Guidelines for Authors


Cover letter
Title page
Significance of findings
Suggested reviewers
Supplementary material
Deposition of new sequences
Data availability



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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 section

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.


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. Articles are judged by reviewers at the discretion of the editors. 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.


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.

Ethical guidelines

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 prior to commencement of the study by an institutional ethics committee. 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.


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 required to sign the Publishing Agreement before submission. Any requests for changes in authorship prior to publication should be accompanied by a new Publishing Agreement.

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. 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 letter

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].


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.


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.

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.


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.

General specifications of manuscripts 

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 requirements: 

Type Word count (including abstract, significance and references) References Figures and/or tables
Review Article 6000 80 10
Research Article 6000 60 10
Research Letter 2000 30 5
Supplementary Material 2000 20 10

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, normal case, 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: Single quotation marks are used for all quotations; to highlight a quote within a quote, please use double quotation marks. If citations are longer than 30 words, please do not use single 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 five 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 

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.

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

Adherence to these guidelines will expedite the process. Specifically:

-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


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 can provide feedback on the publication process of their manuscript at two stages: (1) after copy-editing of the Word document and (2) on the PDF proof after layout. Revisions and corrections must be received promptly (within 48 hours) to avoid delays in publication. Substantial changes made at PDF proof stage will be charged to the author.

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.


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.