Biological Reviews

Biological Reviews covers the entire range of the biological sciences, presenting several review articles per issue.


Biological Reviews covers the entire range of the biological sciences, presenting several review articles per issue. Although scholarly and with extensive bibliographies, the articles are aimed at non-specialist biologists as well as researchers in the field. Authors are specifically instructed to be aware of this fact in their writing, and the resulting reviews serve as extensive introductions to particular fields, defining the state of the art, and drawing attention to gaps in knowledge. Articles are up to 20,000 words long and each contains an abstract, a thorough introduction and statement of conclusions.

What Biological Reviews has to offer:

  • Fast publication times
  • Flexible policy on nature of articles, with scope for extensive tables and illustrations
  • International exposure with global circulation

Aims and Scope

Biological Reviews publishes synthetic reviews, based on the literature, covering important biological questions that are interesting to a broad readership and are timely (e.g. from a fast-moving field, or due to new discoveries or conceptual advances). A 'synthetic review' goes beyond compiling information, rather it should analyse the information and build a new theoretical or conceptual framework that can substantially reshape the area

Definition of review

Our concept of a review is one that comprehensively surveys the literature in order to answer a key biological question, or to identify new biological questions that need to be addressed to advance the field. This includes using data from the literature (for example, in meta-analyses). A review contrasts with primary research, which is the generation of new data. Thus, taxonomic or phylogenetic reviews, which draw conclusions from new data (even if made from “published” specimens or archived sequence data) typically fall out of scope as being primary research. Also out of scope are “opinion pieces” where they are based on an incomplete survey of the literature, where studies are only included that fit a specified hypothesis. Reviews suitable for Biological Reviews synthesise the literature and from this draw novel insights which contribute to the reshaping of an area. To help authors with some concrete guidance, a reviewer described what we are looking for in the following ways:

“Excellent reviews provide new conceptual insight not present in the primary literature. For example, they may bring together literature items (e.g. empirical or theoretical) that were previously disconnected to show where they do in fact overlap; or the review may generate significant new ideas and hypotheses. Such reviews are rare but, if they are readable and clear, they can form the basis for a new research direction. Good reviews explain difficult topics and make use of examples to illustrate how phenomena or theories are connected, or provide synthetic overviews of a large body of literature (empirical or theoretical). They can be the first entry into a new literature and may often allow readers to extract information or insights (e.g., about key experiments to be done) that are difficult to see from reading the primary literature or existing summaries. There are also not-so-useful reviews. These are more like summaries. They summarize recent opinions or results of one or several fields, restate conclusions that are easily gleaned from abstracts of primary research papers, and identify real, but quite obvious, gaps in knowledge. It can be very useful to write such a paper to organize one’s own thoughts, but it is typically of limited use to others.”

Biological Reviews is seeking “excellent reviews” in the description above. This goes beyond “good reviews” in the value they add by creating new insights (rather than presenting the information for readers to generate new insights).

Reviews of books are not published.

Under some circumstances, we will publish responses to previous reviews if they make the case that substantial and relevant literature exists and was missed from a previous review.

We would expect such pieces, therefore, to be “mini”-reviews. We urge authors to get in contact with the editorial team prior to submission to discuss suitability.

Review style and structure

Great flexibility in length, content and presentation is allowed. The core of the review must tackle a fundamental biological problem (including allied disciplines such as ecology or palaeontology). Reviews of topics outside biology (e.g. in medicine or agronomy) will be considered only if their focus is on underlying biological questions. We occasionally publish methodological reviews and use similar criteria: is there a well-articulated biological issue addressed, and is the review synthetic, generating new insights, rather than simply listing different methods?

Whilst articles may have significant value for experts in a particular field of research, they also act as introductions to the area for people engaging with it. Authors are therefore asked to write in a way that is intelligible to the non-expert so that scientists unfamiliar with the topic can learn something from it. Articles can be extensively illustrated. All articles are subject to refereeing.

Editorial Board


Tim Benton

Dean of Strategic Research Initiatives, University of Leeds and Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Chatham House

Research and Innovation Services,

University of Leeds

Leeds LS2 9JT



Christopher Howe

Department of Biochemistry

University of Cambridge

Tennis Court Road

Cambridge CB2 1QW UK


Assisted by

Alison Cooper


Editorial Committee

Paul Barrett, UK, Vertebrate Paleobiology

Steven Chown, Australia, Macroecology

David Coombes, UK, Forest Ecology & Conservation

Douglas Erwin, USA, Invertebrate Palaeobiology

Trent Garner, UK, Animal Ecology

Russell Gray, New Zealand, Animal Cognition

Christopher Huang, UK, Membrane Physiology

Michael Jennions, Australia, Behavioural Ecology

Andrew Knight, UK, Conservation Science

Tim Lewens, UK, Philosophy of Biology

Helen Mott, UK, Biochemistry & Structural Biology

Shinichi Nakagawa, New Zealand, Evolutionary Biology & Applied Statistics

Ana Rodrigues, France, Macroecology & Conservation

David Stern, USA, Developmental Biology

Henggui Zhang, UK, Systems Biology


Contact Details

Editorial Contact Information

Sara Lees



Production Contact Details

Joanna Glyza Bongolan

Production Editor