EDP Sciences
Paper organization

Ethical issues | Data policy | Manuscript categories | About the language | Paper organization

Astronomy & Astrophysics publishes new results of astronomical and astrophysical research. Details about the current A&A editorial policy can be found in the editorial published in A&A 420(3), E1-E14 (2004).

Manuscripts submitted for publication to A&A should not be submitted to any other refereed journal, but can be sent to preprint servers such as astro-ph. By submitting a manuscript to A&A, the corresponding author explicitly states that the work is original and that all co-authors have read the manuscript and agree with its contents. A&A Editors expect to be informed when a submitted manuscript has previously been rejected by another Journal.

See PDF version of the A&A Author's guide.

Ethical issues: the A&A policy concerning plagiarism and improper attribution

Plagiarism is the severest ethical problem encountered by A&A Editors. It is defined as the act of reproducing text or other content from works written by others without giving proper credit to the source of that content. Note that citing a text literally is not the only condition for determining plagiarism, which also includes any paraphrased text that discusses an already published idea without citing its original source.

Plagiarism is a major ethical breach and may also constitute a legal breach of copyright if the reproduced material has already been published. This is particularly true when authors cite text from their own previously published works. A&A Editors refer to this as “self-plagiarism”.

Authors who wish to quote directly from other published work must cite the original reference and include any cited text in quotation marks. Figures may only be reproduced with permission and must be cited in the figure caption. Because A&A focuses on publishing original research results, authors are discouraged from using direct quotations of previously published papers and figures. A citation and brief discussion of previous results in the context of the submitted paper is usually more relevant than direct quotation.

Papers published in A&A should cite previously published papers that are directly relevant to the results being presented. Improper attribution — i.e., the deliberate refusal to cite prior, corroborating, or contradicting results — represents an ethical breach comparable to plagiarism.

Plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and improper attribution can result in the summary rejection of a manuscript submitted to A&A. In the severest cases of plagiarism, offending authors can be banned from publishing in A&A for a determinate period of time. In such cases, the Editor in Chief can also inform the Editors in Chief of the other professional astronomy journals of the author’s ethical misconduct.

Data policy

It is mandatory for A&A authors to publish the data that are presented and discussed in articles and needed to reproduce the results. Archiving the data also increases the value of the article, and thus its impact in the community. Publication of the data, usually at the CDS (see below), should occur immediately upon acceptance of the article referencing them. Some common examples of data that must be archived are the measurements of radial velocities leading to the detection of planetary or stellar companions to stars, the photometric data used in asteroseismologic studies, etc. By data, we mean here not only primary observational material, but also tools of general interest such as catalogs, theoretical tables of lasting values, etc.

Whenever the primary observational data (e.g., the spectrograms that were used for determining radial velocities or redshifts) are archived at a facility such as ESO or HST and therefore publicly available, there is no need for authors to provide them to A&A; in this case, we'll archive only the reduced data (i.e., the radial velocities and the reduced photometric data in the examples given above). When primary data presented in articles are not publicly available through an institutional archive (e.g., the IRAM spectroscopic data), the calibrated data will be archived at the CDS.

By contract with A&A, the CDS stores the data that are published in A&A articles and graciously puts them at the disposal of the global community. The data are also linked to the general purpose data mining tools developed at the CDS and to the published articles through the ADS. The CDS requires the data tables to be in ascii format and each table is accompanied by a readme.txt file that describes the table’s content. The readme file format defines a standard that is used by all major astronomy journals. Primary data can also be archived at the CDS as graphics files in FITS format. This is of particular interest for spectrograms. At this point, no other formats than ascii and FITS are supported by the CDS for A&A data. Also by contract with the Journal, CDS provides help to A&A authors in order to prepare the archival files.

Manuscript categories

There are different kinds of manuscripts published in A&A, all of them must be written in English and formatted in LaTeX2e using the current A&A macro package. Submissions and manuscript follow-up are made via the A&A Manuscript Management System.

  • Letters to the Editor

Important new results that require rapid publication can be submitted as Letters, which are restricted in length to 4 printed pages. Letters are usually published within 4-8 weeks of acceptance.

  • Regular papers

Regular papers submitted to A&A should present new astronomical results or ideas of sufficient interest to the community as concisely as possible.

  • Research Notes

Research notes are short papers (about four pages) that contain either new results as an extension of work reported in a previous paper, or limited observations not urgent enough to be published as a Letter, or useful calculations that have no definite immediate astrophysical applications.

  • Other submissions

Errata concerning published A&A papers must be sent directly to the editorial office for consideration by the Editor in Chief.

Comments are usually not published by A&A, except in exceptional cases. Three conditions are necessary for a comment to be considered for publication (a) it refers to a paper published by A&A, (b) it does unambiguously solve the problem or question it raises, and (c) its publication will be useful to the community. Comments should also be sent directly to the editorial office.

The A&A sections

The current A&A sections are as follows.

  1. Letters
  2. Astrophysical processes
  3. Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)
  4. Extragalactic astronomy
  5. Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations
  6. Interstellar and circumstellar matter
  7. Stellar structure and evolution
  8. Stellar atmospheres
  9. The Sun
  10. Planets and planetary systems
  11. Celestial mechanics and astrometry
  12. Atomic, molecular, and nuclear data*
  13. Astronomical instrumentation*
  14. Catalogs and data*
  15. Numerical methods and codes*

* Online-only sections

Contributors to A&A are aware that Sect. 13, ``Astronomical instrumentation'', and Sect. 14, ``Catalogs and data'', of the Journal are only published online. We are now introducing two additional online-only sections.
  • The new Sect. 15, entitled ``Numerical methods and codes'', will be devoted to publishing new numerical algorithms and codes of interest to a sufficiently large fraction of the astronomical community. Details can be found in the editorial published in A&A 477, E1 (2008).
  • Section 12 ``Atomic, molecular, and nuclear data'' will be published online only from 2008 on, as suggested by a sizable fraction of respondents to the recent A&A author survey.
The four online-only sections of A&A have topics of potential use by a wide range of astronomers. The abstracts of papers published in these sections will continue to be included in the printed edition of the Journal. Thanks to the generosity of our publisher, who provides open access to the online-only sections and to A&A Letters, these important parts of our Journal are now freely available to the worldwide community of astronomers.

Note concerning papers submitted for Section 13

Recognizing the importance of state-of-the-art instrumentation, the A&A Board of Directors has decided to develop the corresponding journal section, thus aiming at making A&A a reference journal also for astronomers whose main interest is instrumentation. We therefore introduce hereby the new editorial policy concerning these papers. In Section 13, we will now publish papers that describe:

  • new concepts and ideas that might lead to actual future instruments,
  • crucial instrumental developments in ongoing ground-based or space projects,
  • studies that are essential to the preparation of large instrumental projects,
  • ground-breaking data processing and mining methods,

provided these works report a significant advance on current capabilities and are of interest to a sizable fraction of the community.

Compared to our previous editorial policy for Sect. 13, the main change is that we no longer request that papers describing instruments and related studies also present astronomical results. Details on this new policy can be found in the editorial published in A&A 459, E3 (2006).

About the language

Most papers in A&A have been written by non-native English speakers. Authors with a limited experience of English are strongly recommended to find help in writing their papers, preferably from a native-speaking colleague. It is the policy of A&A to hold the authors responsible for a correct formulation of their text. A&A offers help, but only after the scientific content of a manuscript has been judged to be sufficient for publication, so it should be understandable before it is sent to a referee. If necessary, the editor will send back poorly written submissions to the author with a request for an initial revision of the language by a native English speaker. Some general guidelines are available here.

Paper organization

Most scientific papers have the same structure:

  • Introduction
  • Observations or calculations or mathematical derivations
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
This is a well-tried format; authors should have good reasons for deviating from it. The goal of a scientific paper is not to impress the readers by poetic language but to transfer facts and new insights as lucidly as possible.

The first page of a manuscript contains: A title, the authors' names, the addresses of authors' institution, an abstract and six keywords at most.

All this information is also entered in the manuscript management system at submission time. Authors are asked at the same time to suggest the section of the Journal in which the paper will appear.

Here, we give some general guidelines concerning the style of the most important elements of a paper. More details and instructions for the LaTeX implementation of these elements are given in the following section, and stylistic considerations are reviewed in section General typing rules.

The title

Make the title short and communicative; do not use acronyms, except those that are in general use; avoid acronyms known only to those deeply specialized.

The abstract

The abstract should be short but informative. Sometimes this is difficult to achieve as these two criteria contradict each other to some extent. The abstract should give in a few lines the essence of the results. A good abstract eliminates to a large extent the need for the section with conclusions at the end of the paper.

A&A encourages the use of structured abstracts (see the editorial published in A&A 441, E3-E6). Just like a traditional abstract, a structured abstract summarizes the content of the paper, but it does make the structure of the article explicit and visible. For doing so, the structured abstract uses headings that define several short paragraphs. Three paragraphs, entitled respectively "Aims", "Methods", and "Results", are mandatory. When appropriate, the structured abstract may use an introductory paragraph entitled "Context", and a final paragraph entitled "Conclusions".

The objectives of the paper are defined in "Aims", the methods of the investigation are outlined in "Methods", and the results are summarized in "Results". The heading "Context" is used when needed to give background information on the research conducted in the paper, and "Conclusions" can be used to explicit the general conclusions that can be drawn from the paper.

Note that the use of structured abstracts in A&A articles and Letters is not mandatory. Authors who prefer the traditional form are invited to implicitly follow the logical structure indicated above.

The introduction

The introduction should state clearly why the study was started and place the research in a broad context e.g. by referring to previous work of relevance. The introduction should not contain the conclusions. Some authors tend to expand an introduction into a review paper by itself; this should be avoided; it is better to refer to papers in the well-established review journals. At the end of the introduction the outline of the paper may be described.

Tables and figures

All tables and figures must be mentioned explicitly by number in the body of the article and appear in correct numerical order in the body of the text.

IMPORTANT: The scientific discussion of the table or figure contents should appear in the main body of the article, not in the table title or figure legend.

Table title style
Every table should have a concise title and omit the initial article (the, a, an); more extensive descriptions or additional information should be incorporated in a note to the table. Each column, including the first, must have a heading. Column headings should label the entries concisely (one or two words). Units of measurement should be given in parentheses immediately below the column headings, not listed with the data in the body of the table. To indicate the omission of an entry, ellipsis dots (...) are used.

References in tables
References cited in a table should be numbered, either in the order in which they are listed in the column or following an alphabetical ordering of the references. The reference should list the number, with the full citation by name(s) and year in a note below the table. Alphanumeric abbreviations (e.g., DS86) may be used in place of numbers if these are used elsewhere in the text. The note to the table should then read, e.g., "References. (1) Dupont and Smith 1986; (2) Rees 1998." All references cited in tables must also have a complete entry in the reference list.

NEW: The 2013 A&A LaTeX macro (v. 8.2) now includes commands dedicated to the table caption layout. See details here.

Figure legend style
Figure legends should concisely label and explain figures and parts of figures. The first sentence of each figure legend should be a descriptive phrase, omitting the initial article (the, a, an). In multipart figures, the legends should distinguish (a), (b), (c), etc., components of the figure. Note that if parts are identified in the legend as (a), (b), (c), particularly for single figures composed of multiple panels, these letters should be clearly labeled in the figure itself. Otherwise panels should be referred to by position (top right, top left, middle, bottom, etc.). All lines (solid, dashed, dot-dashed, dash-dotted, etc.) and symbols (filled or open circles, squares, triangles, crosses, arrows, etc.) should be explained in the legend. Graphics should not be used in figure legends.
Figure legend details should not be repeated in the main text of the article.

About figures printed in color

Color figures are printed in grayscale, unless printing in color is specifically requested by the authors. Color figures appear in the online edition free of charge. The extra charge (without VAT) for color printing is: 250 euros per figure for one or two figures, 180 euros per figure for more than three figures. The author should submit high-quality color prints that show the colors desired for reproduction and that are suitable for scanning if the electronic file is unusable. The EPS (or PS) files need to be prepared as channeled CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) files rather than RGB (red, green, blue) files. Most computer-generated figure files are created using the RGB color model, which is used for computer monitors, but printers use the CMYK system (the four-color process). Color figures prepared as RGB EPS files can be converted to CMYK; but because the available color gamut in the RGB model is much larger than the gamut available in the CMYK model, it is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to obtain the same result in both formats. Note that all hard copies produced from RGB files by desktop color or laser printers can also create colors outside of the range of the CMYK palette.

The publisher can convert your RGB figures to CMYK, and a color proof (or PDF file) of the resulting figures will be sent to the authors to verify that the CMYK color scheme is acceptable. If not, authors will have to send again new CMYK figures to the publisher. Please note that the publisher needs a hard copy of the color figure(s). Color figure files, when only used in the electronic edition, may be submitted as RGB files.

Key words

A maximum of 6 key words should be listed after the abstract. These must be selected from a list that is published each year in the first issue in January. This list is common to the major astronomical and astrophysical journals.

List of key words.

Links to object databases

Links to object databases (Simbad or Ned) in the on-line electronic version of an article (with the \object{} directive) should be viewed as a means of referencing the most important astronomical objects studied in the article. The number of such links should therefore not exceed some 10-20 occurrences to remain pertinent. In particular, using the object directive in the tabular material should be avoided, which includes not tagging each and every occurrence of all the object names in the text of the article.

See technical details.


Editor-in-Chief: T. Forveille
Letters Editor-in-Chief: J. Alves
Managing Editor: C. Bertout

ISSN: 0004-6361 ; e-ISSN: 1432-0746
Frequency: 12 volumes per year
Published by: EDP Sciences

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