Last updated


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. [4] 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 Provincial Medical and Surgical Association council.[ citation needed ]

Cover of the 1st issue of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal Bmjfirstcovershop.GIF
Cover of the 1st issue of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal

The first issue of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal (PMSJ) 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." [4]

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'. [4]

In April 1842 the journal was retitled the Provincial Medical Journal and Retrospect of the Medical Sciences, but two years later reverted to the PMSJ under the sole editorship of Dr. Streeten. It was then in 1857 that the BMJ first appeared when the PMSJ was merged with the Associated Medical Journal (Vols. 1 to 4; 1853 to 1856), which had itself evolved from the London Medical Journal (Vols. 1 to 4; 1849 to 1852) under the editorship of John Rose Cormack. [5]

The BMJ published the first centrally randomised controlled trial. [6] The journal also carried the seminal papers on the causal effects of smoking on health [7] [8] and lung cancer and other causes of death in relation to smoking. [9]

For a long time, the journal's sole competitor was The Lancet , also based in the UK, but with increasing globalisation, The BMJ has faced tough competition from other medical journals, particularly The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association . [10]

Journal content

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

A special "Christmas Edition" is published annually on the Friday before Christmas. This edition is known for research articles which apply a serious academic approach to investigating less serious medical questions. [11] [12] [13] The results are often humorous and widely reported by the mainstream media. [12] [14]

The 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. [15] 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. [16]

In 2021 the BMJ announced it would charge £299 to publishing obituaries. This was criticised, including by the British Medical Association due to the large number of medical staff being killed by COVID-19. [17] [18]

Indexing and citations

The BMJ is included in the major indexes PubMed, MEDLINE, EBSCO, and the Science Citation Index. The journal has long criticised the misuse of the impact factor to award grants and recruit researchers by academic institutions. [19]

The five journals that as of 2008 have cited The BMJ most often are (in order of descending citation frequency) The BMJ, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , The Lancet , BMC Public Health , and BMC Health Services Research . [20]

As of 2008, the five journals that have been cited most frequently by articles published in The BMJ are The BMJ, The Lancet , The New England Journal of Medicine , Journal of the American Medical Association and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . [20]


In the 2019 Journal Citation Reports , published in 2020, The BMJ's impact factor was 30.223. [21] ranking it fourth among general medical journals. [22] However, The BMJ in 2013 reported that it had become a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (commonly known as the Dora Agreement), which deprecates the inappropriate use of journal impact factors and urges journal publishers to "greatly reduce the emphasis on the journal impact factor as a promotional tool, ideally by ceasing to promote the impact factor or by presenting it in the context of a variety of journal-based metrics." [23]

Cello scrotum hoax article

In 1974, Dr. Elaine Murphy submitted a brief case report under her husband's name John which suggested a condition known as "cello scrotum," a fictional condition which supposedly affected male cellists. It was originally submitted as a joke in response to 'guitar nipple', [24] a condition similar to jogger's nipple in which some forms of guitar playing causes irritation to the nipple, which Murphy and her husband believed was also a joke. The case report was published in The BMJ [25] and although not widely cited, it was cited on some occasions with those doing so expressing scepticism. [26] [27] The truth of the case was reported on back in 1991. [28]

In 2009, 35 years after the original case report was published, Murphy wrote a letter to The BMJ revealing that the condition was a hoax. [29]

Website and access policies

The BMJ went fully online in 1995 and 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, [30] and is shaped like a fully moderated Internet forum. As of January 2013, there had been 88,500 rapid responses posted on the BMJ website. [31] Comments are screened for libellous and obscene content, however potential contributors are warned that once published they will not have the right to remove or edit their response. [31]

From 1999, all content of The 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. The BMJ allows complete free access for visitors from economically disadvantaged countries as part of the HINARI initiative.[ citation needed ]

On 14 October 2008, The BMJ announced it would become an open access journal. This only refers to their research articles. To view other articles, a subscription is required. [32]


The BMJ is principally an online journal, and it is only the website which carries the full text content of every article. However, a number of print editions are produced targeting different groups of readers with selections of content, some of it abridged, and different advertising. [33] The print editions are:

In addition, The BMJ also publishes a number of overseas/ foreign language editions: Argentinian (in Spanish), Greek, Romanian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern (in English). There is also Student BMJ , an online resource for medical students and junior doctors which publishes an annual print edition each September.

Other services and information

The BMJ offers several alerting services, free on request: [34]


Related Research Articles

Joseph Lister 19th and 20th-century British surgeon and antiseptic pioneer

Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. From a technical viewpoint, Lord Lister was not an exceptional surgeon, but his research into bacteriology and infection in wounds raised his operative technique to a new plane where his observations, deductions and practices revolutionised surgery throughout the world.

<i>The Lancet</i> Peer-reviewed general medical journal

The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is among the world's oldest and best-known general medical journals. It was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, an English surgeon who named it after the surgical instrument called a lancet (scalpel).

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is a weekly medical journal published by the Massachusetts Medical Society. It is among the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals as well as the oldest continuously published one.

Austin Bradford Hill

Sir Austin Bradford Hill was an English epidemiologist and statistician, pioneered the randomised clinical trial and, together with Richard Doll, demonstrated the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Hill is widely known for pioneering the "Bradford Hill" criteria for determining a causal association.

Derek Summerfield is an honorary senior lecturer at London's Institute of Psychiatry and a member of the Executive Committee of Transcultural Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatry. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association. He has published around 150 papers and has made other contributions in medical and social sciences literature.

BMJ is a provider of journals, clinical decision support, events and medical education. The company, legally the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association. Established in 1840 with the publication of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, it is now a fully commercial organisation with about 550 staff and offices in several locations around the world.

In medicine, a case report is a detailed report of the symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient, but usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence. Some case reports also contain a literature review of other reported cases. Case reports are professional narratives that provide feedback on clinical practice guidelines and offer a framework for early signals of effectiveness, adverse events, and cost. They can be shared for medical, scientific, or educational purposes.

The ICMJE recommendations are a set of guidelines produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors for standardising the ethics, preparation and formatting of manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals for publication. Compliance with the ICMJE recommendations is required by most leading biomedical journals. As of 9 January 2020, 5570 journals worldwide claim to follow the ICMJE recommendations.

In epidemiology, reporting bias is defined as "selective revealing or suppression of information" by subjects. In artificial intelligence research, the term reporting bias is used to refer to people's tendency to under-report all the information available.

Doug Altman

Douglas Graham Altman FMedSci was an English statistician best known for his work on improving the reliability and reporting of medical research and for highly cited papers on statistical methodology. He was professor of statistics in medicine at the University of Oxford, founder and Director of Centre for Statistics in Medicine and Cancer Research UK Medical Statistics Group, and co-founder of the international Equator Network for health research reliability.

Claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism have been extensively investigated and found to be false. The link was first suggested in the early 1990s and came to public notice largely as a result of the 1998 Lancet MMR autism fraud, characterised as "perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years". The fraudulent research paper authored by Andrew Wakefield and published in The Lancet claimed to link the vaccine to colitis and autism spectrum disorders. The paper was retracted in 2010 but is still cited by anti-vaccinationists.

Open peer review is the various possible modifications of the traditional scholarly peer review process. The three most common modifications to which the term is applied are:

  1. Open identities: Authors and reviewers are aware of each other's identity.
  2. Open reports: Review reports are published alongside the relevant article.
  3. Open participation: The wider community are able to contribute to the review process.
Fiona Godlee

Fiona Godlee has been editor in chief of The BMJ since 2005; she is the first female editor appointed in the journal's history. She is also editorial director.

<i>Gut</i> (journal) Academic journal

Gut is a monthly peer reviewed medical journal on gastroenterology and hepatology. It is the journal of the British Society of Gastroenterology and is published by BMJ. As of 2010, the editor-in-chief is Emad El-Omar.

Cello scrotum is a hoax medical condition originally published as a brief case report in the British Medical Journal in 1974. As its name suggests, it was purportedly an affliction of the scrotum affecting male players of the cello.

The Bradshaw Lectures are prestigious lectureships given at the invitation of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

The Hunterian Oration is a lecture of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The oration was founded in 1813 by the executors of the will of pioneering surgeon John Hunter, his nephew Dr Matthew Baillie and his brother-in-law Sir Everard Home, who made a gift to the College to provide an annual oration and a dinner for Members of the Court of Assistants and others. In 1853, the oration and dinner became biennial; it is held on alternate years in rotation with the Bradshaw Lecture. It is delivered by a Fellow or Member of the college on 14 Feb, Hunter's birthday, "such oration to be expressive of the merits in comparative anatomy, physiology, and surgery, not only of John Hunter, but also of all persons, as should be from time to time deceased, whose labours have contributed to the improvement or extension of surgical science". The RCS Oration is not to be confused with the Hunterian Society Oration given at the Hunterian Society.

Conflicts of interest in academic publishing Overview of conflicts of interest in academic publishing

Conflicts of interest (COIs) often arise in academic publishing. Such conflicts may cause wrongdoing and make it more likely. Ethical standards in academic publishing exist to avoid and deal with conflicts of interest, and the field continues to develop new standards. Standards vary between journals and are unevenly applied. According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, "[a]uthors have a responsibility to evaluate the integrity, history, practices and reputation of the journals to which they submit manuscripts".

BMJ USA: Primary Care Medicine for the American Physician was a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the BMJ Group as a sister journal to the BMJ. It was intended to publish material specifically relevant to readers in the United States. It was established in 2001 and was discontinued permanently in 2005.

The Lancet MMR autism fraud centred on the publication in February 1998 of a research paper titled "Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children" in The Lancet. The paper, authored by Andrew Wakefield and listing twelve coauthors, claimed to link the MMR vaccine to colitis and autism. The fraud was exposed in a lengthy Sunday Times investigation by reporter Brian Deer, resulting in the paper's retraction in February 2010 and Wakefield being struck off the UK medical register three months later.


  1. "Publishing model". BMJ. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  2. Payne, David; Abbasi, Kamran; Godlee, Fiona; Delamothe, Tony (30 June 2014). "The BMJ, the definite article". BMJ. 348: g4168. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g4168 . ISSN   1756-1833. PMID   24982510.
  3. "Godlee is made BMJ's first woman editor". Press Gazette. 11 February 2005. Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 Batrip P (1990). Mirror of Medicine: A History of the British Medical Journal. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-261844-X.
  5. "Archive of "Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal"". US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  6. Medical Research Council (October 1948). "STREPTOMYCIN treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis". British Medical Journal. 2 (4582): 769–82. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4582.769. PMC   2091872 . PMID   18890300.
  7. Doll R, Hill AB (September 1950). "Smoking and carcinoma of the lung; preliminary report". British Medical Journal. 2 (4682): 739–48. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4682.739. PMC   2038856 . PMID   14772469.
  8. Doll R, Hill AB (June 1954). "The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits; a preliminary report". British Medical Journal. 1 (4877): 1451–5. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4877.1451. PMC   2085438 . PMID   13160495.
  9. Doll R, Hill AB (November 1956). "Lung cancer and other causes of death in relation to smoking; a second report on the mortality of British doctors". British Medical Journal. 2 (5001): 1071–81. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5001.1071. PMC   2035864 . PMID   13364389.
  10. Mayor S (2004). "BMJ and Lancet rank among the most clinically relevant medical journals". BMJ. 329 (7466): 592. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7466.592-e. PMC   516693 .
  11. Eveleth R (23 December 2013). "The Best of the British Medical Journal's Goofy Christmas Papers". The Smithsonian . Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  12. 1 2 Liberman M (21 December 2007). "Language Log: 'Tis the season". Language Log.
  13. Bracco P, Debernardi C, Delmastro PF, Moiraghi A (December 1990). "[AIDS and pedodontics: the real risk and its prevention]". Minerva Stomatologica. 39 (12): 1027–32. doi:10.1136/bmj.39430.559375.47. PMC   2151146 . PMID   2151146.
  14. "Santa's a Health Menace? Media Everywhere Are Falling for It—But the Study Was Meant as a Joke". Newsweek blog. 15 December 2014. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010.
  15. "BMJ peer reviewers: resources — BMJ resources". Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  16. "Is The BMJ the right journal for my research article?". BMJ. Retrieved 7 September 2015. Our rejection rate for research is currently around 93%.
  17. "British Medical Journal slated over 'disgraceful' obituary charge". the Guardian. 22 February 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  18. "British Medical Journal slated over 'disgraceful' obituary charge". Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  19. Seglen PO (February 1997). "Why the impact factor of journals should not be used for evaluating research". BMJ. 314 (7079): 498–502. doi:10.1136/bmj.314.7079.497. PMC   2126010 . PMID   9056804.
  20. 1 2 "Web of Science". Archived from the original on 14 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  21. "About BMJ". Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  22. 2015 Journal Citation Report Science Edition, Thompson Reuters, 2016.
  23. Mayor, Susan (3 July 2013). "BMJ joins campaign to put "science into assessment of research," as its impact factor rises". BMJ. 347: f4327. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f4327 . ISSN   1756-1833. PMID   23824094.
  24. Curtis, P. (27 April 1974). "Letter: Guitar nipple". The BMJ. 2 (5912): 226. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5912.226-a. PMC   1610876 . PMID   4857619.
  25. Murphy, John M. (11 May 1974). "Letter: Cello scrotum". The BMJ. 2 (5914): 335. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5914.335-a. PMC   1610985 . PMID   4827125.
  26. Gambichler, Thilo; Boms, Stefanie; Freitag, Marcus (2004). "Contact dermatitis and other skin conditions in instrumental musicians". BMC Dermatology. 4 (4): 3. doi:10.1186/1471-5945-4-3. PMC   416484 . PMID   15090069.
  27. Rimmer, Steve; Spielvogel, Richard L. (April 1990). "Dermatologic problems of musicians". J. Amer. Acad. Dermatology . 22 (4): 657–663. doi:10.1016/0190-9622(90)70093-W. PMID   2138638.
  28. Shapiro, Philip E. (1991). "'Cello scrotum' questioned". J. Amer. Acad. Dermatology . 24 (4): 665. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(08)80178-8. PMID   1827803. (in reference to Rimmer & Spielvogel 1990)
  29. Murphy, Elaine; Murphy, John (January 2009). "Murphy's lore". The BMJ. 338: b288. doi:10.1136/bmj.b288. PMID   19174435. S2CID   34252130.
  30. "Recent Rapid Responses". The BMJ. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  31. 1 2 "Sharon Davies: Why we're reluctant to remove rapid responses from". The BMJ. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  32. Suber P (20 October 2008). "BMJ converts to OA". Open Access News.
  33. "The BMJ and Student BMJ ISSNs". The BMJ. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  34. "Receiving email alerts". The BMJ. Retrieved 14 January 2016.