What does it mean when it says under a journal article that it has been communicated by "XYZ" where XYZ is not the author but some other scholar with a very strong reputation? What is the relationship to the actual author and/or the content? Is this some sort of seal of approval to get results out and known quickly? (I am specifically wondering in the context of mathematics and mathematical physics.)


3 Answers 3


Generally, XYZ refers to the editor that handled the paper at the journal.

  • Is it in most cases only one editor is responsible for reviewing/editing the paper?
    – Nobody
    Jan 31, 2013 at 13:03
  • 5
    @scaaahu The editor in general does not review the paper himself (apart from a quick initial scan), but contacts referees etc. The editor does make the final decision on whether it should be published or not. They don't edit the paper themselves, in the sense of correcting grammar or layout, at least I have never heard of that. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:08
  • Is it not a secondary corresponding author? I've been corresponding author on articles where I was not the first author, because the first author was on vacation.
    – gerrit
    Jan 31, 2013 at 13:17
  • 6
    It is not the second corresponding author. Sometimes there may be more than one editor, especially for speciall issues. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:31
  • 1
    By the journal. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:41

See this question on Mathematics.SE and its very good answers for full details, which I will summarize below. It should be noted that this information is part of the journal format, and added by the publisher itself (along with the publication timeline).

  • Some journals published by learned societies or national academies require that “communications” be presented (or sponsored) by a member of the society. This was the case, for example, of the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) until July 2010; the top of an article looked like this:

    enter image description here

  • Some journals use this formulation to denote the handling editor: the one who makes the editorial decision (or recommendation to the full editorial board), after having selected referees and received the referees' reports.

This is not common practice: most journals do not indicate who the handling editor was for a given article.

  • This answer is what I had always assumed to be the case. However, I've been confused since I discovered this paper in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. Ser. A, for which the "communicated by" person is listed as an author in the citation supplied by the "download citation" tool. Feb 7, 2021 at 12:04

It is important to note that "Communicated by" can mean a direct submission of a paper by a scientist who is not (in most cases) directly involved in the paper itself. It was designed as a way for established scientists to give a "leg up" to their younger colleagues by allowing them to circumvent the normal review process. This means you may have to give these types of papers a bit more scrutiny as a reader.

PNAS is the publication where I have most commonly seen "Communicated by" publications, but this feature was phased out in 2010:

Until July 1, 2010, members were allowed to communicate up to 2 papers from non-members to PNAS every year. The review process for these papers was anonymous in that the identities of the referees were not revealed to the authors. Referees were selected by the NAS member. PNAS eliminated communicated submissions through NAS members as of July 1, 2010, while continuing to make the final decision on all PNAS papers. (wikipedia)

  • 1
    “by allowing them to circumvent the normal review process” — this is not entirely true… your quote from PNAS clearly establishes that the papers were reviewed by anonymous referees.
    – F'x
    Feb 4, 2013 at 12:24
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    I downvoted because "communicated by" does not always mean this. Perhaps for PNAS it does, but for other journals I know that Dave Clarke's answer is correct; "communicated by" names the handling editor. Feb 4, 2013 at 13:45
  • @F'x - even if the papers are still reviewed by referees, it is still not the "normal" review process
    – Amy
    Feb 4, 2013 at 17:05
  • @NateEldredge - I edited my answer to reflect this. But I think it is an important distinction to point out - when you read a paper, you take into account the prestige/focus of the journal, the history of the research group (are the experiments within the realm of their expertise), etc. This is another factor to consider, and one I didn't learn about until grad school.
    – Amy
    Feb 4, 2013 at 17:10

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