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Invited Features for

Ecological Applications


Instructions for Organizers and Coordinating Editors


Scope and Content

There is essentially no limit to the topics for Invited Features (IFs), so long as they fit within the broader scope and subject matter guidelines for Ecological Applications. The key guideline for an IF is that the papers address aspects of a topic or theme, and that this topic or theme is likely to be of broad interest to ecologists.

Potential authors and coordinating editors should ask themselves the following questions:

Format and Length of the IF

Most IFs are composed of 4-8 papers preceded by a short Introduction. The Introduction explains the objectives of the IF and briefly introduces the papers. The Introduction is written by the organizer(s) of the IF and should be no more than two printed pages or approximately 1200 words.  It cannot include any figures or tables.  There is no Literature Cited section, although one or two key references can be cited in the text.  If the organizers of an IF feel the need for a more substantial introductory paper, it needs to be written to complement the required short Introduction.  The Introduction must be approved by the Editor-in-Chief (EIC).  Sometimes a concluding paper is also appropriate.

It is possible to organize an IF that includes some features of a Forum. For example, there might be an Introduction and several major papers, followed by several short comments on the set of papers.

The general guideline is that an IF may occupy 30-80 printed pages in the journal. Roughly speaking, this translates into 90-240 manuscript pages (including references, tables, figures and figure legends -- all pages are counted). Given the increasing number of submissions to the journal, it is important to keep IFs from occupying too much space. Therefore, 80 pages should be considered an upper limit, and shorter features are encouraged. Longer IFs are possible only if external funding can be provided to support a special issue of the journal; it costs on the order of $25,000 to produce a special issue.

Given the overall page limit, the number of papers that can be included obviously depends on the length of the individual papers. In the past, IFs have ranged from four and ten papers; five is perhaps ideal.

Soliciting Manuscripts and the Review Requirement

Depending on how the idea for an IF is generated, authors and topics might be selected in a variety of ways. Sometimes the organizers of a symposium or small conference submit a proposal to the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) to incorporate the papers from that meeting into an IF. In that case, the authors and topics may have already been selected. In other cases, an idea for an IF is proposed to the EIC. If the EIC finds the proposal appropriate (generally after consultation with selected subject-matter editors), the organizer then contacts potential contributors.

If a proposal for an IF is judged to be appropriate for the journal, it does not mean that it necessarily will be accepted for publication.  Perhaps the most critical requirement for an IF is that all papers must go through the normal, rigorous peer review. It is critical that the organizers and the authors all recognize that this review will take place and that individual papers frequently are rejected and occasionally entire IFs are rejected.  One problem with IFs is that once a proposal has been accepted for consideration, some authors may assume that all the manuscripts will be published.  Consequently they do not invest the same effort that would have been invested on independent submissions to a major journal.  It is critical to clearly convey the requirement for a rigorous review to all contributors as it will save time later. 

The journal policies regarding financial arrangements for publication (e.g., page charges, charges for color figures, etc.) apply to Invited Feature papers.  In particular, authors of papers in IFs are responsible for covering page costs (including color plates) and the costs of reprints in the same way that authors of independent submissions are.  In some cases the organizer of an IF will have access to funds that can pay for these costs.

Steps in Organizing an Invited Feature

1. Proposing the IF and Establishing a File with the EIC

The organizer should prepare a short, written proposal for the EIC that includes a brief explanation of the topic and a list of tentative titles and authors.  The proposal should explain why the IF will be of interest to a broad audience.  After the proposal has been accepted, a more definite list of authors and titles must be submitted. This should be done only after authors have been contacted.

At this point it will be necessary to determine who will be the editor for the IF. If the IF is organized by a member of the Editorial Board, then that Board member typically will serve as the editor of the IF. If the IF is organized by someone not on the Board, a designated member of the Editorial Board or the EIC normally will serve as a co-editor with the organizer. Much of the work involved in soliciting reviews and overseeing the revision process will be handled by the organizer, but the co-editor must be kept informed and must approve all acceptances before they become final.

2. Peer Review of Manuscripts

Manuscripts need to be submitted online following requirements for all other submissions. See Instructions for Authors. The first submission must be accompanied by a cover letter with a list of all the papers proposed for the IF and a copy of the short description of the IF (which may become the Introduction).  This description, including a list of papers, will be distributed to the reviewers along with each manuscript so that the context of the paper as part of an IF will be evident.

Manuscript numbers will be assigned to each manuscript after submission. These numbers are important for tracking purposes and all further correspondence should refer to manuscripts by their numbers.

Each manuscript must be reviewed by at least two qualified, anonymous peer reviewers. Appropriate reviewers may be identified by the editor or by the organizer with the approval of the co-editor. It is important to identify reviewers who do not have any conflicts of interests (e.g., collaborators, co-authors, or colleagues at the same institution). In cases where the editor or organizer of the IF is an author of one of the papers, peer-review of that paper will be coordinated by the EIC.

Editors can submit the names of potential reviewers online. In the interest of efficiency, the reviewers are then contacted by the Publications Office in Ithaca, subject to a check of their prior reviewer record. This relieves the editor of the responsibility of contacting reviewers and reminding reviewers to send in their reports.

If reviewers have already been contacted by the editor and have agreed to write reviews, it is only necessary to provide names of two reviewers per manuscript (but be sure to tell the Publications Office <> if any reviewers have already agreed). The Publications Office will notify the reviewers how to access the manuscripts and will notify the editors when the reviews are in.

One possible variation is for the review to be handled by a panel of reviewers specifically assembled to review all the manuscripts. This is an acceptable procedure so long as each manuscript is reviewed by two anonymous and qualified reviewers, and individual written reviews are produced. The reviews will still be managed by the Publications Office.

3.  Decisions on Manuscripts

After the reviews have been received, the editor must make a decision about each manuscript and submit the decision the decision on the online form.  If the IF is being co-edited by the organizer and a member of the Editorial Board (or the EIC), then the organizer and co-editor must agree in advance on how decisions are made.  Generally, all acceptances must be approved by a member of the Editorial Board or the EIC.

The possible decisions are:

A request for a revision should not state that a manuscript is "accepted subject to revision." The word "accept" should be used only when no further revision is needed. The letter to the author should detail exactly how the manuscript should be revised. The more specific the instructions, the fewer rounds of revision will be necessary. Multiple rounds of review and revision are possible. For regular submissions to Ecological Applications, the deadline for submitting revised manuscripts is three months. This is not a requirement for IFs, but it remains a reasonable guideline.

When a manuscript is accepted, the acceptance letter should clearly state that the manuscript is accepted as part of the IF and that acceptance is contingent on acceptance of the IF. If for some reason the IF should not be accepted, the manuscript is not necessarily accepted as an independent manuscript; further review might be necessary to determine whether it can be accepted as a stand-alone paper.

Final decision on the acceptance of a completed Invited Feature rests with the EIC. When an IF has been completed, the editor will examine the IF as a whole and will forward a full copy and a recommendation to the EIC.

4.  Final Instructions for Authors

Once the manuscripts have been accepted, authors must follow the instructions in the acceptance template letter to submit their final versions. Any failure to do so will delay publication of the entire feature.

Critical Steps for Organizers

Critical Steps for the Editor

rev 1/11/13


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