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The BMJ  
Former names
Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, British Medical Journal, BMJ
Abbreviated title (ISO 4)
Discipline Medicine
Language English
Edited by Fiona Godlee
Publication details
BMJ (United Kingdom)
Publication history
Frequency Weekly
Immediate, research articles only
License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License
ISSN 0959-8138 (print)
1756–1833 (web)
LCCN 97640199
OCLC no. 32595642
JSTOR 09598138

The BMJ is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal. It is one of the world's oldest general medical journals. Originally called the British Medical Journal, the title was officially shortened to BMJ in 1988, and then changed to The BMJ in 2014. The journal is published by BMJ Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association. The editor in chief of The BMJ is Fiona Godlee, who was appointed in February 2005.[1]


In the 2015 Journal Citation Reports, The BMJ's impact factor was 17.445 in 2014,[2] ranking it fifth among general medical journals.[3]


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 PMSA council.

Cover of the 1st issue of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal

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."[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]

The BMJ published the first centrally randomised controlled trial.[5] The journal also carried the seminal papers on the causal effects of smoking on health[6][7] and lung cancer and other causes of death in relation to smoking.[8]

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.[9]

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.

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[when?] years include "Health in Africa", "Management of Chronic Diseases", and "Global Voices on the AIDS Catastrophe".[citation needed] A special "Christmas Edition" published annually on the Friday before Christmas is known for spoof or humorous articles[10][11] (though mainstream media often fall for the joke).[10][12]


The 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. The BMJ's global clinical online community is doc2doc.

Functioning of the journal

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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[16]

Most cited articles

According to the Web of Science,[16] the following articles have been cited the most often:

  1. Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH (2000). "Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey". British Medical Journal. 320 (7244): 1240–1243. doi:10.1136/bmj.320.7244.1240. PMC 27365. PMID 10797032.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Baigent C, Sudlow C, Collins R, Peto R (2002). "Collaborative meta-analysis of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy for prevention of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke in high risk patients". British Medical Journal. 324 (7329): 71–86. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7329.71. PMC 64503. PMID 11786451.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stratton IM, Adler AI, Neil HAW, Matthews DR, Manley SE, Cull CA, Hadden D, Turner RC, Holman RR (2000). "Association of glycaemia with macrovascular and microvascular complications of type 2 diabetes (UKPDS 35): prospective observational study". British Medical Journal. 321 (7258): 405–412. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7258.405. PMC 27454. PMID 10938048.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Most viewed articles

As of 2014, the most viewed article[17] on the The BMJ website is:

  1. Willibrord Weijmar Schultz, Pek van Andel, Ida Sabelis, Eduard Mooyaart (18 December 1999). "Magnetic resonance imaging of male and female genitals during coitus and female sexual arousal". BMJ. 319 (7225): 1596–600. doi:10.1136/bmj.319.7225.1596. PMC 28302. PMID 10600954.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

BMJ website and access policies

The 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,[18] 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.[19]

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. Access restrictions are lifted a year after publication. The BMJ allows complete free access for visitors from economically disadvantaged countries as part of the HINARI initiative.

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.[20]

Other services

The BMJ has a weekly online newsletter available called "What's New Online" which summarises activity on the website 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 print journal selection of research, comment, and education, along with feeds of news, blogs, podcasts, and videos to appear on


  1. "Godlee is made BMJ's first woman editor". Press Gazette. 11 February 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "About BMJ". Retrieved 22 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 2014 Journal Citation Report Science Edition, Thompson Reuters, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 P.W.J, Batrip (1990). Mirror of Medicine: A History of the British Medical Journal. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-261844-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Medical Research Council (1948). "Streptomycin treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis". BMJ. 2 (4582): 769–782. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4582.769. PMC 2091872. PMID 18890300.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Doll R, Hill AB (1950). "Smoking and carcinoma of the lung". BMJ. 2 (4682): 739–748. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4682.739. PMC 2038856. PMID 14772469.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Doll R, Hill AB (1954). "The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits". BMJ. 1 (4877): 1451–1455. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4877.1451. PMC 2085438. PMID 13160495.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Doll R, Hill AB (1956). "Lung Cancer and Other Causes of Death in Relation to Smoking". BMJ. 2 (5001): 1071–1081. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5001.1071. PMC 2035864. PMID 13364389.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Mayor, S. (2004). "BMJ and Lancet rank among the most clinically relevant medical journals". BMJ. 329: 592. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7466.592-e.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Liberman, Mark. 'Tis the season, Language Log, 21 December 2007
  11. Delamothe, Tony (December 2007). "Orthopaedic gorillas no more". BMJ. 335 (7633): 0. doi:10.1136/bmj.39430.559375.47. PMC 2151146.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Santa's a Health Menace? Media Everywhere Are Falling for It—But the Study Was Meant as a Joke". Newsweek blog. 15 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "BMJ peer reviewers: resources — BMJ resources". Retrieved 7 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Is The BMJ the right journal for my research article?". BMJ. Retrieved 7 September 2015. Our rejection rate for research is currently around 93%.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Web of Science". Archived from the original on 14 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Three million looks at sex-in-an-MRI video". Improbable Research. 17 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Recent Rapid Responses". Archived from the original on 21 December 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Davies, S.; Delamothe, T. (2005). "Revitalising rapid responses". BMJ. 330 (7503): 1284. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7503.1284. PMC 558191. PMID 15933340.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Peter Suber, "BMJ converts to gratis OA", Open Access News, 20 October 2008.

External links