Resources for reviewers

Peer review must often seem like a thankless task, but without it The BMJ could not survive. We depend on our bank of reviewers to help us assess the quality and usefulness of the 8000 manuscripts we receive each year.

For the best reviews (those that constructively critique the article and help editors assess its importance and originality) we offer, in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, up to 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Continuing Medical Education (CME) points.

The BMJ is committed to furthering partnerships between doctors and patients. In addition to peer review, we also ask patient reviewers for their opinion on the importance and relevance of selected manuscripts.

Open peer review

We ask reviewers to sign their reports and declare any competing interests on any manuscripts we send them. Reviewers advise the editors, who make the final decision (aided by an editorial manuscript committee meeting for some articles, including original research).

For research papers, The BMJ has fully open peer review. This means that every accepted research paper submitted from September 2014 onwards will have its prepublication history posted alongside it on thebmj.com.

This prepublication history comprises all previous versions of the manuscript, the study protocol (submitting the protocol is mandatory for all clinical trials and encouraged for all other studies at The BMJ), the report from the manuscript committee meeting, the reviewers’ signed comments, and the authors’ responses to all the comments from reviewers and editors (read more in this editorial).

If you experience any adverse event arising from open peer review, or would like to tell us your views, please email papersadmin@bmj.com

What we ask reviewers to do

If we need your help with appraising a manuscript we will email you and ask you to accept or reject the reviewing invitation at our online editorial office.

We ask reviewers to help us prioritise the manuscripts that we receive, bearing in mind that The BMJ aims to publish original, important, and reliable articles that will help our readers around the world - who are mainly doctors - to make better decisions about practice, policy, education, and research. All research in The BMJ is published with open access.

Authors can now nominate (at submit.bmj.com) other BMJ Journals that they would like their manuscript to go to automatically if it is rejected by the first journal. The system also passes on editors' comments and peer reviewers' reports relating to that manuscript, to facilitate the review process at the next BMJ journal. This means that a review provided for The BMJ may be seen later by other editors within BMJ.

Reviewers advise the editors, who are responsible for the final decision to accept or reject a manuscript. Manuscripts sent for review are usually seen by at least two reviewers, and reviewers can access each other's reports on the same manuscript once The BMJ has made its decision. We hope that this will provide useful feedback and learning.

We welcome feedback from our reviewers. If you have any comment you want to make, either on a manuscript you have reviewed and our decision on it or on our review process in general, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Please note that we have an ongoing programme of editorial research and have, for example, conducted randomised controlled trials on open peer review and peer review training.

More information

The BMJ transparency policy will save you lots of time because it pulls together in one place many separate editorial policies. It's there, for example, that you'll find advice on what to do if you are concerned about the ethics aspects of a manuscript we have asked you to review or if you suspect plagiarism, duplicate publication, or scientific fraud.

Article provenance

One aspect of transparency that relates very directly to reviewers is the statement of provenance, which mentions whether a published article has been reviewed.

Who had the idea for the article, and was the article externally peer reviewed? At the end of every accepted editorial, research article, clinical review, practice article, analysis article, feature, and head-to-head article The BMJ will add a statement explaining the article's provenance. The options are:

  • Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed
  • Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned; externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned, based on an idea from the author; externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned, based on an idea from the author; not externally peer reviewed