The BMJ is published by BMJ, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association. The BMA grants editorial freedom to the editor of The BMJ (currently Dr. Fiona Godlee). The views expressed in the journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the BMA. The BMJ follows guidelines on editorial independence produced by the World Association of Medical Editors and the code on good publication practice produced by the Committee on Publication Ethics, the recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, and checklists and advice for good research reporting of the EQUATOR network.
The BMJ is an online publication and publishes its articles continuously to bmj.com. The website is updated daily with original articles, podcasts, videos, and blogs and organised into four main content streams—research, education, news and views, and campaigns. In addition, the site is fully searchable, with an archive going back to 1840 and numerous topic collections on clinical and non-clinical subjects.
Some articles published online will subsequently also appear in a print issue of The BMJ. The print journal is now published in three editions: one weekly edition targeting hospital clinicians, primarily in the UK; a second weekly edition for GPs; and a third monthly edition aimed at academics and a more international audience. Together, their circulation totals about 122 000 copies and all are mailed in a recyclable wrapper.
In place of a page number, each online article has a unique identifier; this identifier (elocator) should be used when citing any article in The BMJ. The form of the citation (e.g. BMJ 2008;337:a134) appears on all articles both online and in print, and it will appear thus in PubMed and other indexes.
The BMJ has an impact factor of 30.313 (JCR 2019) and is ranked fourth among general medical journals. The journal's website, bmj.com has 2,700,000 views per month, and papers published in The BMJ in 2016 had over 150 media mentions across eleven key media outlets across the world. Papers published in The BMJ receive an Altmetric score that is displayed on the article's page. The journal also produces a podcast to highlight papers published in the journal.
We publish only about 7% of the 7000-8000 articles we receive each year (and just 4% of the ~4,000 research articles). Roughly two thirds of all submissions are rejected without sending them for external peer review. Of those sent externally for review in 2019, the median time to first decision for research, analysis and education papers was 58, 58 and 57 days, respectively. For 2019 submissions, the median time for papers to be rejected without review for research, analysis and education papers was 3, 14 and 45 days, respectively.
Authors tell us they appreciate these quick decisions that allow them to submit their work without unnecessary delay to another journal, (to one of the 70+ journals also published by BMJ across many specialties). Don’t be put off by our high rejection rate. If your paper is not the right fit for The BMJ, our large family of journals includes many that are committed to publishing all medical research, where the science and ethics are strong, without regard to novelty or negative results.
All research papers in The BMJ are published with open access, and this also fulfils the requirements of the US National Institutes of Health, the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and other funding bodies by making the full text of publicly funded research freely available to all on bmj.com and sending it directly to PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine's full text archive. The BMJ occasionally publishes as open access other types of (non-research) articles arising from work funded by a funder who mandates open access publication. For additional information, please see the section of instructions to authors on copyright, open access, and permission to reuse.
The BMJ does not want to publish material that has already appeared in full elsewhere. But we sometimes accept articles that have been published as abstracts or have been partially reported by the media at scientific meetings, and some that have already appeared in foreign language journals.
Previous publication in electronic form in certain settings may be acceptable, too. For example, The BMJ does not consider posting of protocols or results in clinical trials registries to be prior publication.
Before submitting material for publication authors often ask colleagues and peers for comments on the completed work. These unpublished articles are known as preprints. And, increasingly, authors are conducting this informal peer review using electronic preprints (eprints), often by posting the articles on websites and repositories. In all these cases we expect authors to tell us about previous publication and to supply us with copies of such previous versions. Then we can assess whether publication in The BMJ will add usefully to the medical literature, or whether it will just add redundant material.
To save readers and researchers from being overwhelmed by redundant material we do not want to publish articles that overlap substantially with articles published elsewhere. We want to make up our own minds on the degree of overlap. Whenever an article submitted to The BMJ overlaps by more than 10% with previously published work, or work submitted elsewhere, we expect authors to send us copies of those articles.
Duplicate publication is the publication of the same article or substantially similar articles in more than one journal. Authors must explain in the submission letter any prior publication of the same or substantially similar article, and should explain any circumstances that might lead the editor or reviews to believe that the article may have been published elsewhere (for example, when the title of a submitted article is the same as or similar to the title of a previously published article).
If the editor learns that a submitted article has been published elsewhere (in either the same or substantially similar form), the editor reserves the right to consult with other editors about the content of the articles in question. Further, the editor may return the article unreviewed, may consider no articles by any of the authors for a period of time, may announce publicly in the journal (perhaps as a simultaneous announcement with the editor of the journal that published the earlier article) that the authors have submitted a previously published article, or may do any combination of these actions, at the editor’s discretion.
If the article is accepted and published before the duplication is discovered, the editor will announce the duplication in the journal or have the authors write a letter acknowledging the duplicate publication, and the editor will notify the authors’ employers, at the editor’s discretion.
Simultaneous submission of manuscripts
Authors may not send the same manuscript to more that one journal at the same time. If the editor learns of possible simultaneous submission, the editor reserves the right to consult with the other editor(s) who have received the article. Further the editor may return the article without review, or may reject it without regard to the reviews, or make this decision in discussion with the other editor(s) involved, and may decide to consider no articles from the author from the authors for a period of time, and may also write to the authors' employers, or may do any combination of these actions, at the editor’s discretion.
All Research, Research Methods And Reporting, Analysis, and Education papers published in The BMJ have undergone internal and external peer review.
For research and analysis papers, The BMJ has fully open peer review. This means that accepted research and analysis papers will usually have their prepublication history posted alongside them on bmj.com (read more in this editorial). This prepublication history generally comprises all previous versions of the manuscript, the study protocol (mandatory for all clinical trials and encouraged for all other studies at The BMJ), the report from the manuscript committee meeting, the reviewers’ comments, and the authors’ responses to all the comments from reviewers and editors. The prepublication history will be posted around the same time the paper is published, but at busy times of the year there may be delays. If you cannot locate the prepublication history for a particular paper, please contact email@example.com.
For rejected research papers, we expect that authors will keep the identity and comments of peer reviewers confidential. They may, however, share the peer review comments (though not peer reviewer names) in confidence with other journals. Authors should contact the editor who handled their paper if they have any complaints about the peer review process or the behaviour of the peer reviewers.
We ask reviewers to sign their reports and declare any competing interests on any manuscripts we send them. Reviewers for The BMJ agree to have their signed comments posted if a paper is published, but not otherwise.
A senior research editor screens every research paper on the day it is submitted and, if the editor feels that the paper merits further evaluation, it gets sent to a handling editor for a more detailed review. For original research articles the handling editor will usually take each article through from start to finish. We aim to reach a first decision on all manuscripts within two or three weeks, but often the initial decision is done within a few days of submission. About half the original research articles we receive are rejected at this stage, before sending out for review. If we do not think The BMJ is the right journal for the work, we let authors know promptly so that they may submit their work elsewhere without delay. The usual reasons for rejection at this stage are insufficient originality, the absence of a message that is important to a general medical audience, or the fact that the topic falls outside the purview of the journal.
If your article is potentially suitable for The BMJ, the handling editor will send your article for external peer reviewer. Reviewers advise the editors, who make the final decision. We ask reviewers to sign their reports and declare any competing interests on any manuscripts we send them, as described below.
The next step for your research article, if it is still in the running after peer and patient review is full appraisal at our weekly research manuscript meeting. A statistics editor, your paper's handling editor, and four to seven research editors will read your article and discuss its importance, originality, and scientific quality. To make editorial decisions for research articles we focus mainly on the research question: even when the overall subject is relevant, topical, and important we may reject the article because the study didn’t ask a research question that added enough. Of course, we will also reject work if it has serious flaws. Everyone attending the manuscript meeting is asked to declare relevant competing interests at the start, and anyone with an important competing interest will either leave the room or speak last when the relevant article is being discussed (depending on the nature and extent of their interest).
Decisions made at the research manuscript meeting usually include one of: provisional acceptance (conditional on making satisfactory revisions), request revisions (when we remain interested in the article but have insufficient information to reach a definitive decision, and hope that putting reviewers' and editors' points to the authors will lead to a satisfactory revision and eventually to a decision), or rejection. We will send you a decision letter and report from the meeting as soon as possible; usually within a few days, but longer if we have asked for an additional detailed report from the statistics editor or another reviewer.
The report will list the names of everyone who took part in the discussion about your article. If your article is accepted and published the committee report - and your responses to this and all the reviewers’ comments - will comprise part of the pre-publication history that we will post alongside your published article.
Some articles may also be seen by The BMJ's ethics committee and, in cases where the editor suspects serious research misconduct, by appropriate third parties.
We aim to reach a final decision on publication within eight to 10 weeks of submission for all articles. If we make an offer of publication subject to revision we usually ask authors to return their articles to us within the subsequent month.
Accepted articles are published on bmj.com as they become ready, and bmj.com is updated daily. Once published, articles are then selected for a subsequent print issue.
The BMJ provides open access to peer reviewed research as part of its commitment to readers and authors. We make all our research articles freely available online and send them directly to PubMed Central (the National Library of Medicine's full text archive).
Peer review for papers submitted by The BMJ's editorial staff
Editorials, news items, analysis articles, and features written by The BMJ's own editors do not undergo external peer review. Articles reporting original research done at the BMJ are independently peer reviewed.
The BMJ follows The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations 2013) with regards to authorship, contributorship and group authorship. You can find out more about our policies in our detailed Authorship and Contributorship section.
• 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.
When research articles are of exceptional clinical importance and urgency, or where there is a public policy reason for urgent publication, we can offer full online publication within four weeks of submission. Please send research articles for fast track submission through http://submit.bmj.com/.
You can keep track of your manuscript throughout the process by going to your author area in ScholarOne. Here it will list for you manuscripts you have submitted under "Submitted manuscripts," "Manuscripts with decision," and "Manuscripts I have co-authored."
If your manuscript is sent for external peer review you will find reviewers comments in the decision letter. Please click on "Manuscripts with decision" and click on "View decision letter."
For non-ScholarOne articles, all queries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once your manuscript has been accepted, all correspondence will be sent to the email address of your corresponding author as indicated on ScholarOne.
Although our post-acceptance process varies across article types, in general you can expect the following:
Your manuscript will go to our production team to prepare your proof.
You’ll get an email with:
• Timeline for your proof
• Contact email for the production editor
Your article will go through three stages before your proof arrives:
• Clean up
• Copy editing
You may receive a link where you can download your PDF proof. In the same email, you’ll also be able to view a locked PDF with track changes to see what changes went through the copy editing stage. Using annotation tools in the PDF, you can make changes and answer any questions that came up in the copy editing stage. We normally expect changes to be made within 2 working days of downloading your proof. Let the production editor know if you won’t be able to make this deadline. Any changes you highlighted will be addressed by the production editor
After online publication, we’ll send you a toll-free link to your article if it’s not Open Access.
If your article is selected for press release
If your article is chosen for press release by the BMJ Press Officer, you’ll be notified by email. When your article is ready for publication, the Press Officer will write the release and send you a draft for any recommended changes and final approval. Once approved, the Press Officer will schedule a date and time for the article to publish and let you know in advance.
For more details on the press release process, see ‘How we work with the media’. As our press team can only prepare a handful of press releases every year, you can organise your own press release if your article is not selected. When you return your proof, let the production editor know that you’d like to set an embargo to coincide with your press release.
Once your article is published online, readers will be able to leave comments. Use the toolbar on the side of your online article to set up alerts when:
A response is published
Your article is cited
A correction is posted
You can also use that toolbar to:
Share your article
View usage statistics
Request a post-publication correction
If you notice any error in your published article, email the production editor who will advise you whether a correction can be made.
Peer review by editors and external reviewers is usually based on a mix of evidence and opinion and some decisions to reject may be close calls. We welcome serious appeals. About 10% of appeals for original research articles result in successful revision and acceptance. For other types of article only about 2% of appeals succeed.
If you believe that we have rejected your article wrongly, perhaps because we have misunderstood its scientific content, please submit an appeal (rebuttal) letter to our editorial team at email@example.com.
Do not try to submit a revised version of your article at this stage.
If we agree, on reading your rebuttal letter, that your appeal is warranted we may then invite you to submit a revised version of your article that we will enter again into our peer review process.
Please include as much detail in the rebuttal letter as possible. If we have provided comments from external peer review and/or from the full editorial committee please respond to these, point-by-point, in your appeal letter. It will be easier for us to decide what to do if you send a very detailed letter.
Appeals clarifying and offering to revise specific parts of the article, for instance the analysis of original research data, tend to succeed much more often than appeals against essentially editorial decisions where we did not think The BMJ was the right journal for the article because it did not fit well with The BMJ's readers' needs and interests. Nevertheless, if you feel able to explain and justify clearly in your rebuttal letter the work's importance, relevance, and usefulness to The BMJ's readers, it may be worth while appealing. We give priority to articles that help our readers (who are mainly doctors) to make better decisions, whether they are clinicians, policy makers, educators, or researchers.
Please note that an invitation to submit a revised version after appealing is not a guarantee of acceptance: your article will enter the peer review process again and might still be rejected at any stage.
Lastly, we can consider only one appeal per manuscript, so please spend as much time and effort on writing the rebuttal letter as you think necessary to put the case clearly - you have one chance, so use it well. We have found that prolonged negotiation over rejected papers are usually unsatisfactory for both authors and editors, so we no longer engage in this.
Providing authors with an easy and smooth submission and peer-review service is one of the most important aspects across all our journals.
We want to be able to find a home for all high-quality and sound science, clinical research in the most suited BMJ journal. We know that receiving a rejection can be disheartening. To prevent this, and the duplication of efforts of authors, editors and reviewers, BMJ Journals have improved the process of transferring manuscripts.
Read more about the BMJ transfer service.
We have been publishing around evidence based medicine for some years and hope that the same thinking can transform publishing, carrying out research into all aspects of The BMJ's operation with the objective of developing, promoting, and incorporating evidence-based and responsible publishing into our own practices. Our research projects usually originate from within The BMJ, but our work has a wider focus: nearly all of the issues we research have relevance for journal editors, authors, peer reviewers and publishers working across biomedical science. We also conduct collaborative research projects with researchers in international institutions and offer a PhD program on the responsible conduct of publishing scientific research. As a publisher of numerous journals we have a rich dataset of submitted articles and privileged contact with authors and reviewers worldwide.
On our Evidence based publishing pages you can find useful information on research undertaken at BMJ into all aspects of publishing science including peer review, conflicts of interests, editorial decision making, open access publishing, data sharing, authorship/contributorship, presentation of research, research ethics, publication bias, and education. If you do not want your article entered into such a study please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Your decision to participate or not will have no effect on the editorial decision regarding your submission.
BMJ Company, publisher of The BMJ
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors
World Association of Medical Editors
Committee on Publication Ethics
Declaration of Helsinki
WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP)
Links to resources that may assist you when preparing your document
BMJ author hub
BMJ Open Access Hub
Guidance for peer reviewers
Video guidance for authors of research papers
Guidelines on good publication practiceGuidelines by the European Medical Writers' AssociationAuthors' Submission Toolkit: A practical guide to getting your research published
Patient consent forms in English and other languages
BMJ Author Hub Video abstracts
Video advice on creating video abstracts
Links to editorials that explain our policies
Mandatory disclosure of trial results for drugs and devices (2008)
Disclosure of competing interests (2009)
Prepublication histories and open peer review at The BMJ (2013)
Video abstracts (2013)
Declaration of transparency for each research article (2013)
Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry (2013)
Medical journals and industry ties (2014)
The BMJ requires data sharing on request for all trials (2015)
Data sharing statements for clinical trials (2017)
Patient initiative editorials
Editorial: Let the patient revolution begin (2013)
Editorial: The BMJ’s own patient journey (2014)
Editorial: Logging The BMJ’s “patient journey” (2015)
Editorial: Time to deliver patient centred care (2015)
Editorial: Making patient relevant clinical research a reality (2016)
Editorial: Co-creating health: more than a dream (2016)
Analysis: Patient partnership in medical conferences (2016)
Spotlight series of articles on Patient Centred Care (supported by DNV.GL)
What does The BMJ mean by patient involvement and co-production?
Licenses, copyright, permission to reuse
Reporting checklists (look for extensions at the Equator network)