Responding to articles

Anyone can respond without a subscription to any article published on thebmj.com by sending a rapid response.

Rapid responses are electronic letters to the editor. Our weekly letters are edited selections of posted rapid responses and are indexed in PubMed. Rapid responses are not indexed in PubMed but they have their own URL and are retrievable in an advanced search of thebmj.com in perpetuity. Thus a rapid response is published with its first appearance online.

The corresponding author of every article in The BMJ receives an automated email when the paper is published online, and an automated reminder whenever a rapid response is posted to the article on thebmj.com. Given that authors have an academic duty to respond to substantive criticism of their work, The BMJ expects authors to post their own rapid responses on thebmj.com in reply to any such substantive comments, and editors may send reminders about this.

How to send a rapid response

When you have found the article on thebmj.com that you would like to respond to, click on “Respond to this article.”

Fill in the form, typing or cutting and pasting your rapid response into the larger box under “Compose your response”; the smaller box is for the title you wish to give your response.

Accept the terms and conditions, and type the jumble of letters and numbers that you can see into the final box; these characters have been generated automatically as a spam filter to determine whether you are human or machine.
Click on “Submit rapid response.”

You should then get a message on the screen thanking you for sending your response, as well as an automatic acknowledgement to your email address. These two measures confirm that your rapid response has arrived at thebmj.com to be considered for posting.

Terms and conditions for rapid responses

When you submit a rapid response, you agree to the following terms and conditions, which may be amended from time to time:

  • You must declare any competing interests.
  • We aim at posting within 24 hours all responses that contribute substantially to the topic. We aim at posting responses every day, and we run a rota to handle weekends, but it is at our absolute discretion whether we publish any particular response.
  • We won’t publish responses that we consider inappropriate. We won’t publish responses that are likely to end us up in legal difficulties or that are obscene, libellous (or would require us spending time or money to establish that they aren't), or in some other way illegal—for example, inciting racial hatred, contempt of court, breach of intellectual property rights. We won’t publish responses that are over 1000 words long (excluding references), incomprehensible, insubstantial, written in capital letters, not written in English, almost entirely a quote from somewhere else, gratuitously rude, or blatant advertising. We also won’t publish responses that give information on patients without their written consent, are sent by someone who does not provide adequate and accurate personal details, including a functioning email address, or are from people we suspect have used an alias or who do not respond to email. However, it is for us to decide whether we believe it appropriate to post a given response.
  • We make our own judgments on the sorts of legal things we mentioned above rather than refer them to our lawyer. By far the commonest problem we see is libel. In nearly all cases the responses don't warrant us spending money to confirm our judgment that something is libellous (and we have experience from cases where we have consulted our lawyer that our judgment is usually right) or warrant us making an effort to substantiate defamation. The same applies to other breaches—contempt of court, copyright, etc.
  • Individual editors largely make judgments alone. Occasionally editors consult each other.
  • If only a line or two of an otherwise OK response is defamatory or extremely abusive we may delete the line and post the rest.
  • We make no distinction between different types of respondent: doctors, health professionals, non-doctors, patients, people from the UK, people from other countries, members, non-members, etc. We pay attention only to the content.
  • If patients can recognise themselves from your description or anyone else can recognise the patient, please obtain the patient’s written consent to publication before sending your response. Download the patient consent form here
  • Your response must be original and not infringe any third party's intellectual property right.
  • We minimally edit rapid responses. We place the onus for correct spelling and punctuation firmly on the authors, and we won't correct these errors before or after publication.
  • Authors are responsible for the accuracy of what they say in their rapid responses. We cannot check facts, though we may challenge authors if we think they are wrong and may ask them to substantiate what they say—for example, by giving a reference. We also do not check references to say that they really say what they are claimed to say: that, too, is the author's responsibility.
  • Your name will be published with your response. If you want your email address to appear on the website, include it in the body of the text of your response.
  • We reserve the right to edit responses before and after publication.
  • Once a response has been published on the website, you will not have the right to have it removed or edited in any way. The BMJ shall, however, be able to remove any article at its absolute discretion.
  • All published responses are eligible for publication in the paper or other versions of the BMJ and all other BMJ Group publications and can be sublicensed to third parties for their use as deemed fit by the BMJ Group, including within local editions, and in all of the foregoing these are within any media known now or created in the future.
  • Although we try to deal with all of our authors in as courteous and timely manner as possible, dealing with tricky rapid responses is a low priority for us because our threshold for posting rapid responses is low.
  • We try to avoid entering into lengthy correspondence about why we have not posted a rapid response. Again, it is not a good use of our resources and it is at our discretion.