Media releases

The BMJ press office provides registered journalists with full access to embargoed press releases, together with general information about BMJ's journals.

Release of material to the media

We do not want material that is published in The BMJ or BMJ Journals appearing beforehand, in detail, in the mass media. If this happens doctors and patients may be presented with incomplete material that has not been peer reviewed, and this makes it hard for them to make up their own minds on the validity of the message.

We accept that reports may appear in the media after presentations at scientific meetings.

Those authors whose papers have been partially presented at scientific meetings should not give the media any further information than what was included in their presentations.

Articles may be withdrawn from publication if given media coverage while under consideration or in press at the journal.

BMJ press release policy

Material for press release can include original research papers, analysis articles, commentaries, editorials or letters.

The press releases aim to promote the journal and the science, and perform some public service. They are not intended to endorse particular policies or boost the profile of individual organisations.

We also have to be seen to be completely independent.

For this reason, we have a strict policy of not including anyone on the press release distribution list other than journalists.

We currently have around 6000 UK and international journalists on the press distribution list. Embargoed press releases are also posted onto EurekAlert (the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

Press release process

A draft press release is emailed to the corresponding or lead author to approve and to check for accuracy and clarity around 24 hours ahead of issue.

The lead author is responsible for advising any coauthors, employers / funders that their research is being released to the media. If an author is not available to speak to journalists, they are asked to nominate an alternative point of contact.

Authors (or their institutional press office) are always the first point of contact for journalists. We therefore always require a telephone number to be included on the press release.

We also ask for a mobile or home telephone number, not necessarily for publication on the press release, but for use in case the press officer is called by journalists out of office hours and needs to contact the author to set up an evening or early morning interview.

Journalists WILL call the numbers provided on the press release, so authors must make clear any numbers they DO NOT wish to be included on the release.

Speaking to journalists

Once an author has agreed to be a contact, they must ensure that they are available for comment and are willing to talk to journalists directly, usually over the telephone.

Journalists work under very tight deadlines, so try to return any calls as soon as possible. It is worth remembering that journalism is a free marketing opportunity to put your work and your organisation before millions.

The number of calls you might receive from journalists can’t be predicted. However, if your research is particularly topical or controversial, you could receive many calls.

If you are swamped with calls or can no longer continue taking calls, please contact the press office immediately. Please don’t just ignore journalists in the hope that they will "go away." The story will simply appear without your expert views and input, and so may be inaccurate or misleading.

When talking to the media, authors should not draw conclusions that are not directly supported by the data in their study. For example, when discussing a study showing associations or risks of disease, authors must be careful to avoid making inappropriate statements about cause and effect. And, whenever possible, they should present absolute risks rather than relative risks, as these can be misleading.

Please remember that the press release is only a guide for journalists and BMJ cannot be held responsible for the ensuing coverage. It cannot control the interpretation of published material in the wider media, including in blogs and social networks, nor would it seek to do so.

If you court publicity, you have to be aware that your work may not always be presented as you would like.

Press embargoes

BMJ now publishes all material online, ahead of print, and press releases are embargoed until 23:30 hours (UK time) on the day of online publication.

Online publication counts as the official publication date, not the appearance in a print issue.

An embargo means that nothing must be printed or broadcast before it lifts, but you can talk to journalists during the embargo period.

Embargoes ensure that important health information reaches the public domain in a responsible manner. They enable competing journalists to work to a common deadline, giving them ample time to contact authors and other relevant experts.

Once an embargo lifts, the press releases are posted on the "latest news" page of the BMJ Media Centre: http://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/

Our comprehensive distribution list for press releases means that we can usually guarantee much greater coverage for authors and the journal than if authors decide to go it alone and issue their own press release.

However, if we decide not to press release a particular item, we are happy for authors (or their organisations) to issue their own press releases. Please liaise with BMJ's press office so that we can coordinate online publication dates.

A broken embargo usually limits the overall media coverage because other journalists will not want to report a story that’s already been released early.

Informing workforces about the results of research in which they have participated

Research undertaken with workforces can take place only with their full cooperation. Understandably, they expect to hear from the researchers about the results of the research and its implications for them before publication.

This should be done before publication, but on the understanding that this is under strict embargo.

These guidelines advise researchers how to do this:

  • The onus is on researchers to meet with the workforce
  • They should make arrangements but keep journals aware of what is happening
  • The journals will not put out press releases until after the meeting between researchers and workforces has taken place

For further information or assistance regarding press releases, please contact:

Emma Dickinson/Stephanie Burns, BMJ press office
Tel (office): +44 (0)20 7383 6529 / +44 (0)20 7383 6920; (mobile): +44 (0)7825 118 107
edickinson@bmj.com / sburns@bmj.com

Caroline White, BMJ Journals (mostly works from home)
Tel (mobile): +44 (0)7980 800 465
cwhite@bmjgroup.com