BMJ Open marks a decade of influential open access research
From a Belgian survey, showing that many patients with locked-in syndrome aren’t necessarily unhappy, to a study showing that solo performers living the rock n roll lifestyle are twice as likely to die young as their band members, and everything in between, BMJ Open is marking a decade of influential open access research.
The first of BMJ’s open access titles, BMJ Open was something of a trailblazer in the publishing industry in 2011. Its research has featured in parliamentary debates and influenced policy in health and social care in England.
In 2015 research on NHS staff treating victims of trafficking prompted the development of NHS England guidance to help clinicians deal more effectively with them.
In the same year, a study on parents’ experience of stillbirths in UK hospitals sparked parliamentary debate on the need for the NHS to provide better care for grieving parents.
And in 2019, the then Brexit Secretary, David Davies, felt compelled to take to social media following the publication of research on the potential impact on the nation’s cardiovascular health of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
Later that year, the then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell referred to research on the impact of poverty on rising death rates among children in the Queen’s Speech debate. The same research was picked up last year by Labour MP Mary Foy in the House of Commons.
In 2020 Labour MP Marie Rimmer referenced research in the journal on organ transplantation in China during a discussion on the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill.
Among the journal’s top 10 most mentioned articles is a study on the impact of health and social care spending cuts on death rates in England, while a study on India’s skilled health workforce headcount falling below WHO’s recommended threshold attracted international attention.
The relevance of the journal’s research to world events is illustrated by two papers that rank among the title’s top 10 most mentioned articles, both of which continue to feature in media coverage: a comparison of cloth and surgical masks in healthcare workers and the significant health harms caused by using rubber bullets for crowd control.
The perils of alcohol from cradle to grave
BMJ Open has always had a strong focus on public health and has published many articles over the decade on alcohol.
These include the state of evidence on light drinking in pregnancy, a recommendation to cut back to half a daily unit to save thousands of lives, and research showing that women are catching up with men in how much they drink and the associated impact on their health.
One of the first studies to reveal that successful agers─sociable, affluent, healthy over 50s are drinking at potentially harmful levels was published in the journal in 2015. Another revealed the emotional impact on drinkers of different types of alcohol.
We are what…and how we eat
The nutritional content of food has also featured heavily over the decade, with research exposing the sugar content of yogurts sold in UK supermarkets and that ultra processed foods making up half of daily calorie intake among US adults.
At the other end of the lifespan, a study on retirees revealed that the effects of community group membership were comparable to those of exercise for a long life. And while air pollution in London is linked to a heightened risk of dementia, a daily dose of aspirin may slow cognitive decline─at least in women.
Sex and drugs…without the rock n roll
In 2012 US researchers concluded that sleeping pills are associated with a significantly increased risk of death even for those taking fewer than 18 tablets a year. In 2017 researchers sounded the alarm on drugs commonly used to treat persistent heartburn and indigestion, suggesting that long term use of PPIs is linked to a heightened risk of death. More recently, researchers concluded that the benefits of multivitamins might all be in the mind.
BMJ Open has not been afraid to publish studies on issues often considered to be taboo. In 2014, researchers tackled the impact of pornography on coercive sex among young people, while the alarm was sounded for misleading online advertising claims for ‘designer vaginas’ in 2012. Researchers quantified the impact of the menstrual cycle on women’s working lives, suggesting that it added up to 9 days of lost productivity every year.
Men’s issues have been covered too. The journal’s 1000th article to be published focused on male pattern baldness and its link to heightened heart disease risk. A receding hairline is nothing to worry about, the researchers concluded, but bald patches on the top of the head are more of a concern, particularly if they are extensive.