British Medical Journal
The British Medical Journal, or BMJ, is one of the most popular and widely-read peer-reviewed general medical journals in the world. It is published by the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd (owned by the British Medical Association), whose other publications include popular sub-speciality journals like The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Heart, Thorax, among others, and Student BMJ for medical students globally. Originally called the British Medical Journal, the title was shortened to BMJ in 1988.
The current editor of BMJ is Fiona Godlee, who replaced the former editor-in-chief, Richard Smith after he resigned in July 2004. She was appointed in February 2005, and Kamran Abbasi served as acting editor in the interim.
BMJ is an emphatic advocate of evidence-based medicine, and publishes original research, clinical reviews, news, editorial perspectives, personal views and career focus articles, to mention a few. Recently its readership has witnessed a surge in the number of articles focusing on medical ethics and health in developing nations.
The journal also 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 Issue' is published annually, on the Friday before Christmas.
BMJ has four paper editions (which have the same content but different advertising):
- General Practice edition for General Practitioners.
- Clinical Research for hospital doctors.
- International edition for overseas subscribers.
- Compact Edition for retired members of the BMA.
Some of the international editions are also available in local languages.
Functioning of the journal
Submission of manuscripts to BMJ is done via an online manuscript processing system called BenchPress (a service of Stanford University's HighWire Press). Several authors have welcomed this all-online system, as it removes several cumbersome procedures employed by several other general medical journals while submitting a manuscript.
BMJ has an open peer review system, wherein the authors are told who reviewed their manuscript. About half the original articles are rejected after review in-house. The acceptance rate is less than 7% for original research articles. Manuscripts chosen for peer review are first 'refereed' 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.
Decisions for those manuscripts sent for external review are usually reached within eight weeks. If not sent for external review, the decisions are usually reached within two weeks.
Impact and readership
The journal began its journey in 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. The BMJ's first editor was Andrew Wynter. For a long time, its 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 JAMA.
BMJ is considered to be one of the 'core' general medical journals; the others being the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and The Lancet. Some authorities also include the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and Annals of Internal Medicine in this category, although both are biweekly publications.
The most recent impact factor of the journal was 9.0 in 2005, ranked #6 among general medicine journals. The journal has long criticized the misuse of impact factor, especially its increasing usage to award grants and recruit researchers by academic institutions.
BMJ website and access policies
BMJ went fully online in 1995, and has archived all its issues dating back to 1994 on the internet. In addition to the print content, supportive material for original research articles, additional news stories, and electronic letters to the editors are its principal attractions. The BMJ website has a remarkable policy of publishing most e-letters to the journal, called 'Rapid Responses', 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 . A Greasemonkey 'killfile' filter  was developed by some British doctors to suppress certain commenters and thus avoid annoyance.
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. All access restrictions are lifted a year after publication.
BMJ, like N Engl J Med, allows complete free access for visitors from economically disadvantaged countries. Of the major general medical journals, only the Canadian Medical Association Journal is available under complete open access (i.e. no registration/login is required). The Journal of Clinical Investigation (J Clin Invest), though not a general medical journal, is a notable biomedical research journal whose entire archive (dating back to 1924) is available freely online.
The BMJ website was judged one of the web's five most useful health sites by the Guardian Online in 2004.
- BMJ Publishing Group Ltd
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- New England Journal of Medicine
- The Lancet
- Annals of Internal Medicine
- The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics
- Canadian Medical Association Journal
- Student BMJ
- List of medical journals
- BMJ Online
- El portal oficial en español de la BMJ
- The British Medical Association
- BMJ publishing group
- Other BMJ Journals