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Development and the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted by , on 23 March 2020

Last week, I and the rest of the Development team said goodbye to our lovely office, and a new era of remote working has begun. But we’re lucky – editorial work can (we hope!) proceed pretty much as normal from our desks at home. Of course, things are not so easy for researchers: shutting down a lab means a lot more than moving your monitor and keyboard to a new location and figuring out the best ways to maintain good communication with your colleagues.

Across the globe, normal life and normal work is on hold for the foreseeable future, and – while there are far more important things to worry about – this will inevitably impact on researchers’ ability to publish their work. The Development editorial team has been thinking about what we can do to support our community during this time, and we’ve just released the following statement (which you can also read here):

We are of course aware that the COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on researchers worldwide, with many labs shutting down either partially or fully. The Editors of all The Company of Biologists’ journals have been considering ways in which we can alleviate concerns that members of our community may have around publishing activities during this time. Here, we detail the actions we are taking at this point:

  • Any reviewer or author unable to meet deadlines set by the journal should contact the editorial office and we will be able to extend your deadline. Our Academic Editors may also be somewhat delayed in handling papers as they deal with pressing matters – we hope that all parties will recognise the need for increased flexibility with timelines during this period. Please note that reviewers will still receive automated reminders from our system, but these are not intended to put you under increased pressure so please just let us now if you need extra time. 
  • Our scoop protection policy means you don’t need to worry about being scooped once you’ve submitted your manuscript – even if your revisions take longer than expected. Moreover, we will not necessarily reject a new submission if a competing paper has just been published: in these cases, we encourage authors to contact us to discuss how to proceed.
  • We ask that reviewers bear in mind that authors may be unable to conduct experimental revisions for a paper. Obviously the journal needs to ensure that submissions are held to the same standards as usual, and that all conclusions drawn in a paper are supported by the data presented, but ask reviewers to limit requests for experimental revisions to those they deem essential for publication in the journal.
  • Where authors are concerned about their ability to respond to reviewers’ reports, we encourage you to contact the editorial office to discuss their revision further. Please send us a point-by-point response indicating where you are able to address concerns raised (either experimentally or by changes to the text) and where you will not be able to do so within the normal timeframe of a revision. The editor will then provide further guidance.

We hope these policies will help to support authors during these difficult times; we will continue to review the situation going forwards. Please don’t hesitate to contact the editorial office if you have any questions or concerns.

And at this time when many researchers are unable to conduct experiments, remember that Development welcomes the submission of purely computational or theoretical papers!


As many of you will be aware, The Company of Biologists also organises workshops and meetings that have been affected by the pandemic. All our events through to the end of July have been postponed, and we will continue to review the situation for events later in the year. We’re still hoping to be able to hold our ‘From Stem Cells to Human Development’ meeting in September, but recognise that no-one wants to be booking conferences at this time and so have made some changes to our deadlines and registration process – you can find more information on this here.

In these crazy times, communities (be they personal or professional) seem more important than ever – so while we won’t be meeting in person any time soon, I’m looking forward to seeing the innovative ways we’ll find to interact virtually, and I’d be happy to hear any ideas you may have about how Development and The Node can help with this. Feel free to comment below, get in touch on twitter (@katemmabrown1) or drop me an email.

And in the meantime, stay safe, stay at home and wash your hands!


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