrow icon

Format of text: Manuscripts should be typed in Arial font 11 point with one and a half line spacing. Please save manuscripts for upload in MS Word format, not in PDF format. Please ensure authors’ names and affiliations and any acknowledgements are omitted [and provided on the title page] to facilitate the double-anonymous review process.

Length guidelines: 

Type Maximum word count (including abstract, significance and references) Maximum number of references Maximum number of figures and/or tables Maximum number of final PDF pages*
Review Article 6000 80 10 9
Research Article 6000 60 10 8
Research Letter 2000 30 5 4
Supplementary Material 2000 20 10 n/a

*The maximum number of final PDF pages takes all components of the manuscript into account. Accommodations in length/number can be considered only where the overall total number of pages has not been exceeded [1 PDF page = ±1000 words]. Manuscripts likely to exceed the overall page limits will need to be shortened. In order to not exceed the final number of PDF pages, it is advisable to not reach the maximum number of words AND figures/tables. 

Unique fonts: If these are necessary, they should be embedded in the document in order to ensure they display correctly.

Layout: Start each paragraph at the margin (no tabs to indent first line). Include a line space between paragraphs to separate. Numbered paragraphs/sections are not permitted.

Heading styles: First level headings: boldface, normal case, centred, on a separate line, 14pt. Second level headings: boldface, italicised, justified at left margin, on a separate line, 14pt. Third level headings: boldface, normal case, justified at left margin, on a separate line, 12pt. Fourth-level headings: underlined, not bold, normal case, justified at left margin, on a separate line, 12pt.

Spelling: Please use UK spelling and not US spelling. Use IUPAC nomenclature recommendations for chemical elements and compounds.

Quotations in the text: Double quotation marks are used for all quotations; to highlight a quote within a quote, please use single quotation marks. If citations are longer than 30 words, please do not use quotation marks; rather indent the quotation and italicise it.

Footnotes may not be used in the text but may be used for Tables and Figures.

Equations: Use English Equation Editor if you have equations in your manuscript; other versions will not convert correctly.

Acronyms: If a phrase with an established acronym or abbreviation is used, and appears more than six times in your article, please include the acronym/abbreviation in brackets after first mention of the phrase, then use the acronym/abbreviation only. Please note that you should not define acronyms or abbreviations in any of your headings. If either has been used in your abstract/summary, you need to define them again on their first use within the main text. Abbreviations/acronyms used in figures and tables must be explained in the heading/legend or footnote.

Units: The use of units should conform to the SI convention and be abbreviated accordingly. Metric units and their international symbols are used throughout, as is the decimal point (not the decimal comma), and the 24-hour clock.

Spacing and punctuation: There should be one space (not two) between sentences; one space before unit terms
(e.g. 5 kg, 5 mm, 5 mmol, 5 days, 5 °C); but no space before %. Thousands/millions are marked with a space, not a comma, from 10 000 (e.g. 10 000, 1 000 000 but 1000). Ranges are expressed with an extended hyphen, not with a short hyphen (e.g. 1990–2000).

Dates: Dates must be written as: 12 July 2012.

Figures and Tables: Figures and Tables must be included in the Main Document at the end together with the captions. Abbreviations/acronyms used in figures and tables must be explained in the captions or footnotes.

Submission of revised manuscripts arrow icon

You will be unable to make your revisions on the originally submitted version of the manuscript. Instead, revise your manuscript using a word processing program and save it on your computer. Please also highlight the changes to your manuscript within the document by using the track changes mode in MS Word or by using bold or coloured text. If you use track changes, please ensure that your name does not appear in the comment box.

Once the revised manuscript is prepared, you can upload it and submit it online. Once you have logged in, select the original submission. Under the Review tab please upload your revised manuscript under "Revisions".

When submitting your revision, please include a Response to Reviewers in a separate anonymised document. In order to expedite the processing of the revised manuscript, please be as specific as possible in your response and indicate how each of the reviewers’ comments has been considered and/or addressed. Please also ensure that the tone of your response is respectful and collegial. If reviewer comments contradict the journal's guidelines, kindly highlight this discrepancy to the reviewer.

Please ensure that you visit our ‘Guidelines for Authors’ again at:

Adherence to these guidelines will expedite the process. Specifically:

-Ensure that length requirements are maintained in the revised manuscript:
-Ensure the manuscript is anonymised
-Ensure the Referencing style is correct: You can find the Vancouver reference style guide on our website at:
-Ensure that you submit any figures as separate files in high-resolution figure format (jpg, png, tiff) suitable for publication

Post-acceptancearrow icon

Articles are published in bimonthly issues, and only after approval of the final proof. There is no online early publishing model of accepted manuscripts. The corresponding author will be notified as soon as possible as to which issue their manuscript has been assigned for publication. Authors who have manuscripts awaiting publication should please notify the Editorial Office if they plan to be out of email reach for a length of time or assign another author as corresponding author.

Corresponding authors will receive a request to proofread their article via XEditPro, our cloud-based publishing service provider. Revisions and corrections can be made online and must be received promptly (within 48 hours) to avoid delays in publication. Substantial changes are not permitted after acceptance.

Corresponding authors will be notified as soon as the article is published online. The journal is openly accessible and you can freely download and share your article. You can view your article’s metrics (views and downloads) on the article’s landing page.

See Production Process and Publication for more information.

Copyright & Permissions

All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence; copyright is retained by the authors. Readers are welcome to reproduce, share and adapt the content without permission, provided the source is attributed. Permission to reproduce copyrighted third-party material, as indicated in articles, should be sought from the copyright holder.


You may archive the final published version of your article in personal or institutional repositories immediately after publication. Self-archiving prior to publication is not permitted and may result in the withdrawal of a submission or accepted manuscript. See Preprints, digital archiving and preservation policy for more information.