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Top 10 Most Read in June: snus and snoring, long-term antibiotic treatment in times of resistance, the success of the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship, and serious video gaming for coping with pain

7 Jul, 17 | by Yaiza del Pozo Martin

Six new articles made their way up to the Top 10 Most Read list of BMJ Open in June. Maintaining the top position for the second consecutive month is the systematic review and meta-analysis by Oliver Kennedy and colleagues establishing an association between coffee consumption and reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer. The study suggests that drinking two cups of caffeinated coffee or more per day can reduce the risk of developing liver cancer. The authors also include for the first time in this type of analysis decaffeinated coffee, finding a similar but weaker positive association.

At number two, making its way to the top, is a new entry associating snus, a moist powder tobacco product shown in the image below, with a higher occurrence of common respiratory conditions such as asthma and snoring. Previous studies examining the health impact of this type of moist oral tobacco were contradictory; therefore Gudnadóttir and colleagues conducted a survey in a large population living in Sweden to shed some light on this issue. The study found that snus use by never-smokers was associated with a higher risk of developing asthma and respiratory conditions. Snoring and difficulty to fall asleep was equally related to both, former and current users of snus.

At number six, a systematic review and meta-analysis by Ahmed and colleagues compiling evidence from three clinical trials shows that long-term antibiotic therapy can prevent recurrent urinary tract infection in old adults. This study is timely given that nowadays, with antibiotic resistance on the rise, antibiotic use must be justified by robust evidence.

Among the other new entries last month is a retrospective analysis assessing the impact of the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) scheme on clinical academic careers in England over the last 10 years. The Integrated Academic Training Programme was launched in October 2005 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to provide predoctoral academic training during the specialty training period for doctors and dentists. The researchers found that trainee doctors undertaking this fellowship were more likely to secure an externally funded doctoral training award and the vast majority of awardees move into academic roles, with many completing PhDs. The study concludes that the NIHR ACF scheme is successful as part of an integrated training pathway in developing careers in academic medicine and dentistry.

Finally, at the bottom of the list, is a protocol describing a mixed-methods study to evaluate whether serious video games, as part of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation intervention, can improve the health outcomes of patients with complex chronic pain and fatigue complaints. ‘Serious games’ are video games developed to promote health benefits. Previous studies have shown that different serious games can improve motivation for physical activity and cognitive stimulation.  In this study protocol, Vugts and colleagues propose a new serious game called LAKA that aims to facilitate patient learning about living with complex chronic pain. The study is still ongoing, but the upcoming results may determine whether improvements in pain intensity, pain coping and fatigue in people with chronic pain can be attributed to serious gaming.


Rank Author(s) Title
1 Kennedy et al. Coffee, including caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis
2 Gudnadóttir et al. An investigation on the use of snus and its association with respiratory and sleep-related symptoms: a cross-sectional population study
3 Ferrando et al. The accuracy of postoperative, non-invasive Air-Test to diagnose atelectasis in healthy patients after surgery: a prospective, diagnostic pilot study
4 Brignardello-Petersen et al. Knee arthroscopy versus conservative management in patients with degenerative knee disease: a systematic review
5 Bjellmo et al. Is vaginal breech delivery associated with higher risk for perinatal death and cerebral palsy compared with vaginal cephalic birth? Registry-based cohort study in Norway
6 Ahmed et al. Long-term antibiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection in older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials
7 Albarqouni et al. The quality of reports of medical and public health research from Palestinian institutions: a systematic review
8 Clough et al.  What impact has the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) scheme had on clinical academic careers in England over the last 10 years? A retrospective study
9 Gartlehner et al. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for major depressive disorder: review of systematic reviews
10 Vugts et al. Serious gaming during multidisciplinary rehabilitation for patients with complex chronic pain or fatigue complaints: study protocol for a controlled trial and process evaluation

*Most read figures are based on pdf downloads and full text views. Abstract views are excluded.

Top 10 Most Read: Negative primary care feedback from minority ethnic patients, higher caesarean sections in for-profit hospitals, adolescents’ sex and drug habits, and biased psychology

13 Mar, 17 | by Yaiza del Pozo Martin



February sees five new entries in the top 10 most read articles. At number one this month is an experimental vignette study investigating why minority ethnic groups report poorer primary care experience in patient surveys. Burt and colleagues designed an experiment in the UK to determine whether South Asian people rate simulated GP consultations the same or differently from White British. The findings suggest that the lower scores reported by Pakistani patients in national surveys represent genuinely worse experiences of communication compared to the White British majority.

Making its way up to the top and catching significant online attention, is a systematic review exploring whether researchers’ conflicts of interest are adequately reported in publications related to psychological therapies. The authors show that non-financial conflicts of interests, especially the inclusion of own primary studies and researcher allegiance, are frequently seen in systematic reviews in the field of psychology.

At number five, another systematic review and meta-analysis exploring the connections between caesarean sections and for-profit status of hospitals. Hoxha and colleagues establish that regardless of women’s risk and contextual factors, private for-profit hospitals are more likely to perform caesarean interventions to women as compared with non for profit hospitals. The authors recommend examining the incentive structures of for-profit hospitals to set strategies that encourage appropriate provision of caesarean sections.

Other new entries on February include two research papers looking at adolescent’s behaviours. The first one is an interesting epidemiological study concluding that brainy adolescents are at a reduced risk of cigarette smoking, but are more likely to drink alcohol regularly and use cannabis. The second on is a qualitative study exploring the views and experiences of young people about their school-based sex and relationship education.

The two most read articles the previous month, systematic reviews by Ravnskov et al. and Fenton et al., stay up in the ranking at the second and third positions respectively. January’s highlight article, a cohort study by Anick Bérard and colleagues indicating that antidepressants increase the risk of a wide range of organ-specific malformations, continues halfway through the ranking. Also, an enlightening survey by Boulton and colleagues reporting the unacceptably high amount of sugars hidden in drinks marketed to children continues to be highly read.

Finally, the cross-sectional study by Murdoch and colleagues investigating the lack of evidence and efficacy, and potential harmful effects, of a clinic website in Canada offering naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture to treat serious conditions such as allergy and asthma, continues to grow in popularity online. In light of the results, the authors call for a policy response to safeguard the public interest. We would like to take this opportunity to direct you to: Should doctors recommend homeopathy?


Rank Author(s) Title
1 Burt et al. Understanding negative feedback from South Asian patients: an experimental vignette study
2 Ravnskov et al. Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review
3  Fenton et al. Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water and cancer
4  Lieb et al. Conflicts of interest and spin in reviews of psychological therapies: a systematic review
5 Hoxha et al. Caesarean sections and for-profit status of hospitals: systematic review and meta-analysis
6 Bérard et al. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and the risk of major congenital malformations in a cohort of depressed pregnant women: an updated analysis of the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort
7 Murdoch et al. Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma
8 Pound et al.  What do young people think about their school-based sex and relationship education? A qualitative synthesis of young people’s views and experiences
9 Boulton et al. How much sugar is hidden in drinks marketed to children? A survey of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies
10 Williams et al. Childhood academic ability in relation to cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use from adolescence into early adulthood: Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE)

*Most read figures are based on pdf downloads and full text views. Abstract views are excluded.

BMJ Open trials Penelope

6 Feb, 17 | by Yaiza del Pozo Martin

We are pleased to announce that, beginning today, BMJ Open will be providing authors with the option to trial Penelope.

Penelope is an automated online tool that checks scientific manuscripts for completeness and gives immediate feedback to authors. It has been customised to BMJ Open guidelines to help authors prepare for submission. Penelope was developed by Penelope Research in collaboration with the EQUATOR Network.

Authors have the ability to access Penelope via a link that we have included on the login page of the BMJ Open submission system. Authors provide the tool with a Word file and within minutes will receive feedback regarding aspects of a manuscript that require improvement, linking to additional resources when necessary. It is our hope that Penelope makes the submission process easier while also improving the reporting quality of submitted manuscripts.

Regarding the collaboration, James Harwood, Founder and CEO of Penelope Research, says, “Our goal at Penelope is to make publishing easier and faster, whilst also improving research integrity. BMJ staff are big contributors to the research integrity community, and I am delighted they have decided to invite their authors to use our tool”.We hope you find Penelope useful and welcome any feedback regarding your experience.

BMJ Open: highlights from 2016 in review

19 Jan, 17 | by Yaiza del Pozo Martin

In 2011 BMJ Open appeared on the medical publishing scene becoming, in only five years, the world’s largest general medical journal (2015 – Five years old and growing). Another year has passed since then, and thanks to defining our distinctive identity, and being rigorous, open and transparent, we have continued to grow consistently and steadily, publishing over 2000 articles last year.

To celebrate this new milestone in our ongoing journey, we are highlighting a selection of articles that gained significant attention in 2016 and exemplify BMJ Open’s unique approach.


Alcohol use: closure of the male-female gap

Systematic review – Addiction

The article that received the highest Altmetric score (1618) last year is a systematic review and meta-regression analysis confirming the closing male-female gap in alcohol use and its related harms. According to the latest Global report on alcohol and health of the WHO, in 2012, about 3.3 million deaths, 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption. As explained in the article by Slade and colleagues from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia, historically, the prevalence of alcohol use and related harms has been between 2 and 12 times higher in men than women. However, the emerging evidence collected in recent decades suggests that alcohol use has changed in younger generations towards closing the male-female gap, and this is indeed what this systematic review of published literature shows.  Beyond confirming the premise, this analysis highlights the importance of working on reducing the harmful use of alcohol in both male and female youngsters as they age to prevent further deleterious effects.

Along the same lines reads this noteworthy article published last week in our Communications section. The authors explored how the UK media and online news represent women’s and men’s drinking habits to identify ways of better aligning news reporting of harmful drinking with the current evidence drawn by studies such as the one above, and the latest UK alcohol guidelines, which are gender-neutral in their recommendations. Patterson and colleagues show that the image the UK media presents of women’s ‘binge’ drinking is at odds with the existing epidemiological evidence, and may reinforce unrealistic gender stereotypes and hinder public compliance of the neutral-gender weekly alcohol consumption limits. The report emphasizes the need to engage with the media to shift its framing of ‘binge’ drinking away from specific groups and contexts, and focus it instead on the health risks of specific drinking behaviours.

Slade et al. updated Altmetrics

Patterson et al. updated Altmetrics



Confident fathers have happier children

Longitudinal observational study – Paediatrics

The third most disseminated article of last year with an Altmetric score of 1076 set out to explore the influence of paternal involvement in early child-rearing and its potential impact on the children’s pre-adolescent behavioural outcomes.

The study included more than 10,000 children that lived with both parents during the first year of age. The researchers evaluated paternal involvement during this year through fathers’ emotional response to the child; the frequency of fathers’ involvement in domestic and childcare activities; and fathers’ feelings of security in their role as parent and partner. The outcome of early paternal involvement was measured assessing the behaviour of the children as they reached 9 and 11 years of age. This long term analysis allowed Opondo and colleagues to establish that rather than the quantity of direct involvement in childcare, it is the psychological and emotional paternal involvement in children’s early upbringing, that associates with positive behavioural outcomes in children. Particularly, how new fathers see themselves as parents and adjust to the role seems to be a key factor for successful parenting.

Opondo et al. updated Altmetrics



Sweet end: ultra-processed foods and drinks

Observational studies – Nutrition and metabolism

Two enlightening observational studies published in BMJ Open last year revealed two of the main dietary sources of added sugar and emphasized the need to reduce their consumption to control weight gain, caries, and the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The first study by Martinez-Steele and colleagues showed that ultra-processed foods, containing five times the content of added sugars than minimally processed foods, make up almost 60% of the calories and 90% of the added sugars consumed in the US. The second study, conducted in the UK, investigated the amount of sugars in fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies marketed to children. The researchers determined that the mean sugars content in drinks marketed to children was 7 g/100 ml, which is ‘unacceptably high’ as expressed by the authors.

Source: Pixabay – Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0.

The new updated WHO guideline on Sugars intake for adults and children calls for a further reduction of free sugars intake to less than 5% of total energy intake, and as demonstrated by these studies, avoiding ultra-processed foods and drinks is crucial to attain this goal.

Martinez-Steele et al. updated Altmetrics

Boulton et al. updated Altmetrics



How many failed attempts it takes to quit smoking?

Longitudinal cohort study – Addiction

Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic conditions, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular disorders, and the number one cause of preventable mortality (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2015). Despite the extensive awareness of the negative effects of tobacco in our health, millions worldwide continue to smoke. This is partly explained by the difficulty it takes to quit this habit, which is clearly illustrated in this quote of Mark Twain, ‘Quitting smoking is easy: I’ve done it thousands of times’.

This popular study published in BMJ Open aimed to provide a realistic approximation of the estimate number of quit attempts prior to quitting successfully, including in the analyses both successful and unsuccessful quitters. Applying different analyses to the data collected by the Ontario Tobacco Survey, the authors concluded that before quitting successfully, 30 attempts are made on average. This study helps assisting the clinical expectations of doctors and smokers alike, and establishes for the first time that for many smokers it may take 30 or more quit attempts before being successful. These striking results suggest that further increasing the frequency of these attempts could be decisive in reducing smoking prevalence.

Chaiton et al. updated Altmetrics



‘You can’t be a person and a doctor’

Qualitative research article – Medical education and training

BMJ Open has carved out a niche in qualitative research, and one of the recent highlights in this type of study design investigated the work-life balance of doctors undertaking postgraduate medical training in the UK. Generally, medical trainees spend long hours at work typically supplemented with revision and completion of other training duties. In this timely qualitative analysis published at the end of the year, researchers conducted focus groups and interviews with medical trainees and trainers exposing a lack of work-life balance that negatively impacts on the learning and well-being of medical students. Particularly, this work-life imbalance affected those with children and especially women who faced a lack of less-than-full-time positions and discriminatory attitudes.

Credit: Dr. Farouk – Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.


The study revealed that to buffer some pressure of the demanding training, the profession should be looking at structural factors, such as developing a strong social support network, both fostering positive relationships at work and those with family and friends outside work, in order to reduce burnout and improve the well-being of medical trainees.

Rich et al. updated Altmetrics


Requesting clinical trial protocols

19 Jan, 16 | by Fay Pearson

We have recently made some changes to our submission system. If we receive a clinical trial, we will now ask that authors include the original trial protocol. Editor-in-chief, Dr Trish Groves, explains why:

Transparent reporting of research has always been at the heart of BMJ Open. From the very start the journal has published all research with open access, open peer review, and sometimes – when authors opt for sharing via the Dryad repository – open data.

Openness is specially important for clinical trials, and that’s why we are now requiring that trialists submit the study protocol to BMJ Open along with their paper:

  • This should be the version of the protocol that gained ethics approval and was used to run the trial
  • If the protocol was amended between getting ethics approval and starting the trial, the authors must say why in their cover letter
  • The submitted protocol should be labelled with a version number and should include a history of substantive amendments, giving the dates when amended
  • If the trial protocol has been published in an open access journal, and if that published version includes all the information and dates as listed above, then authors can simply provide BMJ Open with the reference and link to the published protocol
  • If BMJ Open publishes the submitted trial, the protocol will be posted alongside as part of the pre-publication history

Why is BMJ Open now requiring protocols? For clinical trials (and protocols for clinical trials) BMJ Open has always required prospective registration, and we ask authors to give the trial’s registration ID in the paper’s abstract. This allows editors, peer reviewers, and ultimately readers to see a summary of the planned design of the trial and to compare it with the paper that reports the trial’s results. And dates in the registration record allow us to check that the trial was, indeed, registered prospectively – before any patients were enrolled. Isn’t this enough? Not quite. Trial registration provides a lot of useful information about a planned study, but registries have space only for a minimum of key information.

You can’t interpret the results of a clinical trial without fully understanding how the study was planned, designed, and conducted. Yet it’s all too common for methods to be reported selectively, partly, or not at all. And it has become clear that registration does not always prevent this, particularly when it comes to outcome switching.  Too often, prespecified outcomes are not reported, and others are added and reported in analyses that may not be valid. By making trial protocols available when trial results are reported in BMJ Open, we can all help to optimise the evidence base for treatments and other interventions.

The importance of reviewers – 2015

23 Dec, 15 | by Emma Gray


The peer review process is central to scholarly research, a critical part of the publishing process and a method of quality control for the scientific community. While peer review can seem like a daunting, never-ending task at times, without it journals would not survive and continue to publish the important, accurate findings they do today.

At BMJ Open, we rely on our large bank of reviewers to help us ensure that the papers we publish are useful and of good quality. A good review can often require a great deal of work, and the continued success of the journal in the past year would not have been possible without the help of reviewers who provided us with their time, expertise and detailed comments. Our transparent, open peer review process is part of our aim to provide a home to sound medical research, making as much research available to the scientific community as possible while still upholding the BMJ’s core standards for research conduct.

It is important to recognise the contribution that reviewers make to the journal, and the essential nature of their work. BMJ Open would like to thank all those reviewers who have worked with us this year – we hope that you will continue to work with us in the year ahead! We are pleased to be able to continue with our reviewer discount of 25% for reviewers who submit manuscripts to us within 12 months of completing their review, and we would like to remind you that CME points are available for those who submit detailed comments within the given timeframe. Existing reviewers for the journal are encouraged to update their profiles on our submission system with their areas of expertise, so we can more easily allocate you appropriate papers – and, of course, we always encourage new reviewers to come forward and join our growing bank of referees.

We look forward to seeing what the next 12 months will hold for BMJ Open. With our fifth birthday on 23rd February 2016, we hope that the journal will continue to go from strength to strength, with the help of our reviewers and authors.

Thank you to our reviewers – 2014

18 Feb, 15 | by Fay Pearson

After a very busy year at BMJ Open, in which over 1100 papers were published, we would like to say a big thank you to all of our reviewers who contributed in 2014. All that we achieved last year would not have been possible without the help of the many referees who gave thorough and detailed reviews which are essential to our decision making process. The comments and evaluations provided by our reviewers allow us to maintain the quality and scientific validity necessary to the continued success of BMJ Open.

Since its conception BMJ Open has been tirelessly dedicated to provide a home for all properly conducted medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas. Our rigorous and transparent peer review process has been crucial to achieving this aim, because of this, we are pleased to be able to continue to offer the 25% reviewers discount to those who submit manuscripts within 12 months of completing their review and also give CME accreditation for the submission of timely and thorough comments.
The BMJ Open team is truly thankful for the continued hard work and support of our peer reviewers and we look forward to the year ahead.

2014: A year in review

9 Feb, 15 | by flee

2014 proved to be a successful and fruitful year for BMJ Open. We received over 2500 submissions, compared to just over 2000 in 2013. We published over 1100 papers.

BMJ Open has always welcomed research article and protocol submissions, and in 2014, we expanded our scope to include cohort profiles.

In mid year, Thomson Reuters calculated our second impact factor (IF), ‘2.063,’ which was an increase on our 2013 IF (1.583). BMJ Open was also selected to be indexed in MedLine. We are now included in every major database (which also includes Web of Science, PubMed amongst others.)

Last year, you may remember us mentioning that we introduced our institutional memberships, which aim to ease the administrative burden around organising payment of article publishing charges (APCs) as well as providing authors with discounts. Since 2013, the number of institutions who now hold a membership with us has increased. There are now 25 institutions that are a part of our Open Access Membership scheme.

Despite memberships, we understand that some authors still do not have access to funds. We aim to support where we can, and this year we waived over £100k in charges.

Press coverage of BMJ Open articles was considerable, in particular around the following papers ‘The prescribing of antipsychotics in UK primary care‘ and ‘Habitual alcohol consumption associated with reduced semen quality and changes in reproductive hormones’. We have increased the number of video abstracts to help promote papers that have been press released.

We also published the first trial prompted by the Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials (RIAT) initiative. The initiative was previously announced by editors of The BMJ and PLOS Medicine as a way to complete and correct the scientific record, so that doctors and patients have access to accurate information to make decisions about treatments.

It was a busy year for us, but we would like to take the opportunity to thank our reviewers and authors and we look forward to working with you again.

Open Access Week: the next generation

20 Oct, 14 | by sjohar

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its eighth year and running from the 20th – 26th October, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. BMJ Open takes a closer look at this year’s theme as announced by The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) – “Generation Open”. As explained by SPARC, this theme represents the role of the next generation of Open Access advocates, and also what impact any changes within scholarly publishing have upon the careers of scholars and researchers.

So why do we still need an annual Open Access Week? For a long time, establishing the rules and even the definition of Open Access remained an absolute necessity. The radical departure from traditional publishing models meant that early Open Access advocates had to face legitimate questions over the funding and sustainability of this business model, and address the possibility of its misuse (for example, in so-called ‘vanity publishing’). Such questions do, to a point, remain. Educating the publishing community about Open Access, however, has led to so much support that ideas including Open Access Week (and the Open Access Button) were able to flourish and garner a significant following of their own, enabling future generations to better inform others and build upon these foundations. In fact, the team behind the simple genius of the Open Access Button, where being unable to access a research article because of a paywall can be reported on, are/were largely students – how’s about that for ‘Generation Open’?!

At BMJ Open we welcome submissions from students as well as more established authors. We fully support Open Access Week and as such we’ve created a special landing page with some of our most read Open Access content and are offering a 15% discount on article publishing charges on all our fully open and hybrid titles between the 20th October and the 20th November.

Similarly, the shift by many publishers to Open Access continues unabated with hundreds of Open Access journals launched each year by several global publishers offering gold, green and hybrid Open Access options. Importantly, can and will government and institutional policy reflect this to also benefit future researchers who wish to make their work fully accessible? Well, policies introduced within the last few years are on their side. Relatively recent Open Access mandates from organisations such as Research Councils UK (with grant funding for gold Open Access) and the US government (with mandated deposition in public repositories, i.e. green Open Access) will no doubt be continually revised or perhaps even superseded to accommodate the needs of funders, researchers and publishers.

So, as we enter Open Access Week, what will the future hold for Open Access? Will the benefits still need espousing? Will we even need ‘advocates’ or will the foundations of the movement be so ingrained upon future researchers that the days of defending Open Access be reduced to just memories of a different era? Given initial, and, arguably, continuing scepticism, the fact that we are looking to the next generation of scholars to steer the Open Access movement forward is an achievement in itself. The future milestones they will reach and the innovations they will deliver have not yet been determined. Maybe the foundations will be laid at this year’s Open Access Week, but we wait with anticipation for where the next generation of Open Access leaders will take us.

And we will be ready to support them.

BMJ Open now publishes cohort profiles

22 Aug, 14 | by Richard Sands, Managing Editor


BMJ Open currently publishes articles reporting research results or study protocols. We have now expanded our scope to include cohort profiles, articles that describe major, ongoing research cohorts.

What’s the difference between a protocol, a cohort profile and a research paper?
Detailed information about cohort profiles is in our instructions for authors. In brief, cohort profiles will describe large, collaborative prospective studies that identify a group of participants and follow them for long periods. They will usually be population based, with sufficient funding to ensure their intended lifespan, and the original investigators must welcome wide use of the datasets beyond their own research group.

We will publish cohort profiles to provide information on a cohort’s establishment that goes beyond what can reasonably be described in the methods section of a research paper and to advise other researchers of existing datasets and opportunities for collaboration.

If a study has yet to begin recruiting participants, is still recruiting or is still collecting baseline data, please submit the study protocol. If you have completed baseline recruitment and have at least baseline data to publish, we would consider this a cohort profile as long as the cohort meets our other requirements.

We publish protocols to alert researchers to forthcoming research and to explain how specific research questions will be answered. Research papers are traditional results papers and should address a specific research question. Many cohort studies are conducted at a single institution by a single research group with no plans to answer further questions. Here “cohort study” is a research method. We welcome protocol and results papers for these studies but would not consider cohort profiles.

Why publish cohort profiles?
When presented with cohort studies to review, editors, peer reviewers and readers often think “exactly how were patients recruited? how representative were they of the wider population? were the questionnaires used to gather information on diet reliable?” and so on; things that too often are not well enough reported in research papers.

There is a clear advantage to publishing detailed profiles of ongoing cohort studies in an open access journal like BMJ Open, so anyone interested can easily access them when planning or appraising studies that arise from them. We hope to generate an ongoing database for answering many different research questions.

Will cohort profiles be peer-reviewed?
Cohort profiles will be externally peer-reviewed as normal, regardless of the cohort’s age or funding status and article publishing charges will apply as for research papers.