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Instructions for Authors

For guidelines on policy and submission across our journals, please click on the links below:
Manuscript preparation
Editorial policies
Patient consent forms
Licence forms
Peer review
Submission and production processes

Editorial Policy

Acupuncture in Medicine is a scientific and clinical acupuncture journal aimed at Western-trained doctors and health care professionals. We will only consider for publication articles that adopt a scientific, evidence-based approach to the practice of acupuncture. The journal's policy is to use current knowledge of neurophysiology, anatomy and pathology to interpret the clinical effects of acupuncture, i.e the Western medical approach.

Discussion of traditional acupuncture concepts are acceptable only where they have been used as the rationale for acupuncture point selection (in which case reporting should be objective in line with the STRICTA guidelines) or where the concepts are themselves the subject of the research. It is unacceptable to use traditional ideological explanations that are not evidence-based to interpret the mechanisms of action or clinical effects of acupuncture.

*We ask the corresponding author to grant exclusive licence (or non exclusive for government 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 government employees) on a worldwide basis to BMJ, and its Licensees to permit this article (if accepted) to be published in Acupuncture in Medicine and any other BMJ products and to exploit all subsidiary rights, as set out in our licence."

Ethical requirements

Acupuncture in Medicine applies the highest levels of rigour concerning research ethics, which cover both the prospective independent approval of the research (by local ethics review committee or institutional review boards) and the conduct of the research (evidenced by adherence to appropriate guidelines and local and/or national regulation). For a discussion of the differences between these two aspects of ethical accountability please see the following editorial: Carr D. Raising the bar on the standards of acupuncture research. Acupunct Med 2015; 33(3): 178-179.

Clinical Trial Registration

Please note it is now a mandatory requirement that all clinical trials must have been prospectively registered in an approved online registry prior to recruitment of the first patient in order to be considered for publication. A list of acceptable primary registries is available on the website of the International Council of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Please note that clinical trials are defined for this purpose as studies in which “human participants are prospectively assigned to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes". This registration requirement now forms part of the Declaration of Helsinki (item 35) and is mandatory for ICMJE-listed journals such as Acupuncture in Medicine. Click here for our full written policy on clinical trial registration.

Animal Studies

The editors of Acupuncture in Medicine are willing to accept reports of research involving laboratory animals only if they are fully satisfied that the research has been conducted ethically. Our minimum standard is that currently required of animal research in the UK, which is closely regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, updated 2012 (see https://www.gov.uk/research-and-testing-using-animals) and integrated with the principles of the “the 3Rs”: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (see http://www.nc3rs.org.uk). Evidence of adherence to all three principles must be demonstrated before we will consider a manuscript for publication. In addition, the conduct of the research (including but not limited to husbandry, anaesthesia and euthanasia) must comply with international guidelines for animal welfare such as the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (see http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Guide-Care/12910?bname=ilar), which is endorsed by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research. All animal research should be reported according to the ARRIVE guidelines. Assuming that the minimum standards for consideration have been reached, the subsequent peer review process will involve critical evaluation of the validity, necessity and authors’ justification of the study, and will typically ask these questions:

  1. Are the benefits of the research on human health clear i.e. would it matter if this result was not known?
  2. Could the information provided by the study have been obtained by any other methods?
  3. Was the number of animals used the absolute minimum necessary?
  4. Was pain, suffering and distress (if any) reduced to the minimum possible?

Describing Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture treatment should be described according to the current STRICTA recommendations on our website. Their basic principle is to ensure that the treatment can be replicated exactly by others and to facilitate a more objective assessment of the “dose” of acupuncture treatment (described in White A, Cummings C, Barlas P, et al. Defining an adequate dose of acupuncture using a neurophysiological approach – a narrative review of the literature. Acupunct Med 2008; 26(2): 111-120). The criteria should be referenced as: MacPherson H, Altman DG, Hammerschlag R, et al. Revised STandards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA): extending the CONSORT statement. Acupunct Med 2010; 28: 83-93.

Classical acupuncture points should be detailed according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) convention, which was agreed in 1989 and reported in: Jenkins M. A new standard international acupuncture nomenclature. Acupunct Med 1990; 7(1): 21-3. Each point is identified by two capital letters followed by a number. The following abbreviations should be used: LU, LI, ST, SP, HT, SI, BL, KI, PC, TE, GB, LR, GV, CV. It is acceptable to use the Chinese name once only once (at point of first mention in the text) and thereafter only the short form should be used. The title and abstract should only feature the abbreviated form. The exception to this rule is extra points, which should only be referred to by their Chinese name to avoid confusion. All Chinese words (names of points or the term de qi, which is acceptable as a description of characteristic needling sensation) should be italicised.

Open Access

Authors can choose to have their article published Open Access for a fee of £600 (plus applicable VAT). Published letters are free to online access.

Colour Images and Figures

Please submit all figures in colour unless it is not possible to do so; no payment is required for colour figure production in this journal. For more information on how to submit your figures, please read our Figure Guidance.

Language Polishing Service

If you are not a native English speaker, we recommend that you have your manuscript edited by a native speaker prior to submission. Professional editing will improve the grammar, spelling and punctuation of your manuscript, providing clear language which will mean that reviewers and editors are better able to concentrate on the scientific content of the paper. Click here for more information.

Article Types and Word Counts

The word count refers to the main text, references, acknowledgements and figure legends but excludes the title page, abstract and tables. The following guidelines for maximum word count and numbers of tables and references may be exceeded when necessary in exceptional circumstances. There is no minimum word count and authors are encouraged to be as succinct as possible. For guidance on how to improve your graphs and tables please view these BMJ demonstration videos.

Information on our publication turnaround times and acceptance rates can be found here.

Editorials

These are commissioned only articles. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type.

  1. Word count: up to 1000
  2. Abstract: not required
  3. Tables/illustrations: up to 2
  4. References: up to 15

Original Papers

These articles report original research about acupuncture that is of interest to a predominantly clinical readership. Papers will report either clinical trials, or laboratory studies that are likely to have clinical relevance or make a significant scientific advance. The journal’s emphasis is on acupuncture (penetration of the body’s surface by one or more needles), which encompasses manual acupuncture (MA), electroacupuncture (EA) or a combination of both (MA+EA) – see Langevin HM, Schnyer R, MacPherson H, et al. Manual and electrical needle stimulation in acupuncture research: pitfalls and challenges of heterogeneity. J Altern Complement Med 2015; 21(3): 113-128. Reports of related techniques that are non-penetrating (including, but not limited, to transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation (TEAS), moxibustion, acupressure and laser acupuncture) may be acceptable in selected circumstances if deemed to be of significant clinical or academic interest. Both primary and secondary research (systematic reviews) are welcome. This section may also contain papers reporting uncontrolled studies that address a well-defined research question and meet standards of scientific rigour such as independent ethical review. Reports of qualitative studies of acupuncture are welcome. Illustrative quotes should be presented in the Results section but, as they are equivalent to data in quantitative reports, will be excluded from the word count (3000). They will however be limited to the equivalent of 5 tables/figures, and may be subject to editorial control.

Original papers should use the following headings: INTRODUCTION, METHODS, RESULTS and DISCUSSION, which should be displayed using capital letters in bold font. The use of subheadings is at the author’s discretion. They are allowed in the Methods, Results and Discussion but not the Introduction, which should be kept concise. A maximum of two levels of subheading may be used: non-capital letters in bold font and non-capital letters in non-bold italic font, respectively. Please note that declamatory subheadings (that show the author’s interpretation of a result before the data has been presented to the reader) are not allowed within the Results section, but may be acceptable in the Discussion, provided the interpretation is appropriate. We actively encourage the use of a semi-structured Discussion, which in general should include a statement of the principal findings, identification of the particular strengths and weaknesses of the study (relative to other published literature), reflection on possible explanations and implications of the research for clinical practice and policy-making, recognition of unanswered questions and recommendations for future research. The use of “Conclusions” as a subheading remains optional. Clinical trials, systematic reviews and animal experiments should be reported in accordance with the CONSORT, PRISMA and ARRIVE guidelines, respectively.

  1. Word count: up to 4000 words (includes main text, references, acknowledgements and figure legends)
  2. Abstract (structured): up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: up to 5 tables/figures - NB please refer to the table formatting guide if the main results table exceeds this length you will need to shorten it for inclusion in print
  4. References: 40 maximum (a concise approach to referencing is encouraged as an excessively long bibliography will reduce the word count available for text). In situations where a longer bibliography is required, for example systematic reviews with a large number of included and/or excluded studies, references should be provided as a web-only supplement
  5. Review: papers in this section are double peer-reviewed .

Education and Practice

These articles are concerned with the provision or practice of acupuncture within a medical or allied clinical context. Their aim is to improve the theoretical understanding or practical application of acupuncture. Narrative review articles (as opposed to systematic reviews) will generally fall into this category. This section also includes miscellaneous articles such as those presenting new hypotheses or discussing research methodology. Articles should use a conventional scientific approach, as those that simply describe traditional theory or practice are not acceptable. Authors should make it clear which statements are based on evidence and which constitute opinion. Conventional subheadings (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) are often not relevant, in which case more appropriate subheadings can be used (style as per original papers)

  1. Word count: up to 2500 words
  2. Abstract (structured): up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: 2
  4. References: up to 25
  5. Review: these articles are editorially reviewed and externally reviewed for specialist content where appropriate.

Debate

Differences of opinion can arise in many areas of acupuncture and related techniques, for example in relation to training, aspects of practice, or regulation. Authors are welcome to submit opinion articles for this section, and where appropriate the editors will commission a response.

  1. Word count: up to 2000
  2. Abstract (structured): up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: 2
  4. References: up to 25
  5. Review: debate articles are subject to editorial review.

Clinical Observations

This section contains substantial reports of patients’ responses to acupuncture, usually in the form of a case series or audit. Reports may for example describe the response to acupuncture among patients with one particular condition, or using a particular type of acupuncture. Conclusions, if any, should be cautious because of the lack of controls.

Case series are often descriptions of a group of similar patients identified retrospectively based on clinical observation arising in routine practice, rather than addressing a research question. However, a case series might be considered as an Original paper if it is prospective and addresses a research question, in which case it is likely to have ethics committee approval, to use a standardised intervention and strict methodology, particularly for assessing outcomes, and to use the term 'participants' rather than 'patients'.

Audits are usually retrospective and typically describe the effects of treatment on a series of patients and present the results combined, not individually.

Case Reports

From 1st July 2015 the Journal will no longer be accepting Case Reports for publication, however we are willing to reprint acupuncture-related case reports that have been accepted and published online by our sister journal BMJ Case Reports in the hard copy of Acupuncture in Medicine, thereby increasing visibility to the international acupuncture community. Authors are encouraged to submit their acupuncture case reports to BMJ Case Reports via a dedicated workflow whereby the Acupuncture in Medicine editorial team will manage the (specialist) peer review process. In order to submit to BMJ Case Reports, individuals will need to become fellows at a personal cost of £152 per year (which allows them to submit and access an unlimited number of case reports for the duration of the fellowship).

However, BMAS members may submit free of charge by taking advantage of the BMAS institutional membership with BMJ Case Reports. Please contact bmasgeneralmgr@aol.com or BMASLondon@aol.com to request for the fellowship code to submit to BMJ Case Reports.

  1. Word count: maximum of 2000 words
  2. Abstract (unstructured): up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: 2
  4. References: up to 15
  5. Review: case reports are subject to editorial review.

Travel reports

We welcome reports of journeys or visits that involve acupuncture in some way and are of potential interest to our readers. They can be accompanied by high-resolution photographs, preferably in colour.

  1. Word count: up to 2000
  2. Abstract (structured): up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: up to 3
  4. References: not usually applicable
  5. Review: travel reports are subject to editorial review

Letters

Letters to the editor are welcome and online access to letters is free. These may relate to an article in a previous issue, or may describe a case report, or may report a small study that does not justify a full Original paper.

  1. Word count: up to 700
  2. Tables/illustrations: up to 2
  3. References: up to 10
  4. Review: letters are subject to editorial review

Obituaries

We welcome obituaries of outstanding members of the BMAS who have contributed particularly to the development of Western medical acupuncture, or non-members who are internationally renowned for their work in the field, accompanied by a high resolution colour photograph.

  1. Word count: up to 500 words.

Supplements

BMJ 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 BMJ 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.

When contacting us regarding a potential supplement, please include as much of the information below as possible.

  • Journal in which you would like the supplement published
  • Title of supplement and/or meeting on which it is based
  • Date of meeting on which it is based
  • Proposed table of contents with provisional article titles and proposed authors
  • An indication of whether authors have agreed to participate
  • Sponsor information including any relevant deadlines
  • An indication of the expected length of each paper Guest Editor proposals if appropriate

For further information on criteria that must be fulfilled, download the supplements guidelines (PDF).

Plagiarism detection

BMJ is a member of CrossCheck by CrossRef and iThenticate. iThenticate is a plagiarism screening service that verifies the originality of content submitted before publication. iThenticate checks submissions against millions of published research papers, and billions of web content. Authors, researchers and freelancers can also use iThenticate to screen their work before submission by visiting www.ithenticate.com.

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