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British Medical Journal

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British Medical Journal

For the Bundesministerium der Justiz, see Federal Ministry of Justice (Germany).
Former name(s) Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, British Medical Journal
Abbreviated title (ISO 4) BMJ
Discipline Medicine
Language English
Edited by Fiona Godlee
Publication details
Publisher BMJ Group (United Kingdom)
Publication history 1840–present
Frequency Weekly
Open access Immediate, research articles only
License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License
Impact factor
OCLC number 32595642
  • Journal homepage
  • Online access
  • Online archive

BMJ is an open-access[1] peer-reviewed medical journal. Originally called the British Medical Journal, the title was officially shortened to BMJ in 1988. The journal is published by the BMJ Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association. The editor in chief of BMJ is Fiona Godlee, who was appointed in February 2005.[2]


The journal began publishing on 3 October 1840 as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal and quickly attracted the attention of physicians around the world through its publication of high-impact original research articles and unique case reports.[3] The BMJ's first editors were P. Hennis Green, lecturer on the diseases of children at the Hunterian School of Medicine, who also was its founder and Robert Streeten of Worcester, a member of the PMSA council.

The first issue of the British Medical Journal was 16 pages long and contained three simple woodcut illustrations. The longest items were the editors' introductory editorial and a report of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association's Eastern Branch. Other pages included a condensed version of Henry Warburton's medical reform bill, book reviews, clinical papers, and case notes. There were 2 12 columns of advertisements. Inclusive of stamp duty it cost 7d, a price which remained until 1844. In their main article, Green and Streeten noted that they had "received as many advertisements (in proportion to the quantity of letter press) for our first number, as the most popular Medical Journal, (The Lancet) after seventeen years of existence."[3]

In their introductory editorial and later statements, Green and Streeten defined "the main objects of promotion of which the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal is established". Summarised, there were two clear main objectives: the advancement of the profession, especially in the provinces and the dissemination of medical knowledge. Green and Streeten also expressed interest in promoting public well-being as well as maintaining 'medical practitioners, as a class in that rank of society which, by their intellectual acquirements, by their general moral character, and by the importance of the duties entrusted to them, they are justly entitled to hold'.[3]

The BMJ published the first centrally randomised controlled trial.[4] The journal also carried the seminal papers on the causal effects of smoking on health[5][6] and lung cancer and other causes of death in relation to smoking.[7]

For a long time, the journal's sole competitor was The Lancet, also based in the UK, but with increasing globalisation, BMJ has faced tough competition from other medical journals, particularly The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.[8]

Journal content

BMJ is an advocate of evidence-based medicine. It publishes research as well as clinical reviews, recent medical advances, editorial perspectives, among others.

The journal releases a number of "theme issues" every year, when it publishes research and review articles pertaining to the theme addressed. Some of the popular theme issues in recent years include "Health in Africa", "Management of Chronic Diseases", and "Global Voices on the AIDS Catastrophe". A special "Christmas Edition" published annually on the Friday before Christmas is known for spoof or humorous articles[9][10] (though mainstream media often fall for the joke).[9][11]


BMJ has four paper editions (which have the same content but different advertising):

  • General Practice edition for general practitioners
  • Clinical Research edition for hospital doctors
  • International edition for overseas subscribers
  • Compact Edition for retired members of the British Medical Association

There is also a monthly Student BMJ with content tailored towards medical students and junior doctors. Some of the international editions are also available in local languages. BMJ's global clinical online community is doc2doc.

Functioning of the journal

BMJ has an open peer review system, wherein authors are told who reviewed their manuscript. About half the original articles are rejected after review in-house.[12] Manuscripts chosen for peer review are first reviewed by external experts, who comment on the importance and suitability for publication, before the final decision on a manuscript is made by the editorial ("hanging") committee. The acceptance rate is less than 7% for original research articles.

Indexing and citations

BMJ is included in the major indexes PubMed, MEDLINE, EBSCO, and the Science Citation Index. The most recent impact factor of the journal was 17.215 in 2012,[13] ranking it fifth in the category "general and internal medical journals". The journal has long criticized the misuse of the impact factor to award grants and recruit researchers by academic institutions.[14]

The five journals that as of 2008 have cited BMJ most often are (in order of descending citation frequency) BMJ, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, The Lancet, BMC Public Health, and BMC Health Services Research.[15]

As of 2008, the five journals that have been cited most frequently by articles published in BMJ are BMJ, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.[15]

Most cited articles

According to the Web of Science,[15] the following articles have been cited the most often:

BMJ website and access policies

BMJ went fully online in 1995 and has archived all its issues on the web. In addition to the print content, supporting material for original research articles, additional news stories, and electronic letters to the editors are its principal attractions. The BMJ website has the policy of publishing most e-letters to the journal, called Rapid Responses,[16] and is shaped like a fully moderated Internet forum. However, concerns remain, even among the web editors of the journal, that this feature may be abused by correspondents who might not want to contribute anything substantial to the topic under discussion.[17]

From 1999, all content of BMJ was freely available online; however, in 2006 this changed to a subscription model. Original research articles continue to be available freely, but from January 2006, all other 'added value' contents, including clinical reviews and editorials, require a subscription. Access restrictions are lifted a year after publication. BMJ allows complete free access for visitors from economically disadvantaged countries as part of the HINARI initiative.

On October 14, 2008, BMJ announced it would become an open access journal. This only refers to their research articles. To view other articles, a subscription is required.[1]

Other services

BMJ has a weekly online newsletter available called "What's New Online" which summarises activity on and is available to anyone who registers on the website

BMJ iPad app

In January 2011, the BMJ launched an iPad app version of the journal. The app combines the weekly BMJ print journal selection of research, comment, and education, along with feeds of news, blogs, podcasts, and videos to appear on


External links

  • Online archive
  • Doc2Doc
  • Alerts
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