Recent front cover of The BMJ.jpg
Edited byKamran Abbasi
Publication details
Former name(s)
Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, British Medical Journal, BMJ
BMA (United Kingdom)
Immediate, research articles only
LicenseCreative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License
96.216 (2021)
Standard abbreviations
ISSN0959-8138 (print)
1756-1833 (web)
OCLC no.32595642

The BMJ is a weekly peer-reviewed medical trade journal, published by the trade union the British Medical Association (BMA). The BMJ has editorial freedom from the BMA.[1] 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.[2] The journal is published by BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, a subsidiary of the British Medical Association (BMA). The editor-in-chief of The BMJ is Kamran Abbasi, who was appointed in January 2022.[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 Provincial Medical and Surgical Association council.[citation needed]

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

At the beginning of February 2021 The BMJ introduced a charge of £299 for publishing obituaries. This was widely criticised on social media, including by the British Medical Association, due to the large number of medical staff being killed by COVID-19.[17] The decision was explained, but reversed, by the end of the month.[18]

Rapid Recommendations

In response to the many problems with traditional medical guidelines, the journal introduced BMJ Rapid Recommendations, a series of trustworthy guidelines focused on the most pressing medical issues.[19]

Rapid Responses

The BMJ publishes most e-letters to the journal on its Web site under the heading Rapid Responses,[20] organised as a fully moderated Internet forum. Comments are screened for unacceptable content such as libel or obscenity, and contributors may not remove or edit contributions once published.[21] As of January 2013, 88,500 rapid responses had been posted on the BMJ website.[21]

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.[22]

The five journals that cited The BMJ most often in 2008 were (in order of descending citation frequency) The BMJ, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, The Lancet, BMC Public Health, and BMC Health Services Research.[23] In the same year the five journals most frequently cited by articles published in The BMJ were The BMJ, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.[23]


In the 2021 Journal Citation Reports, published in 2022, The BMJ's impact factor was 96.216.[24] ranking it fourth among general medical journals.[25] 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."[26]

Cello scrotum hoax article

In 1974, 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',[27] 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[28] and although not widely cited, it was cited on some occasions with those doing so expressing scepticism.[29][30] The truth of the case was reported on back in 1991.[31]

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.[32]

Website and access policies

The BMJ went fully online in 1995 and archived all its issues on the World Wide Web. In addition to the print content, the site contains supporting material for original research articles, additional news stories, and electronic letters to the editors.

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]

In October 2008 The BMJ announced that it would become an open access journal for research articles. A subscription continued to be required for access to other articles.[33]


The BMJ is principally an online journal, and only the website 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.[34] The print editions are:

In addition, The BMJ also publishes a number of overseas/ foreign language editions: Argentine (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:[35]



  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. ^ Kmietowicz, Zosia (15 December 2021). "Kamran Abbasi appointed as editor in chief of The BMJ". BMJ. pp. n3084. doi:10.1136/bmj.n3084.
  4. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b 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. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. 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. ^ Godlee, Fiona (23 February 2021). "Reversing our decision to charge for placing a BMJ obituary". The BMJ.
  19. ^ Siemieniuk RA, Agoritsas T, Macdonald H, Guyatt GH, Brandt L, Vandvik PO (2016). "Introduction to BMJ Rapid Recommendations". BMJ. 354: i5191. doi:10.1136/bmj.i5191. PMID 27680768. S2CID 32498374.
  20. ^ "All Rapid Responses". The BMJ. Constantly updated list.
  21. ^ a b "Sharon Davies: Why we're reluctant to remove rapid responses from". The BMJ. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ a b "Web of Science". Archived from the original on 14 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  24. ^ "About BMJ". Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  25. ^ 2015 Journal Citation Report Science Edition, Thompson Reuters, 2016.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ 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)
  32. ^ Murphy, Elaine; Murphy, John (January 2009). "Murphy's lore". The BMJ. 338: b288. doi:10.1136/bmj.b288. PMID 19174435. S2CID 34252130.
  33. ^ Suber P (20 October 2008). "BMJ converts to OA". Open Access News. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
  34. ^ "The BMJ and Student BMJ ISSNs". The BMJ. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  35. ^ "Receiving email alerts". The BMJ. Retrieved 14 January 2016.