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20 of the Best Medical Journals in the World

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, March 10th, 2020

Do you need to write an article for publication in a medical journal? Reading the world’s best medical journals will not only help you produce a high-quality article and get it published, you’ll also be able to reference previous cases or cite authoritative information to substantiate your claims. But first, here’s what you need to know about what makes a good journal and article.

Peer review and ‘Impact Factor’

Generally, medical journals are classified by their peer review process and Impact Factor.

The peer review process acts as a check and balance on the original work. Having a peer critique the article helps to ensure that the information and investigation covered in the work is factually sound and is also relevant to the target audience. The process improves the quality of published papers, and better quality articles get published in better quality journals.

The peer review process involves three stages: 1) Evaluation – the article receives an initial evaluation by the chief editor, 2) Blind review – experts in the same field but who don’t know the author review the article, and 3) Revisions – the article is returned to the author for revision if it’s been accepted. Once this process is complete, publishing editors are offered added assurance that the work meets their standards for publication.

In terms of Impact Factor, the higher the impact, the more reliable the journal. When it comes to scholarly articles, impact is measured by the amount of times the article is cited by other indexed publications. The Impact Factor result is a number – for example 55.9 – that’s calculated by dividing the total number of ‘citable’ items published by a journal in a given year, by the actual number of times that all published items in that journal were cited by other indexed journals.

Medical journals are indexed by the Web of Science. 2019 impact factors will be calculated and published in 2020 when all 2019 publications have been indexed. New journals receive an Impact Factor after three years of indexing/publication. Annual or irregular journals sometimes don’t publish items in a specific year, affecting the count. A journal that published more cited articles over a 2-year period will have the highest Impact Factor.

A list is collated every year of the top medical journals according to Impact Factors, and the top six are described here:

1. New England Journal of Medicine

According to the Journal’s website, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) “is the world’s leading medical journal and website”.

More than 600,000 people around the world read the New England Journal of Medicine each week and it’s the most often cited journal in scientific literature. In 2018, it had the highest Impact Factor ( 70.670) of all general medical journals, ranking first.

The NEJM offers physicians and educators research and key information regarding biomedical science and clinical practice. It provides this information in an understandable way that’s easy to put into practice.

Its editorial team uses strict editorial, peer and statistical review processes to evaluate manuscripts submitted for publication. As well as screening for scientific accuracy, novelty and importance, they make sure that the authors have disclosed all relevant financial associations to ensure the content is free from outside influences.

NEJM receives over 16,000 submissions a year for consideration, with only around 5% actually achieving publication and more than half of those originating from outside the USA. And to ensure that everyone can benefit from their content, NEJM offers free online access to more than 90 low income countries, with articles available six months after they’re originally published.

2. The Lancet

The Lancet is just one of ten journals published by Elsevier. The specialty monthly journal covers topics such as diabetes and endocrinology, global health, haematology, HIV, infectious diseases, neurology, oncology, psychiatry and respiratory medicine.

On its own, The Lancet has an impact rating of 59.102 and is ranked 2nd out of 160 journals in the Medicine, General and Internal category. The journal is available in print, online and on mobile – and it’s interactive!

It has been home to a number of ground-breaking articles that have had a significant impact on the areas of science and human health. The Lancet takes pride in being independent of all societal and political bodies.

Since its first issue in 1823, the Lancet has sought to make science and medicine as widely available as possible in order to transform society and positively impact people’s lives.

The editorial team sets very high standards, choosing only the best research papers based on their quality and their relevance in terms of improving human lives.

A good example is the recent paper they published on the Firehawk Stent System, the first ever Chinese medical instrument recognised by the Lancet, and one which has solved a major problem in the field of cardiovascular studies.

The Lancet aims to increase the social impact of science and does so by setting agendas, creating context, informing leaders, starting debates and advocating for the idea that research can make a real difference in the world.

3. The Journal of the American Medical Association

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is one of ten medical journals published by the JAMA Network.

In 2018, JAMA had an Impact Factor of 51.273, ranking it 3rd out of 160 journals in the category “Medicine, General and Internal”, and according to its website, “is the most widely circulated medical journal in the world, with more than 286,000 recipients of the print journal, more than 1.3 million recipients of electronic tables of contents and alerts, and nearly 27 million annual visits to the journal’s website.”

JAMA publishes peer-reviewed articles on a range of medical topics and helps to keep physicians informed across all aspects of medical care, including developments outside of their own field.

The JAMA network includes journals on a variety of different fields encompassing cardiology, dermatology, facial plastic surgery, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, head & neck surgery, paediatrics and psychiatry.

Its websites include topics as diverse as:

  • The AMA Manual of Style – a style guide for authors and editors.
  • Art and Images in Psychiatry – a collection of essays exploring the role of the visual arts in representing truths about mental illness.
  • Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines – an updated guideline from the American Cancer Society on recommended breast cancer screening for women at average risk.
  • Declaration of Helsinki – ethical principles for medical research.
  • Fishbein Fellowship – a one-year fellowship in medical editing offered by JAMA to introduce physicians to editing and publishing a major medical journal.
  • Genomics and Precision Health – the latest developments on precision medicine; the approach that matches treatments to patients based on individual genetic variability.
  • Opioid Management Guidelines – a collection of articles on opioids.
  • Topics and Collections – collections of content from JAMA and their specialty journals.

4. The British Medical Journal

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has been published since 1840, when it began life as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal. Its stated aim is to lead the debate on health and to engage, inform and stimulate health professionals to improve outcomes for their patients.

The British Medical Journal had an Impact Factor of 27.604 in 2018, ranking it 4th among general medical journals, and is one of 55 medical and science journals published by BMJ the company.

It publishes articles, news, letters, investigative journalism and commentary on the factors that help doctors to make better clinical, research and public health decisions.

The BMJ has reported on some notable developments in the medical field. Some of the outstanding articles they have featured include: the discovery of chloroform, which was used during the birth of Queen Victoria’s eighth child; an expose on baby farming; the first X-ray image made in Britain; and the link between smoking and lung cancer.

5. JAMA Internal Medicine

Formerly known as the Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA Internal Medicine covers general internal medicine and specialty internal medicine areas. Articles published in JAMA Internal Medicine are peer-reviewed and are designed to provide insightful research to educate and inform readers.

With an Impact Factor of 20.768 in 2018, JAMA Internal Medicine ranks 5th out of 160 journals in the Medicine, General and Internal category. The journal receives approximately 7.5 million online visits a year and over 9.3 million article views and downloads.

JAMA Internal Medicine is part of the JAMA Network of journals that includes JAMA, 11 JAMA Network specialty journals, and JAMA Network Open. The journal receives regular attention from major media and articles it has published have led to legislative action by US authorities on matters of patient safety and better public protection measures.

6. Annals of Internal Medicine

Annals of Internal Medicine was established by the American College of Physicians in 1927 and is today one of the most influential journals in the world.

It publishes a wide variety of research, peer reviewed articles, practice guidelines and commentary relevant to clinical practice, healthcare policy and delivery, medical education, ethics and research methodology. It also publishes personal stories of doctors from around the globe to help convey the personal nature of medicine.

Annals of Internal Medicine has over 159,000 readers and its Impact Factor for 2018 was 19.315, ranking it 6th out of 160 journals. It also had 57,057 total cites, making it the most cited general internal medicine journal in the world.

The journal’s mission is to promote excellence in medicine, keep physicians and healthcare professionals well informed, improve standards in the reporting of medical research, and contribute to the improvement of worldwide health.

All material published in Annals of Internal Medicine is subject to peer review with the help of more than 18,000 volunteers worldwide and acceptance rates for submissions are around 6-8%.

In line with its commitment to readers and authors, the journal provides free access to many of its articles and all issues are made freely available to countries with developing economies.

Other widely read journals in medicine

Impact Factor aside, there are many medical journals out there that have a huge influence on medical professionals purely because they are so widely read. Here are some of the most widely read journals in healthcare.

7. American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) is primarily dedicated to publishing articles on the prevention of chronic and acute diseases.

Some common topics covered in the journal include prevention research, scientific teachings and practice and policy in these fields. The journal also looks to the prevention of clinical, behavioural and public health issues. These include, but are not limited to, injury and violence, smoking, nutrition and alcohol and drug use.

In 2018, the AJPM ranked 23 out of 160 journals in the Medicine, General and Internal category and 21 out of 185 journals in the Public Environment and Occupational Health category. Its Impact Factor was 4.435.

8. Drug Safety

Drug Safety is the official journal of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance (ISoP). The journal is peer-reviewed and covers all aspects of drug safety including benefit-risk assessment and risk management. Its impact rating was 3.526 in 2018.

Drug Safety “advances the rational use of pharmacotherapy by publishing reviews and original research articles offering guidance for safe and effective drug utilization and prescribing.”

The ISoP aims to foster science and learning in all countries by providing networking opportunities and an open and impartial forum for sharing knowledge and generating new research and ideas.

9. Medical Care

The official journal of the Medical Care Section, American Public Health Association, Medical Care is considered one of the top ten journals in healthcare administration. Its Impact Factor is 3.795, ranking it 7 out of 81 journals in the Health Policy and Services category.

The journal covers all aspects of the administration and delivery of healthcare and features peer reviewed papers on current developments concerning the planning, organisation, financing and evaluation of health services. There are also supplementary issues published alongside each edition that focus on specific areas.

Committed to improving US health through research, education and policy action, Medical Care is an advocate for the attainment of a medical system that provides high quality care, accessible preventive medicine and cultural sensitivity for everyone.

10. Journal of Adolescent Health

Established in 1980 with the promise of “improving the lives of adolescents and young adults”, the Journal of Adolescent Health publishes research covering basic biological and behavioural sciences related to these ages, as well as public health and policy in this field.

Published by Elsevier on behalf of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, content includes original research articles, review articles, letters to the editor, commentaries, and case reports on everything concerning young adults, from oral health to mental health, social work to youth development.

In 2018, the journal had an impact rating of 4.02 and ranked 5 out of 124 journals in Pediatrics, 26 out of 186 journals in Public, Environmental and Occupational Health, 9 out of 76 journals in Developmental Psychology, and 9 out of 164 journals in Public, Environmental and Occupational Health.

11. Bulletin of the World Health Organisation

One of the most comprehensive and respected healthcare organisations in the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes the Bulletin, which has a special focus on developing countries.

The Bulletin is one of the top public and environmental health journals around the world with an Impact Factor of 6.818 in 2018, ranking it 7 out of 185 journals in the category “Public, Environmental and Occupational Health”. What’s more, it has an open-access policy, meaning the full contents of the journal and its archives are available, for free, online.

According to their website, the Bulletin’s mission statement is to “publish and disseminate scientifically rigorous public health information of international significance that enables policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to be more effective; it aims to improve health, particularly among disadvantaged populations.”

12. Mayo Clinic Proceedings

The Mayo Clinic is known as a leading medical research organisation, and its journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings outlines its work, covering the clinic’s research and findings, as well as manuscripts that focus on clinical and laboratory medicine, medical education and economics.

The journal welcomes submissions from authors worldwide and is issued monthly. You’ll also find articles presenting expert opinion on difficult clinical situations and answers to questions not resolved in other published guidelines. Moreover, the journal provides online-only content, plus supplemental material and videos related to the articles.

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings has a circulation of approximately 127,000 and an Impact Factor of 7.091, ranking it 12 out of 160 journals in the Medicine, General and Internal category. This places it among the best 8%.

13. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Hospice care is a major part of most country’s medical system, although it tends to be a topic people don’t like to discuss. The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AJHPM) is a highly important read for members of hospice care teams, including physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, administrators and anyone else who is closely involved in this area.

With an ageing population and many chronic diseases, AJHPM provides the latest in medical procedures, equipment and research in the field of hospice care and palliative treatment.

A monthly, peer-reviewed journal, it publishes editorials, commentaries, opinions, research articles, topical series and review articles on every aspect of hospice and palliative care.

In 2018, AJHPM had an impact rating of 1.655 and ranked 67 out of 98 journals in the Healthcare Sciences and Services category.

14. The Journal of Clinical Investigation

The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) provides unique articles covering the latest discoveries in basic and clinical biomedical science, in the hopes of advancing the practice of medicine.

As one of the top journals in the Medicine, Research and Experimental category, the JCI reaches a broad and diverse range of readers, including many across a wide range of medical disciplines and sectors. Its Impact Factor was 12.282 in 2018.

The JCI publishes work in all biomedical specialties, including but not limited to, autoimmunity, immunology, neuroscience, oncology and vascular biology.

15. The Medical Journal of Australia

As Australia’s leading peer-reviewed general medical journal, the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has been around since 1914. The MJA covers all issues affecting Australian healthcare and publishes the latest in Australian clinical research, evidence-based reviews, clinical practice updates, medical opinion and debate and developments within the humanities. All research articles are available freely online and MJA ensures all articles relating to Indigenous health are open access.

The journal reached its highest ever Impact Factor of 5.332 in 2018, ranking it 16 out of 160 journals in the General and Internal Medicine category.

The MJA is published by the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, (owned by the AMA) and adheres to the guidelines of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the World Association of Medical Editors with regard to publishing and editorial matters.

16. Health Services Research

Health Services Research (HSR) is rated as one of the top journals in its field and its main aim is to improve the health of individuals and communities. Its main audience is health services researchers, managers, policy makers, providers and students.

According to the website, the HSR mission is to enhance “understanding of the financing, organization, delivery and outcomes of health services”.

HSR is an official journal of AcademyHealth, with an impact rating of 2.706 and is ranked 30 out of 98 journals in Healthcare Sciences and Services and 15 out of 82 journals in Health Policy and Services. It’s published six times a year, plus two special supplements, and it has won five Emerald Golden Page Awards.

17. The Physician and Sportsmedicine

The Physician and Sportsmedicine covers all topics relating to sports science and medicine. The journal analyses the latest drug discoveries regarding treatment and recovery and examines the medical aspects of exercise therapy for any given condition.

The journal is peer-reviewed and features articles that discuss managing chronic disease, surgical techniques in preventing and managing injuries, ways to help patients lose weight and any related exercise and nutrition information that may be relevant to treating a patient during recovery.

Contributions are made by leading primary care physicians and researchers worldwide, so each issue contains original research, reviews, supplements, and articles on health economics. The mission is to “provide relevant, useful, and authoritative medical information to help physicians solve clinical problems and improve patient care”.

The Physician and Sportsmedicine had an impact rating of 1.874 in 2018.

18. BMC Pediatrics

BMC Pediatrics publishes articles on all aspects of healthcare in children, from birth to adolescents. The journal includes papers on molecular genetics, pathophysiology and epidemiology.

BMC Pediatrics is open access to all with maximum visibility for all articles. Articles cover behaviour and development, general paediatric medicine and surgery, genetic and congenital disorders, infection, general healthcare, neonatology and nutrition, diet and physical health.

The journal is published by BioMed Central with 20 volumes and issues and 2,857 articles. Its Impact Factor was 1.983 over the last two years, ranking it 32 out of 276 journals in the Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health category. Its 5-year Impact Factor is 2.765.

19. Journal of Aging and Health

TheJournal of Aging and Health (JAH) investigates the gerontology sector of the medical industry. The journal is peer-reviewed and covers a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines, including psychology, allied health, social policy and work, public health, sociology and nursing.

Although articles that deal with social and behavioural factors related to health and aging and present original research findings are sought and preferred, reviews and methodological pieces will also be considered. Recent topics include: active life expectancy, ethics in healthcare, longevity and mortality, the recovery process and suicide.

In 2018, JAH’s impact rating was 2.007, ranking it 37 out of 82 journals in Health Policy and Services and 15 out of 36 journals in Gerontology. It’s published 10 times yearly, with 525 journal citations in 2018.

20. Epidemiologic Reviews

A leading journal in public health, Epidemiologic Reviews was ranked 6 out of 180 journals in the Public, Environmental and Occupational Health category in 2017. Its 2018 Impact Factor was 6.455, with a 5-year impact rating of 10.383.

The journal is published once a year and covers a range of topics on all subjects relating to public health. Each issue covers a particular subject. Recent issues have examined obesity, health disparities and epidemiologic approaches to global health.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, you can access the journal online for free or with an annual subscription to the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Get reading

With so many journals to choose from containing so many articles to read, you’ll be sure to expand your knowledge to help you produce the level of quality you need in your own writing, or simply just keep up-to-date.