Compliance with Funders open access policies
Ethics approval of research
Clinical trial registration
Randomised controlled trials
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs
Further reading and links
The uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to medical journals state that authorship credit should be based only on a substantial contribution to the following:
• Conception and design, acquisition of data or analysis and interpretation of data
• Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
• Final approval of the version published.
All three of these conditions must be met. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.
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 who has not been included as an author.
Alteration to authorship
Any change in authors after initial submission must be approved by all authors. This applies to additions, deletions, change of order to the authors or contributions being attributed differently. 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.
Contributors should be acknowledged
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. Groups of persons who have contributed materially to the paper but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be listed under a heading such as “clinical investigators” or “participating investigators”, and their function of contribution should be described clearly – for example, “served as scientific advisors”, “critically reviewed the study proposal”, “collected data” or “ provided and cared for study patients”.
Because readers may infer their endorsement of the data and conclusions, all persons must give written permission to be acknowledged.
All acknowledgements should be listed in the Acknowledgements field when submitting your manuscript. Acknowledgements must also be included at the end of your manuscript file before uploading.
The BMJ Journals believe that to make the best decision on how to deal with a paper we should know about any such competing interest that authors may have. We are not aiming to eradicate competing interest – they are almost inevitable. We will not reject papers simply because you have a competing interest, but we will make a declaration on whether you have competing interests.
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 rilvalry). It may arise for the authors of an article when they have a financial interest that may influence – probably without them knowing – their interpretation of their results or those of others. There is nothing inherently unethical about a competing interest but it should be acknowledged and openly stated.
We have decided to restrict our request to financial interests. This is largely a tactical move. We hope that it will increase the number of authors who disclose competing interests. Our experience, supported by some research data, was that authors often did not disclose them. We ask that all authors declare all competing interests in their covering letter and at the end of their manuscript. For further information on what should be declared please see the BMJ declaration and corresponding BMJ Editor – Beyond conflict of interest (BMJ 1998;317:291-2).
Your competing interests must be listed in the Competing Interests field on the first page of submission when submitting your manuscript. Any competing interest statement must be included at the end of the manuscript file before uploading on ScholarOne. Failure to do so will result in the manuscript being returned to you.
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 data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication. If the funding source had no such involvement, this should be stated.
Since January 2000 the BMJ Publishing Group Limited (“BMJPGL”) has not asked authors of journal articles to assign us their copyright. Authors (or their employers) retain their copyright in the article; all we require is an exclusive licence (except for UK Crown Employees who cannot grant this, thus non-exclusive) that allows us to publish the article in your chosen journal (including any derivative products) and any other BMJPGL products, and allows us the sub-licence such rights and exploit all subsidiary rights.
We ask the corresponding author to grant this exclusive licence (or non-exclusive for UK Crown Employees) on behalf of all authors by reading our licence and inserting in the manuscript on submission the following statement:
“The Corresponding Author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive licence (or non-exclusive for UK Crown Employees) on a worldwide basis to the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, and its Licensees to permit this article (if accepted) to be published in [INSERT NAME OF JOURNAL] and any other BMJPGL products and to exploit all subsidiary rights, as set out in our licence.”
The licence allows authors to use their own articles for their own “non-commercial” purposes without seeking permission from us. Only if the use is commercial do we need to know about it. In addition, we will pay authors a royalty on certain commercial uses that we negotiate.
Thus authors may use their own articles for the following non-commercial purposes without asking permission (and subject only to acknowledging first publication in a BMJ Journal and giving a full reference or web link, as appropriate):
• Making a reasonable number of copies for personal or non-commercial professional use. This includes the contributor's own teaching purposes.
• Republishing part or all of the article in a book or other publication edited by the author (except for multiple contributions in the same book or publication, for which permission needs to be sought). Please refer to our Copyright and Permissions Guidelines.
• Using individual figures or tables or extracts of text (up to 250 words) in other publications published by a third party.
• Using the article in a course pack or compilation (whether paper or electronic) in the authors’ institution. This dos not apply if a commercial charge is made for the compilation or training programme.
• For non “Author pays” (Open Access articles), the right to post the accepted manuscript (non-final published version) and final published abstract on the contributor’s own and/or his/her institution’s website 6 months after the print publication date or if not published in print, from being published online. Also for defined “Research Funded Articles” (as set out on the manuscript submission website) the accepted manuscript may be put up by the contributing author on PubMed Central and their mirror sites 12 months after publication by the BMJ Group (or earlier if indicated on the manuscript submission website). All must include acknowledgement.
• For Open Access articles, the complete final published version may be posted on the contributor’ own and/or his/her institution’s website immediately on publication, whether online as publish ahead of print (Online first) or in print.
For commercial reprint sales in excess of £2000, BMJ Journals is pleased to offer authors a 10% royalty of net receipts less any sales commission. The corresponding author will be contacted automatically should such a sale be secured to determine how he royalty should be paid. The royalty will be offered for up to 5 years after publication. Authors should note that accepted documents and PDFs are deleted from ScholarOne after 12 months.
The BMJ Group’s previously used term for open access, “Unlocked”, will be dropped from 1st October 2012 to the more straightforward and universal term Open Access.
The Open Access fee is £1950 (plus applicable VAT) for most journals. BMJ Open, JAMIA, Frontline Gastroenterology and Acupuncture in Medicine, have different rates. Our Open Access option is available to any author publishing in a BMJ Journal; authors will be asked whether they wish to take up the option on acceptance of their article.
Open Access articles are covered by the terms and conditions of the BMJ Group's exclusive licence agreement, and may be reused by both authors and third parties, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 Unported licence. Under the CC licence, users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) and adapt (make a translation or derivative work) the contribution under the following conditions (read full legal code):
- Attribution. Users must attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they or their use of the contribution is endorsed by the author or licensor).
- Non-commercial. Users may not use this contribution for commercial purposes.
Authors opting for Open Access are able to place the final published version of their article in the repositories of their choice. BMJ Journals will deposit all Open Access articles in PMC as soon as the article is allocated to an issue. This ensures compliance with the requirements of funding bodies that mandate funded research is made freely available. The article will be flagged as Open Access on the table of contents, the article content box and the PDF.
If authors do not wish to pay the Open Access fee, their article will be published in the usual way, and remain behind access controls, at the publisher's discretion. Use of any article published in the Journal, including deposition in institutional repositories, is covered by the terms and conditions of the exclusive licence agreement.
For more information on Open Access at BMJ, please visit our Author Open Access page.
Authors of publically funded research must comply with the appropriate mandates made by their funders, and in particular, must ensure that the research output is freely available, usually through PMC. In many cases, funders include open access fees or article publishing charges within the grant. Authors may select two options within a BMJ Journal with which to comply.
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 to provide the widest and freest dissemination of the research. BMJ Journals will deposit the article in PMC immediately upon publication on the authors’ behalf and it will be publically accessible to all with no barriers to access. Users of Open Access articles can do so in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence, which allows users to share and adapt the work provided the use is non-commercial and the original work is properly cited, and subject to adhering to the requirements stated within the Open Access section of BMJ Group's exclusive licence agreement.
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. The BMJ Journals 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 or PMC twelve months after publication (unless a shorter embargo period is otherwise stipulated by the funder).
Our policy is based on the UK’s Data Protection Act, the English common law of confidentiality and the traditions of medical ethics.
1. Any article that contains personal medical information about an identifiable living individual requires the patient’s explicit consent before we can publish it.
We will need the patient to sign our consent form, which requires the patient to have read the article. This form is available in multiple languages.
2. 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 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 and photographs of patients. However, the issue may also arise in article describing research if the numbers in some subgroups are very small.
Images in patients
Our policy on obtaining consent for publication of pictures 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 image or from its legend or accompanying text we need the patient’s written consent to publication in the journal.
Images – such as x rays, laparoscopic images, ultrasound images, pathology slides or images of undistinctive parts of the body – 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 from where these photographs have come 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 or description that needs consent to publication. This form is available in multiple languages.
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 then send or fax it to us or scan it and upload it to our online editorial office as a supplemental file to your article.
The BMJ Group aims to ensure that all articles published in its journals report on work that is morally acceptable, and expects authors to follow the World Association’s Declaration of Helsinki. The research protocol must have been approved by the locally appointed ethics committee and informed consent must have been obtained from subjects (or their guardians).
Authors must explicitly state in the covering letter (on the first page of submission) that any necessary ethics committee approval was secured for the study reported. This fact should also be explicitly stated in the manuscript and authors should state the name and location of the approving ethics committee(s). The critical assessment of submitted papers will include ethical considerations.
Where there is doubt about research ethics approval, the Editor may request copies of the correspondence between the authors and the research ethics committee and may contact the Chair directly.
Further information about good research practice can be found by following these links:
• COPE guidelines
• Good Clinical Practice in FDA trials (USA)
• MRC good research practice (PDF)
• National Research Ethics Centre
• Responsible Conduct of Research NIH (USA)
There are differing definitions of scientific misconduct. We deal with these problems at the BMJ Group 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 the BMJ Journals, also include redundant publication and duplicate publication, lack of declaration of competing interests and of funding/sponsorship, and othr failures of transparency to be forms of misconduct.
What we do at the BMJ Group if we suspect such 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, s/he may report the case 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 BMJ editor may contact the journal in which the previous publication appeared to raise concern.
• The BMJ Journals are all members of the COPE. Cases of research publication misconduct may also be referred to COPE in an anonymised format.
BMJ Group 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. Authors, researchers and freelancers can also use iThenticate to screen their work before submission by visiting www.ithenticate.com.
Clinical trial registration
In accordance with the ICMJE uniform requirements, BMJ Journals 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).
Please report randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in accordance with the CONSORT statement checklist and CONSORT statement flowchart (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials.) This ensures that you provide enough information for editors, peer reviewers and readers to see how the trial was performed and to judge whether the findings are likely to be reliable.
Please report these in accordance with the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) statement: the PRISMA statement.
If appropriate, study design should conform to the MOOSE initiative
[PDF] (meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology).
If appropriate, study design should conform to the STARD Initiative
[PDF] -- Towards Complete and Accurate Reporting of Studies on Diagnostic Accuracy.
The United Kingdom has very strict libel laws. You can be sued for libel “if you lower someone’s standing in the eyes of his or her peers”.
To defend itself against an accusation of libel, a publication has to prove that the statement it published was true, that it was published “without malice” and, where possible, was in the public interest.
If an allegation turns out to be false (ie based on incorrect facts), we will find it hard to defend, so fact checking is imperative. But we may have a small chance of defending ourselves, if the allegation has been shared fully with the “accused” and he or she has had a chance to respond, and if that response has been forwarded unedited to us. So here are a few “musts” for authors.
1. Ensure that you check all your facts
2. Ensure that all articles are balanced. If you are publishing an allegation against someone, you must give the accused a chance to reply.
3. When you approach the accused, you must reveal in detail what your allegations are so that he or she can have a chance to answer them in full. If, for example, you are going to claim that a hospital employed a doctor who was not properly qualified and it did not investigate complaints against that doctor, you must put all the allegations in full to the hospital management so that it has a chance to answer each and every one of the allegations.
4. It is no defence to say that an allegation has already been published elsewhere. If an allegation about a doctor or a drug company has appeared in a newspaper in Spain, Italy, or the US, for example, we cannot rely on that fact to defend ourselves. First, that local newspaper might have got the facts wrong; second, the libel laws might be different in that country. So although the doctor/company might not have sued in that location, he or she could come after the BMJ Journals in the UK because our libel laws are so tight.
5. If you are worried about an article, please alert the Editor to any doubts you have so that we can discuss it and, if necessary, can seek advice from the BMJ Group’s libel lawyer.
6. If you think that an issue is complicated and requires more investigation than you originally thought, please ask the Editor for more time (and – if we have commissioned the article from you – possibly for more money).
7. Wherever possible, please obtain documentary evidence for your claim.
It is important to remember that words can be interpreted in different ways. You may think that your article is harmless because you have not laid an allegation clearly at one person’s door (you might have just alleged that something dubious “occurred”), but it is not “you” that matters here, it is how an ordinary disinterested member of the public would interpret it. If an ordinary person would infer from the story that someone in the story was responsible for the dubious occurrence, you can be considered to have libelled them.
If in doubt, please ask the Editor for advice.
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 should be uploaded as a supplementary file.
Reproducing material published by BMJPGL
Material may not be reproduced in full or part in any medium or language without prior permission of BMJPGL (exceptions apply for authors – see below).
Authors may reproduce their own work in other publications and post the accepted manuscript on their own website or that of their institution (non-commercial only) without prior permission; we do ask that all material is clearly acknowledged with the original source and a link to the website included where possible.
See our copyright and permissions guidelines for further details.
BMJPGL journals are willing to consider publishing supplements to regular issues. Supplement proposals may be made at the request of:
1. The journal Editor, an Editorial Board member or a learned society may wish to organise a meeting, sponsorship may be sought and the proceedings published as a supplement.
2. 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.
3. The BMJPG itself may have proposals for supplements where sponsorship may be necessary.
4. A sponsoring organisation, often a pharmaceutical company or a charitable foundation, that wishes to arrange a meeting, the proceedings of which will be published as a supplement.
In all cases, it is vital that the journal’s integrity, independence and academic reputation is not compromised in any way.
For further information on criteria that must be fulfilled, download the supplements guidelines (PDF).
We do not provide authors with free reprints but these are available for purchase. Instead we are able to provide a “toll free link” to the article as soon as it has been published online. You may use this link to access the full text article on the journal website.
For personal reprints, please contact email@example.com
The BMJ Group is delighted to offer authors a 10% royalty fee for any large single order (net revenue more than £2000; received within 5 years of publication). If such an order is received, the corresponding author will be contacted regarding payment details.
Authors may be interested in this free module on How to write a research paper and get it published. It is openly available from the BMJ Learning website after a simple registration process.
- BMJ guidelines on presenting statistics
- Statistical guidance for contributors (PDF)
- Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to medical journals
- Competing interest declaration: BMJ guidelines
- Competing interest editorial. BMJ 1998;317:291-2
- CONSORT statement
- STROBE statement
- Equator Network
- PRISMA statement
- MOOSE initiative (meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology)
- STARD initiative
- BMJ's guidelines for economic evaluation submissions
- BMJ's guidelines for educational interventions
- Ethics approval: Declaration of Helsinki
- MRC good research practice (PDF)
- COPE guidelines: Study design and ethical approval
- National Research Ethics Centre
- Good Clinical Practice in FDA trials (USA)
- Responsible Conduct of Research NIH (USA)
- BMJ Ethics Committee
- Check journal abbreviations using PubMed
- Check your citation information using PubMed
- Check your citation information using MeSH