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Twenty top papers to mark The BMJ’s two digital decades

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 06 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3660
  1. David Payne, digital editor, The BMJ, UK
  1. dpayne{at}

To mark the 20th anniversary of The BMJ’s website, the journal asked 20 UK and international readers, authors, friends, and former colleagues to name an outstanding article published since the mid-1990s. The result is an extraordinary mix of editorials, research papers, analysis, and comment, including an investigation, on topics as wide ranging as the MMR vaccine scare, death, evidence based medicine, and the use of stirrups for pelvic examinations. Some represent seminal moments in recent medical history, others are pieces of research that, for their sheer simplicity and focus on patient experience, have inspired our readers to think and work differently.

So here is The BMJ’s top 20 and why, according to our 20 chosen readers, they are the best.

The scandal of poor medical research, Doug Altman (Editorial, BMJ 1994;308:283, doi:10.1136/bmj.308.6924.283)

“The development of the EQUATOR Network ( to improve reports of research and the 2014 Lancet series of papers on ways of increasing value and reducing waste in research ( are just two examples of testimony to the enduring influence of Doug’s 1994 call for “less research, better research, and research done for the right reasons.” Iain Chalmers, health services researcher and a founder of the Cochrane Collaboration

Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t, David L Sackett, William M C Rosenberg, J A Muir Gray, et al (Editorial, BMJ 1996;312:71, doi:10.1136/bmj.312.7023.71)

“Over the past 30 years we have seen medicine transformed from being based on the opinions of ‘experts’ to being based on systematic collation of evidence from clinical studies. There is still a vast amount to do to improve the evidence base itself. But articles such as this have helped explain to doctors the key principles of evidence based medicine and have inspired a new generation of clinicians and researchers.” Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, The BMJ

What worries parents when their preschool children are acutely ill, and why: a qualitative study, Joe Kai (Research, BMJ 1996;313:983, doi:10.1136/bmj.313.7063.983)

“This paper and a linked one (BMJ 1996;313:987, doi:10.1136/bmj.313.7063.987) revealed the profound sense of responsibility that parents felt for their children and how deep seated their fears are of serious …

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