Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Submission to multiple journals: a method of reducing time to publication?

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 03 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:305
  1. David J Torgerson, professor (,
  2. Joy Adamson, lecturer1,
  3. Sarah Cockayne, research fellow1,
  4. Jo Dumville, research fellow1,
  5. Emily Petherick, research fellow1
  1. 1York Trials Unit, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD
  1. Correspondence to: D J Torgerson
  • Accepted 10 August 2004

Getting a manuscript accepted by a journal can be a long, drawn out process and delays dissemination of clinical research. Allowing authors to submit to several journals simultaneously could speed up publication


Most medical journals do not allow simultaneous submission of articles to more than one journal. The need for sequential submission is an important factor in delaying the publication of research. We propose that journals should allow authors to submit to two or more journals at the same time. This would lead to greater competition among journals and shorten publication delay, which would benefit both patients and authors.

Publishing delays

Timely publication of research findings is crucial because delays will have a harmful effect on patients' health. In a review of AIDS trials, Ioannidis found a delay of between 1.7 and 3 years between study completion and publication, with negative trials taking significantly longer to be published.1 Furthermore, a study looking at economic evaluations found that on average the economic results were published two years after the clinical results.2

Morally, as well as ethically, all those involved in the research process have a duty to report their findings as quickly as possible. An important barrier to early publication and dissemination is often the researcher. Many researchers take too long to write up their findings. However, another big factor is sequential submission, whereby authors are allowed to submit to only one journal at a time.

Process of publication

Authors intending to submit a manuscript that they consider to be of high quality and general appeal may consider a general medical journal (BMJ, JAMA, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, etc). These journals have a fairly rapid turnaround. Even so, unless the journal considers the paper for its “rapid” publication section, a decision usually takes six to eight weeks. If the decision is positive …

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