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Thoughts For Today

Slow tracking for BMJ papers

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1551
  1. Christopher Martyn, associate editor (
  1. BMJ,London WC1H 9JR

    An editor argues against the current enthusiasm for fast tracking pages

    It seems that it all started with the Lancet.1 In 1997 it offered to publish selected manuscripts within four weeks of submission. They claimed that their motive was to get important data into the public health arena as quickly as possible, citing worrying (worrying!) instances that they and other journals had experienced of “delays in the publication of important data with major public-health messages.” Each week's delay, they asserted, is “another week during which the research findings can leak out, perhaps in distorted form, via the mass media. Without the full paper, those health-care workers who advise the public are not privy to the caveats and interpretations made by the authors of the study.”

    Convinced? Well, JAMA was, and a year or two later it offered much the same thing.2 It dubbed the process EXPRESS (Expedited Peer Review and Editorial System for Science) presumably to give the impression that it was JAMA's idea in the first place. Any number of other journals tagged along, and authors can now request fast track from the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, and the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, to name but a few. There was even a time when the Quarterly Journal of Medicine offered to fast track papers.

    The BMJ has always been doubtful. As an editorial in 1999 pointed out: “It …

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