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Author Guidelines

The Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists (BSSB) is a publication of the Society of Systematic Biologists. BSSB is currently published as one volume and two issues annually. The objective of the Society of Systematic Biologists is the advancement of the science of systematic biology in all aspects of theory, principles, methodology, and practice, for both living and fossil organisms, with emphasis on areas of common interest to all systematic biologists regardless of individual speculation.

Systematics is the study of biological diversity and its origins. It focuses on understanding evolutionary relationships among organisms, species, higher taxa, or other biological entities such as genes, and the evolution of properties of taxa including intrinsic traits, ecological interactions, and geographic distributions. An important part of systematics is the development of methods for various aspects of phylogenetic inference and biological nomenclature/classification.

The Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists will publish manuscripts that advance our understanding of the Earth's biodiversity, with a special focus on investigations that describe how species are related (i.e., phylogeny), identified (i.e., species delimitation or taxonomic practice) or have evolved (e.g., phylogeography, biogeography, or phylogenetic comparative methods). BSSB will also publish manuscripts that advance the theory or methods used in data analysis. Manuscripts will be evaluated on two criteria: the quality of the science and their contribution to our collective understanding of the focal species or clade. BSSB aims to publish investigations that utilize state of the art data analyses and high-quality data sets to achieve these goals.

Manuscripts are solicited in five categories:

  • Investigations are research studies at any scale that collect genetic, morphological, behavioral, or other data and use these data to further our understanding of the phylogeny, evolution, biogeography, and/or species limits of the focal clade.
  • Applications are manuscripts that are primarily concerned with some aspect of the theory and methodology that are used by systematic biologists. These may range from descriptions of R packages to comparative tests of existing methods, packages, or approaches to data analysis.
  • Descriptions contain all of the components of our research studies, but also include a formal taxonomic proposal. This proposal could take the form of a species description, for example as a component of a species delimitation investigation, or propose a new higher level category, for example as a component of a phylogenetic investigation.
  • Monographs are detailed and lengthy taxonomic treatments of any clade. They are distinguished from Descriptions by their comprehensiveness in considering all existing data that are relevant to the taxonomy of the focal clade.
  • Reviews are a scholarly syntheses of a major topic or research area in systematic biology. Reviews may include a limited amount of new analyses or data, but their focus should be on the synthesis of the existing literature and interpretation of the available data. Generally, treatments related to the phylogeny of an organismal clade are best presented as Monographs rather than Reviews.

Submission of Manuscripts for Review

Our instructions to authors should be followed carefully before submitting a manuscript. Manuscripts not conforming to the instructions will be returned to the author(s) for adjustments before the review process can begin. The text can be submitted as either a PDF file or a Word document using the templates available below:

MS Word Template
LaTeX Template

Data and Supplementary Materials

The inclusion of a Data Availability Statement is a requirement for articles published in Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists. Data Availability Statements provide a standardised format for readers to understand the availability of data underlying the research results described in the article. The statement may refer to original data generated in the course of the study or to third-party data analysed in the article. The statement should describe and provide means of access, where possible, by linking to the data or providing the required unique identifier.

Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists supports the Force 11 Data Citation Principles and requires that all publicly available datasets be fully referenced in the reference list with an accession number or unique identifier such as a digital object identifier (DOI). Data citations should include the minimum information recommended by DataCite:

[dataset]* Authors, Year, Title, Publisher (repository name), Identifier.

*The inclusion of the [dataset] tag at the beginning of the citation helps us to correctly identify and tag the citation. This tag will be removed from the citation published in the reference list.

All datasets used in the research for the manuscript must be made available to reviewers unless the data are already published elsewhere. For manuscripts involving phylogenetic analyses, electronic copies of data sets (e.g. nucleotide sequence data and new alignments of previously published data), in nexus format, must be supplied. Data files should also be provided for morphological analyses. All data files and online-only appendices should be uploaded to Dryad using the confidential link you will receive via email immediately after submitting the other manuscript files through Manuscript Central. Please use the following text under the heading Supplementary Material when linking to data hosted on Dryad in the article:

Data available from the Dryad Digital Repository:[NNNN]

Alternative arrangements may be made for very large data files associated with studies using simulations.

All nucleotide sequence data and alignments must be submitted to GenBank or EMBL before the paper can be published. In addition, all data matrices and resulting trees must be submitted to TreeBASE. GenBank and TreeBASE reference numbers should be provided in the final version of the paper.

Submissions to the Applications section that describe new or original software or tools must include working links to a functional version of the software. Reviewers will be asked to test the software to verify that it functions as described. The software or tool must well documented and easy to use for the typical user. The manuscript itself must be readable by the general Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists readership. If relevant, the manuscript must include benchmark data, or refer to Supplemental Material that includes such data. If appropriate, such benchmarking should include real biological data and a comparison with related tools. If appropriate, the submission must include working sample data files. Any software must be open source, web-distributed and free to non-commercial users. In addition, the authors must certify that they will provide support for the software or tools for a minimum of two years from the date of publication. Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists encourages the use of GPL-like licenses and the use of open repositories, such as SourceForge or Google Code.

Manuscript Formatting

All manuscripts must be submitted using either a LaTeX or Microsoft Word template. Please refrain from changing the template formatting. Manuscripts should be exactly as long as necessary to describe the research in a comprehensive manner. While no formal page limits are in place, we urge authors to respect the time of editors, reviewers, and readers by making the work as succinct as possible. All figures and tables must be mentioned in the order of their appearance and should be imbedded in the text. The word "Figure" should be spelled out if it appears in a sentence, but abbreviated "(Fig.)" if it appears in parentheses. Figure portions should always be referred to using lowercase letters, for example, (Fig. 1a). When an acronym or symbol is used in table or figure captions, it must be defined (even if it is also defined in the text) in the first table caption and first figure caption in which it is used. Once a paper is accepted the separate figure and table files will be required.

Scientific names of organisms are to be given the first time the organisms are mentioned, and the authority that described the species should be cited. Genus and species names in the text, abstract, tables, and figures must be italicized. Guidelines for nomenclature and abbreviations of proteins and protein-encoding loci should be followed. Our abbreviation for millions of years ago is Ma; our abbreviation for millions of years duration (not necessarily in the past) is Myr. "et al." is not italicized.

Contributions should be in English and clearly written. Papers not clearly written may be returned for rewriting prior to review. In general, the recommendations of The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th edition are followed.

Figures. For highest figure quality we prefer figures in vector format rather than bitmap. Figures must be submitted as .tif, .eps, .gif, or .jpg files in separate files once a manuscript is accepted for publication. If bitmapped figures are necessary, such as photographs, the resolution should be 600 ppi. At the end of the submission sequence you will be asked to view the PDF file. Please check the figures, and enlarge them if necessary for easy legibility; for example, if a figure has two portions it might be best to make each portion into separate figures.

When writing text on figures use only common sans-serif fonts, such as Geneva, Helvetica, or Arial. Make the text as large as possible. Figures should be completely labeled, each graph axis should be labeled and include units. No box should be drawn around a graph or other figure. All line weights should be 1 pt thick or close to it (0.5 is the minimum, reserved for cases in which thin lines are necessary to the legibility of the figure).

If a figure has multiple portions they should be referred to in the caption, the text of the paper, and on the figure using lowercase letters. On the figure these letters should be placed in the upper left corner of each portion of the figure, and should be followed by a single parenthesis, e.g., "a)" rather than enclosed in double parentheses.

For initial submissions please embed figures in the manuscript and use continuous line numbers; for any revised versions please submit the figures and tables as separate files. When designing figures, please keep in mind that each figure will be made either single or double column width. Abbreviations used on figures must be defined in the figure caption even if already defined in the text. If the same abbreviations are used in subsequent figures it may be acceptable to define them only on first occurrence.


Submission Preparation Checklist

As part of the submission process, authors are required to check off their submission's compliance with all of the following items, and submissions may be returned to authors that do not adhere to these guidelines.

  1. The submission has not been previously published, nor is it before another journal for consideration (or an explanation has been provided in Comments to the Editor).
  2. The submission file is in Microsoft Word, PDF, or LaTeX document file format.
  3. Where available, URLs for the references have been provided.
  4. The text is single-spaced; uses a 12-point font; employs italics, rather than underlining (except with URL addresses); and all illustrations, figures, and tables are placed within the text at the appropriate points, rather than at the end.
  5. The text adheres to the stylistic and bibliographic requirements outlined in the Author Guidelines, which is found in About the Journal.
  6. If submitting to a peer-reviewed section of the journal, the instructions in Ensuring an Anonymous Review have been followed.
  7. The corresponding author acknowledges responsibility for sharing journal communications with co-authors (if applicable).

Copyright Notice

This Author Agreement for the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists ("Agreement") is entered into by and between The Ohio State University, on behalf of its University Libraries ("Publisher") and the author ("Author").

For good and valuable consideration, Publisher and Author agree as follows:

1. Author hereby grants to Publisher the right to publish, reproduce, distribute, translate, transmit and display his/her submitted work and an abstract thereof ("Work") in the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists in whole or in part and in all formats and all media. Author also hereby grants to Publisher the right for Publisher to enter into agreements with third parties that grant such third parties any or all of the rights that Author has granted to Publisher herein. The aforementioned rights may include the rights necessary to index and abstract the Work. The Author agrees that any subsequent publication of the Work will credit the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists as the site of first publication and provide a link to the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists website. This Agreement is subject to the terms and expectations outlined on Publisher's website (

2. Author represents and war­rants that: (1) they are the creator and rights holder of the Work; (2) Publisher's exercise of the rights granted to Publisher herein will not infringe or violate any copyright or any other right of a third party; (3) if the Work contains any third party content, they have obtained the unrestricted permission of the copyright owner or that use of third party material is allowed because the material is in the public domain or an appropriate fair use analysis has been performed and there is a reasonable belief that use is permitted and (4) the Work contains nothing libelous or otherwise unlawful. Author hereby agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Publisher and its trustees, officers, employees, agents, and subgrantees from all claims related to Publisher's exercise of the rights granted to Publisher herein or related to the subject matter covered in Author's representations and warranties.

The Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, to allow for certain types of reuse without permission. By submitting this agreement, the Author agrees to apply a CC BY 4.0 license to the Work upon publication.


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