Editorial policies

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The ICMJE Recommendations state that authorship credit requires:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data.
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
  • Final approval of the version published.
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

All of these conditions must be met. Each author should be able to identify which co-authors are responsible for specific other parts of the work. In addition, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contributions of their co-authors. Any individuals listed as co-authors on a manuscript will receive email confirmation of the manuscript submission.

Participation solely in the acquisition of funding, the collection of data or general supervision of the research group does not justify authorship. We wish authors to assure us that all authors included on a paper fulfil the criteria of authorship. Conversely we also ask for assurance that there is no one else who fulfils the criteria that has been excluded as an author.

Acknowledging contributors

All contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in an Acknowledgements section. Examples of those who might be acknowledged include a person who provided purely technical help, writing assistance or a department chair who provided only general support. Financial and material support should also be acknowledged. Please ensure that anyone acknowledged has granted permission to be listed. 

Groups of persons who have contributed materially to the paper but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be listed as Collaborators, and their contribution should be described clearly in the contributorship statement – for example, “served as scientific advisors”, “critically reviewed the study proposal”, “collected data” or “ provided and cared for study patients”.

As readers may infer their endorsement of the data and conclusions, all persons must give written permission to be acknowledged in the manuscript.

Group authorship

If there is a very large number of authors we may ask for confirmation that everyone listed met the ICMJE criteria for authorship. If they did, we may then suggest that the authors form a group whose name will appear in the article byline. If the author list includes a group name, MEDLINE will list the names of individual group members who are authors or collaborators (sometimes called non-author contributors) if there is a note associated with the byline clearly stating that the individual names are elsewhere in the paper and whether those names are authors or collaborators.

Contributorship statement

A contributorship statement is required for every manuscript submitted and should outline who has contributed what to the planning, conduct, and reporting of the work described in the article. This should include both authors and contributors.

Joint first authorship

Joint first authors can be indicated by the inclusion of the statement ‘X and X contributed equally to this paper’ in the author details section of the manuscript. Further information can be provided in the contributorship statement if necessary.

Change of affiliation

If an author's affiliation has changed during the course of the work, the author may either list the affiliation at the time that the research (or most significant portion of the research) was conducted, or their current affiliation, or both. For clarity, the change of affiliation can be explained in an acknowledgements section

Alteration to authorship

Any change in authors after initial submission must be approved by all authors. This applies to additions, deletions, a change of order to the authors’ names or a change to the attribution of contributions. Any alterations must be explained to the Editor. The Editor may contact any of the authors and/or contributors to ascertain whether they have agreed to any alteration.

Deceased Authors

Deceased persons deemed appropriate as authors should be included with a death dagger (†) next to the author's name, and a footnote stating that the author is deceased and giving the date of their death e.g. †Deceased 10 October 2014.

Clinical trial registration

In accordance with the ICMJE Recommendations, BMJ will not consider reports of clinical trials unless they were registered prospectively before recruitment of any participants. This applies to trials which commenced after 1 July 2005; for older trials retrospective registration will be acceptable, but only if completed before submission of the manuscript to the journal.

Eligible trials have been defined by ICMJE since 1 July 2008 as “where human participants are prospectively assigned to one or more health-related interventions [including health services and behavioural interventions] to evaluate the effects on health outcomes”, and before that were defined more narrowly as trials “where human participants are prospectively assigned to investigate the cause and effect relationship between a medical intervention and health outcome”.

This means that:

  • Trials randomising human participants to investigate the cause and effect relationship between a medical intervention and a health outcome that commenced before 1 July 2005 can be registered retrospectively, but this must be done before submission.
  • Trials randomising human participants to investigate the cause and effect relationship between a medical intervention and a health outcome that commenced after 1 July 2005 must have been registered prospectively (ie, before enrolment of any participant).
  • Trials randomising human participants or groups of humans to one of more health-related interventions [including health services and behavioural interventions] to evaluate the effects on health outcomes and that commenced after 1 July 2008 must have been registered prospectively (ie, before enrolment of any participants).

Competing interests

BMJ believes that to make the best decision on how to deal with a manuscript the journal editor should know about any competing interests that authors may have. We are not aiming to eradicate competing interests as they are almost inevitable. We will not reject papers simply because authors have a competing interest, but these will be declared on the published paper.

A competing interest exists when professional judgement concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain or personal relationship). There is nothing inherently unethical about a competing interest but it should be acknowledged and openly stated.

Examples of competing interests include the following: board membership, consultancy, employment, expert testimony grants (including pending), contract research, lectures/other education events, speakers’ bureaux, patents (planned, pending or issued), receipt of equipment or supplies, royalties, stock/stock options/other forms of ownership, additional expenses not included in COIs already specified, other personal or professional relationships that may influence or appear to influence. 

It is recommended that all authors download and complete a copy of the ICMJE disclosure form, which is available as a PDF at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf. They should keep a copy of the form and send a copy to their corresponding author. The corresponding author must insert within the submitted manuscript a summart statement headed "Competing Interests" at the end of the manuscript file (before the references) and in the "Competing interests" section on the ScholarOne submission system if required. This will be included in the published article. 

If no competing interests statement is submitted, the default statement on the published article will be 'None declared'.

Complaints procedure

This procedure applies to complaints about the publishing policies, procedures and actions of publishing and editorial staff and editors-in-chief of journals from BMJ.

Complaints that relate to The BMJ should follow the guidelines for that specific publication.


We define a complaint as:

  • anything defined as a complaint by the complainant
  • anything we believe goes beyond an expression of disagreement with a decision and identifies a perceived failure of process or severe misjudgement

The complaint must relate to content or a procedure that was the responsibility of BMJ or our editors.

How to register a complaint

Complaints may be made by phone, email or letter. Informing us in writing by email is advised as it provides the most reliable audit trail. The complaint should be directed initially to the person the complainant is already in contact with over the relevant matter. If that is not appropriate please email the journal manager or managing editor of the journal named on the ‘Contact us’ page of that journal’s website.

Whenever possible complaints will be dealt with by the person to whom they are made. Where that is not possible or appropriate the complaint will be referred to the most appropriate person.

Complaints not under the control of BMJ editorial staff or journal editors will be sent to the relevant head of department.

Complaints sent to the BMJ chairman or chief executive, or BMA or affiliated society officials, will usually be referred to the relevant journal’s publisher or editor-in-chief.

All complaints will be acknowledged immediately if made on the telephone or within three working days of receipt if made by email or post.

If possible a definitive response will be made within two weeks. If this is not possible an interim response will be given within two weeks. Interim responses will be provided until the complaint is resolved.

If the complainant is unhappy with the initial response they can ask for the complaint to be escalated to the relevant manager.

External bodies

If a complainant remains unhappy after a reply considered definitive by the editor-in-chief or publisher, the complainant may complain to an external body, when that body has relevant oversight.

Committee on Publication Ethics

COPE publishes a code of practice for editors of scientific, technical, and medical journals. It will consider complaints against editors but only once a journal's own complaints procedures have been exhausted.

Prescription Medicines Code of Practice

This can be referred to for anything related to a published advertisement for a prescription medicine.

Compliance with funder mandates

Authors should comply with any mandates made by their funders, and in particular, must ensure that the research output is freely available, usually through PubMed Central. In many cases, funders include open access fees or Article Publishing Charges within the grant. Many institutions and organisations also have mandates regarding open access publication for any work produced by their employees.

Authors may publish in one of our dedicated open access journals, or select from one of two options offered by any of our hybrid journals in order to comply with their mandate:

  • Open access: Upon acceptance, authors will be given the option to pay a fee to make their article open access. Selecting the open access option will mean the article will be made perpetually and freely available in its published form. BMJ will deposit the article in PubMed Central on the author’s behalf immediately upon publication in an issue (or after publication online in case of continuously published online only journals) and provide the author with the PMC reference number (PMCID). 
  • Self -archiving: For authors not opting to publish under the open access model, their articles will be published in the usual way and remain behind access controls. BMJ’s standard exclusive licence to publish permits authors to comply with funders’ requirements, by allowing the accepted manuscript (but not the final published version) to be self-archived on their institutional repository immediately or in PubMed Central 12 months after publication in an issue (or after publication online in the case of continuously published online only journals).

BMJ policies on author self-archiving and permissions >>

NIH Employees

Manuscripts authored or co-authored by one or more NIH employees must be submitted with a completed and signed NIH Publishing Agreement and Manuscript Cover Sheet according to NIH’s Employee Procedures.

More information about BMJ’s open access policies >>

Corrections to published work

We expect authors to inform the journal of any errors they have noticed (or have been informed of) in their article once published. Corrections are made at the journal's discretion. The correction procedure depends on the publication stage of the article:

Online First publication

The Online First (or ‘published ahead of print’) version is considered the version of record, and not an opportunity to make changes prior to print publication. BMJ will consider replacing this version with an updated version which corrects the error and notes that the change has been made (in a correction notice at the end of the article). The correction notice will be retained in the print version for record.

Publication in an issue

If the article has already appeared in an issue, a correction notice will be printed in the next available print issue. The online version of the article will link to the correction notice, and vice versa.

Continuous publication journals

For journals without print issues, articles aren’t published Online First but are published online in virtual issues. A correction notice will be published online and linked to the article.

For errors in articles published in issues or continuous publication journals, BMJ may consider correcting the actual article online (XML and PDF), at the editor’s discretion. We will add a correction notice at the end to say what has been changed since it was first published and publish an erratum.

Correction notices are indexed and linked to the original records in Medline and Web of Science.

Data sharing

Authors of original research articles are encouraged to include a data sharing statement when submitting their article. The statement should explain which additional unpublished data from the study—if any—are available, to whom, and how these can be obtained.

At present there is no major repository for clinical data, but Dryad has declared its willingness to accept medical datasets. Authors can start the deposition process while submitting to any BMJ journal. Dryad provides authors with a DOI for the dataset to aid citation and provide a permanent link to the data. Note that Dryad hosts data using a CC0 licence so authors should check that this is suitable for the data that they are depositing.

The DataCite organisation has a growing list of repositories for research data.

More information on data management is available on BMJ Open.

A list of research funders that mandate data archiving is provided by Sherpa Juliet.

Ethical approval of research

Our policy is to ensure that all articles published by BMJ report on work that is morally acceptable, and expects authors to follow the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki. To achieve this, we aim to appraise the ethical aspects of any submitted work that involves human participants, whatever descriptive label is given to that work including research, audit, and sometimes debate.

Our policy on these issues has been developed with the help and advice of the BMJ Ethics Committee and its key elements are explained here.

Statement of Ethics Approval

We require every research article submitted to include a statement that the study obtained ethics approval (or a statement that it was not required and why), including the name of the ethics committee(s) or institutional review board(s), the number/ID of the approval(s), and a statement that participants gave informed consent before taking part.

In addition we welcome detailed explanations of how investigators and authors have considered and justified the ethical and moral basis of their work. If such detail does not easily fit into the manuscript please provide it in the covering letter or upload it as a supplemental file when submitting the article. We will also be pleased to see copies of explanatory information given to participants. Even if we do not include such detailed information in a final published version, we may make it available to peer reviewers and editorial committees. We already ask peer reviewers to consider and comment on the ethics of submitted work.

Appraisal of Ethical Issues

Editorial appraisal of ethical issues goes beyond simply deciding whether participants in a study gave informed consent although this is, of course, one very important issue to consider. Editors should judge whether the overall design and conduct of each piece of work is morally justifiable, as summed up by the following questions:

  • How much does this deviate from current normal (accepted, local) clinical practice?
  • What is the (additional) burden imposed on the patients (or others)?
  • What (additional) risks are posed to the patients (or others)?
  • What benefit might accrue to the patients (or others)?
  • What are the potential benefits to society (future patients)?

Even when a study has been approved by a research ethics committee or institutional review board, editors may be worried about the ethics of the work. Editors may then ask authors for more detailed information such as:

  • how they justified the ethical and moral basis of the work
  • to provide the contact details of the research ethics committee that reviewed the work, so that the journal can request further information and justification from that committee
  • to explain what ethical issues they considered and how they justified their work, for studies that have not been reviewed by research ethics committees or institutional review boards

Editors may ask other editorial colleagues to evaluate the ethical aspects of an article, the authors’ comments, and the response of the relevant research ethics committee to the journal’s queries about ethics approval. This consultation may be informal, between the journal’s editors, or more formal, through seeking the advice of the BMJ Ethics Committee or the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Problems referred to COPE or the BMJ Ethics Committee will be considered as anonymised summaries of the relevant articles, written by the editors concerned.

What happens when the journal considers a study to be unethical?

We believe that editors have a duty to take on issues of unethical audit or research, not to seek punishment for the authors, but to prevent unethical practice and to protect patients.

If the Editor, with or without the advice of its ethics committee and/or COPE, considers the work in a submitted article to be ethically unsound the editor may seek further advice or recommend investigation or action. The fact that the article would have been rejected anyway for other scientific or editorial reasons would not prevent the editor from taking such further action on serious ethics problems.

In the first instance the editor would usually contact the head of the department where the work was done to explain their concerns and recommend a local investigation. Secondly, the editor might write to the professional registration body of the paper’s guarantor or principal investigator. For a doctor in the UK, this body would be the General Medical Council.

Exceptional circumstances

In rare instances the journal might publish an article despite ethics problems in the work it reported. The usual reason would be that work done in one setting might not reach the ethical standard of work done in another setting, because of differing local resources and standards for health care and research. In deciding to publish such an article, we would consider carefully the context of the study and aim to balance the overall benefit to society against the possible harm to the research participants.


All sources of funding should be declared under the heading “Funding” at the end of the manuscript file (before the references). Authors must describe the role of the study sponsor(s), if any, in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication. If the funder(s) had no such involvement, this should be stated.

Our submission system supports FundRef, which allows authors to easily supply details of their funder name(s) and grant number(s).

Online First publication

Most articles accepted for publication in a BMJ journal are published Online First within 2-3 weeks, often months ahead of publication in a printed journal issue. Advanced publication establishes primacy for the work and Online First articles are indexed by PubMed for improved discoverability.

Online First articles are copy edited, typeset and approved by the author before being published as both typeset PDFs and searchable full text. The only difference between Online First and issue publication will be the citation details. Online First articles can be cited using the article’s Digital Object Identifier (DOI). Every article has a unique DOI which is the permanent identifier of all versions of that article. A DOI will always resolve to the latest version.

Open Access

BMJ offers a range of Open Access options to ensure that authors can comply with research funder mandates.

BMJ Open Access options >>
BMJ policies on author self-archiving and permissions >>


ORCID is a system of identification for authors. An ORCID identifier is unique to an individual and acts as a persistent digital identifier to ensure that authors (particularly those with relatively common names) can be distinguished and their work properly attributed.

Our submission system supports ORCID, allowing authors to enter their unique identifier.

Patient consent and confidentiality

BMJ's policy is based on the UK’s Data Protection Act, the English common law of confidentiality, and the traditions of medical ethics.

  • Any article that contains personal medical information about an identifiable living individual requires the patient’s explicit consent before we can publish it. We would like the patient to sign our consent form, which requires the patient to have read the article.
  • If consent cannot be obtained because the patient cannot be traced then publication will be possible only if the information can be sufficiently anonymised. Anonymisation means that neither the patient nor anyone else could identify the patient with certainty. A consequence of any anonymisation is likely to be the loss of information/evidence. If this happens we will include the following note at the end of the paper: “Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.” Such anonymisation might, at an extreme, involve making the authors of the article anonymous.
  • If the patient is dead the Data Protection Act does not apply, but the authors should seek permission from a relative (as a matter of courtesy and medical ethics). If the relatives are not contactable we will balance the worthwhileness of the case, the likelihood of identification, and the likelihood of offence if identified in making a decision on whether we should publish without a relative’s consent.
  • This policy applies to any identifiable medical information. The most obvious places where this occurs is in case reports, anecdotes, photographs, and multimedia files (e.g. video, audio). However, the issue may also arise in articles describing research if the numbers in some subgroups are very small.
  • Our policy on obtaining consent for publication of pictures or videos of patients is a subset of our general policy on patient confidentiality. If there is any chance that a patient may be identified from a photograph or other static or moving image, or from its legend or accompanying text, we need the patient’s written consent to publication by BMJ.
  • Images – such as x rays, laparoscopic images, ultrasound images, pathology slides, or images of undistinctive parts of the body – or multimedia files (e.g. video, audio) may be used without consent so long as they are anonymised by the removal of any identifying marks and are not accompanied by text that could reveal the patient’s identity through clinical or personal detail.
  • An exception to this policy of needing consent for recognisable photographs of individuals is when we use photographs from picture agencies to illustrate news stories and other articles. We state where these photographs have come from and we rely on the fact that the agencies and their photographers have obtained the relevant permissions from the people shown in the photographs. If we doubt that someone photographed could have given consent – owing for example to severe mental illness or learning disability – we will use our discretion and avoid using such images.

Patient consent form

Please use our consent form for any image, multimedia file or description that needs consent to publication.

If the patient is a minor but capable of understanding what is being asked, please obtain a signed form from both the patient and his or her parent or guardian.

Please print out the form, fill in the details about the article, ask the patient or next of kin to sign the form, and submit it with the File Designation “Supplementary file for Editors only”.

Patient consent form (English)
Patient consent form (Arabic)
Patient consent form (Bengali)
Patient consent form (Chinese Simplified)
Patient consent form (Chinese Traditional)
Patient consent form (Dutch)
Patient consent form (French)
Patient consent form (German)
Patient consent form (Hebrew)
Patient consent form (Greek)
Patient consent form (Hindi)
Patient consent form (Italian)
Patient consent form (Japanese)
Patient consent form (Khmer)
Patient consent form (Korean)
Patient consent form (Portuguese)
Patient consent form (Romanian)
Patient consent form (Russian)
Patient consent form (Spanish)
Patient consent form (Thai)

Peer review

Journals from BMJ review all manuscript submissions, internally or externally.

Original research articles authored by a member of a journal’s editorial team are independently peer reviewed; an editor will have no input or influence on the peer review process or publication decision for their own article.

Editorials and obituaries written by the journal’s editor do not undergo external peer review.

Peer review process

A high proportion of submissions are rejected without being sent out for external peer review on the grounds of priority, insufficient originality, scientific flaws or the absence of message that is important to the readers of the journal. A decision on such papers is usually taken very quickly.

The remaining articles are assigned to an editor, who will send it to one or more external reviewers selected from a database of experts. The paper may also be sent to a specialist statistical reviewer. Once the reviews have been received, the editor makes a decision to accept or reject a manuscript, or to request revisions from the author in response to the reviewers’ comments.

Open peer review

BMJ operates an optional system of open peer review. This means that reviewers can sign their reports if they wish. Open peer review does not mean that authors should contact reviewers directly to discuss their reports; all queries should still be directed through the journal’s editorial office.

Some of our journals also publish reviewers’ names and the reviews alongside the article.

Article provenance

BMJ is committed to transparency. Every published article in a BMJ journal includes a statement explaining the article's provenance and the peer review process used. The options are:

  • Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed
  • Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned; externally peer reviewed
  • Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed

"Not externally peer reviewed" refers to articles that have been reviewed internally by the journal’s editorial team.


A journal’s editor can enter into correspondence about papers rejected as being unsuitable for publication. If you believe that your article has been rejected unfairly, perhaps because its scientific content has been misunderstood, please submit an appeal (rebuttal) letter via your Author Center on the journal’s online submission system. Do not try to submit a revised version of your article at this stage.

Appeals must be submitted within 30 days of the rejection decision. Appeals will only be considered if all specific points of the reviewers’ and editors’ comments are addressed in the rebuttal letter, and decisions will only be reversed if the editors are convinced that the decision was a serious mistake, or if the reviewers made error of fact or showed evidence of bias. Appeals against editorial fit or the journal not being the right journal for the article will not be considered. If it is thought that the appeal is warranted, the article, reviewers’ comments, and author’s response will be reviewed internally by the editorial team. The editor will decide whether to invite a resubmission, send it to another external reviewer, or uphold the original decision. In all cases, the editor's decision is final.

COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers >>


It is the author’s responsibility to secure all permissions prior to publication.

Material from other sources

Any written or illustrative material that has been or will be published elsewhere must be duly acknowledged and accompanied by the written consent of the copyright holder (this may be the publisher rather than the author). This includes your own previously published material, if you are not the copyright holder.

Reproducing material published by BMJ

Permissions requests should be made online. Please visit the webpage of the article that you wish to reproduce, click on the ‘Request permissions’ link the right hand menu and complete the online form.

Material may not be reproduced in full or part in any medium or language without prior permission of BMJ. Exceptions are made for authors – see the Copyright and authors’ rights section.

Plagiarism detection

BMJ is a member of CrossCheck by CrossRef and iThenticate. iThenticate is a plagiarism screening service that verifies the originality of content submitted before publication. iThenticate checks submissions against millions of published research papers, and billions of web content.

BMJ runs manuscripts through iThenticate screening prior to publication. Authors, researchers and freelancers can also use iThenticate to screen their work before submission by visiting www.ithenticate.com.

Press releases

Manuscripts accepted for publication in any of BMJ’s journals may be selected for press release by the BMJ Press Office. The corresponding author will be notified by email after acceptance if their manuscript is being considered for press release, and will have the opportunity to decline. The press release will be written by an experienced Press Officer and the author will be asked to approve the text.

Authors should be aware that selection for press release may add around 3 weeks to the standard production process. The press release will be issued under embargo and the article will only publish online once the embargo lifts. The BMJ Press Office is unable to provide a specific date of online publication until just before the press release is sent out. Authors are asked not to discuss their work with the media before the press release is issued.

Authors may wish to notify their co-authors, institutions, employers or funders about the forthcoming press release for their paper. If an author’s institution, organisation or funder wants to issue their own press release, authors should ensure that activities are coordinated with the BMJ Press Office and that the embargo is respected.

Press releases are distributed to over 5000 journalists worldwide. For further information about the process, please visit our Media Resources page.


BMJ uses ScholarOne, the online manuscript processing system provided by Thomson Reuters (Scientific) Inc. Some parts of ScholarOne can be accessed without registration or log in, but to upload or review a manuscript requires registration. When you register on a ScholarOne site, any data will initially be collected by Thompson Reuters in the USA. This information may be transferred between Thomson Reuters and BMJ as necessary to enable your manuscript to be processed.

We use your personal information in line with the Thompson Reuters privacy policy, which explains what information has been collected about you, how personal information is being used, to whom personal information is being disclosed and how this personal information is stored and protected. This privacy policy has been developed in accordance with legal obligations and may be updated from time to time. If you have any queries concerning the use of your personal information, please contact our ScholarOne Administrator at requests.scholarone{at}bmj.com.

Thompson Reuters Privacy Policy

Publication embargo

All material accepted for publication in any BMJ journal is under embargo until it is published online. This means that until then it shouldn't be distributed to third parties or discussed with the media, with the exception of research distributed to journalists as part of an embargoed press release (either issued by BMJ or in consultation with BMJ).

If the material forms part of a submission to a government body or public enquiry before publication, authors should notify the journal at the point of acceptance and ensure that recipients are aware that an embargo is in force.

Authors whose research has been presented at a scientific meeting are of course still able to publish in any of our journals, but we ask that the media is not provided with any additional information prior to publication of the full article in the journal because it is important that journalists and readers have access to the full peer reviewed version of record. Prior presentation of the work at a conference should be acknowledged in the manuscript.

Authors should be aware that most journals will not accept submissions of manuscripts that duplicate material already published, or submitted, elsewhere. This may include manuscripts published as electronic preprints on publicly accessible servers.

Reprints and author copies

BMJ does not provide authors with free reprints, but these are available for purchase. BMJ does provide a "toll-free link" to the corresponding author of the article as soon as the article has been published online. You may use this link to access the full text of the article on the journal’s website. For personal reprints, please contact our authorreprints{at}bmj.com

Research reporting guidelines

Authors are encouraged to use the relevant research reporting guidelines for the study type provided by the EQUATOR Network. This will ensure that you provide enough information for editors, peer reviewers and readers to understand how the research was performed and to judge whether the findings are likely to be reliable.

The key reporting guidelines are:

If you are not sure which guidelines are the most relevant for your type of study, please use the online tool developed by the EQUATOR Network and Penelope Research. 

Responses to published work

Journals from BMJ welcome reader responses to published articles. These should be submitted electronically as eLetters via the journal’s website. Contributors should go to the abstract or full text of the article in question. In the right hand column on the article webpage is a section entitled ‘Responses’. Click on ’Submit a response’ and complete the online form.

Letters relating to or responding to previously published items in the journal will be reviewed by the editor and shown to the authors of the original article, when appropriate.

The publication of eLetters is subject to our response terms and requirements.


Retractions are considered by journal editors in cases of evidence of unreliable data or findings, plagiarism, duplicate publication, and unethical research. We may consider an expression of concern notice if an article is under investigation. The retraction procedure depends on the publication stage of the article:

Online First publication

A new version of the article will be posted containing just the metadata, with a retraction note replacing the original text. A retraction notice will also be published in the next available print issue. The original text will remain accessible.

Publication in an issue or a continuous publication journal

A replacement version of the article will be posted containing just the metadata, with a retraction note replacing the original text. The PDF will be replaced with a version watermarked with “Retracted” but the original text will remain accessible. A retraction notice will also be published in the next available print issue.

In rare cases, we may have to remove the original content for legal reasons. In such cases we will leave the metadata (title and authors) and replace the text with a note saying the article has been removed for legal reasons. A retraction notice will also be published online and/or in print.

Retraction notices are indexed and linked to the original records in Medline and Web of Science.

Scientific misconduct

There are differing definitions of scientific misconduct. We deal with these problems at BMJ on a case by case basis while following guidance produced by bodies that include the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

WAME gives a useful overview of misconduct, using a slightly amended version of the US Office of Research Integrity definition of scientific misconduct and including these behaviours:

  • Falsification of data: ranges from fabrication to deceptive reporting of findings and omission of conflicting data, or wilful suppression and/or distortion of data.
  • Plagiarism: The appropriation of the language, ideas or thoughts of another without crediting their true source and representation of them as one’s own original work.
  • Improprieties of authorship: improper assignment of credit, such as excluding others, misrepresentation of the same material as original in more than one publication, inclusion of individuals as authors who have not made a definite contribution to the work published or submission of multi-authored publications without the concurrence of all authors.
  • Misappropriation of the ideas of others: an important aspect of scholarly activity is the exchange of ideas among colleagues. Scholars can acquire novel ideas from others during the process of reviewing grant applications and manuscripts. However, improper use of such information can constitute fraud. Wholesale appropriation of such material constitutes misconduct.
  • Violation of generally accepted research practices: serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing or carrying out research, improper manipulation of experiments to obtain biased results, deceptive statistical or analytical manipulations, or improper reporting of results.
  • Material failure to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements affecting research: including but not limited to serious or substantial, repeated, wilful violations of applicable local regulations and law involving the use of funds, care of animals, human subjects, investigational drugs, recombinant products, new devices, or radioactive, biological or chemical materials.
  • Inappropriate behaviour in relation to misconduct: this includes unfounded or knowingly false accusations of misconduct, failure to report known or suspected misconduct, withholding of information relevant to a claim or misconduct and retaliation against persons involved in the allegation or investigation.

Many journals, including BMJ’s journals, also include redundant publication and duplicate publication, lack of declaration of competing interests and of funding/sponsorship, and other failures of transparency to be forms of misconduct.

Dealing with allegations of misconduct

We take seriously all possible misconduct. If an editor has concerns that a submitted article describes something that might be considered to constitute misconduct in research, publication or professional behaviour, we may discuss the case in confidence with the BMJ Ethics Committee.

If the case cannot be resolved by discussion with the author(s) and the Editor still has concerns, the case may be reported to the appropriate authorities. If, during the course of reviewing an article, an editor is alerted to possible problems (for example, fraudulent data) in another publication, the editor may contact the journal in which the previous publication appeared to raise concern.

Readers that suspect misconduct in a published article are encouraged to report this to the relevant journal editor and/or the BMJ Publisher for that title.

Journals from BMJ are all members of COPE. Cases of research publication misconduct may also be referred to COPE in an anonymised format.


Journals from BMJ are willing to consider publishing supplements to regular issues. Supplement proposals may be made at the request of:

  • The journal Editor, an Editorial Board member or a learned society may wish to organise a meeting and publish the proceedings as a supplement. Sponsorship may be sought.
  • The journal Editor, Editorial Board member or learned society may wish to commission a supplement on a particular theme or topic. Again, sponsorship may be sought.
  • BMJ itself may have proposals for supplements where sponsorship may be necessary.
  • A sponsoring organisation, often a pharmaceutical company or a charitable foundation, may wish to organise a meeting and publish the proceedings as a supplement.

In all cases, it is vital that the journal’s integrity, independence and academic reputation is not compromised in any way.

Supplement proposals should be submitted to the relevant journal Editor or BMJ Journal Manager.

BMJ supplement guidelines >>

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