Guidelines for contributors
Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2011;89:79-80. doi: 10.2471/BLT.11.000011
1. Scope and editorial policy
The mission of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 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”.
The Bulletin welcomes unsolicited manuscripts, which are initially screened in-house for originality, relevance to an international public health audience and scientific rigour. Manuscripts passing the initial screening are sent to peer reviewers. After the reviews have been received, the editorial advisers decide on the manuscript’s acceptability for publication in the Bulletin. Accepted papers are subject to editorial revision that may include a shortening of the text and the deletion of superfluous tables and figures. The word limits below do not include the abstract (where applicable), tables, boxes, figures and references or any appendices. The principal types of manuscripts are outlined below.
1.1.1. Unsolicited manuscripts
Research, Policy & practice, Systematic reviews and Lessons from the field manuscripts must be accompanied by two paragraphs indicating what they add to the literature:
– a brief explanation of what was already known about the topic concerned;
– a brief outline of what we know as a result of the manuscript.
Methodologically sound primary research of relevance to international public health. Formal scientific presentations of not more than 3000 words, with a structured abstract (see below, 2.7) and not more than 50 references; peer reviewed. Reporting of results of studies should follow best practices as prescribed in standard reporting guidelines for various types of experimental and observational studies. A full list of such guidelines is available at: http://www.equator-network.org/resource-centre/library-of-health-research-reporting. Intervention trials as defined by WHO (i.e. “any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes”) require registration in an ICMJE-approved registry before submission and the registration number must be provided with the paper.
Exhaustive, critical assessments of published and unpublished studies (grey literature) on research questions concerning public health policy and practice. Not more than 3000 words and 50 references, plus a structured abstract (see below, 2.7). All studies included and excluded in the review should be shown in a flow diagram (not counted towards the word limit if published as an appendix only in the electronic version of the journal or on the authors’ URL). Peer reviewed. Authors should strictly follow reporting guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, available at: http://www.equator-network.org/resource-centre/library-of-health-research-reporting.
Policy & practice
Analytical assessments, debates or hypothesis-generating papers; not more than 3000 words, plus a non-structured abstract (see below, 2.7) and not more than 50 references; peer reviewed.
Lessons from the field
Papers that capture experiences and practice gained in solving specific public health problems in developing countries, with a structured abstract (see below, 2.7); not more than 1500 words and 15 references, not more than one table and one figure; peer reviewed (see: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/84/1/3.pdf).
Views, hypotheses or discussions (with a clear message) of an issue of public health interest; up to 1500 words, no more than six references; peer reviewed.
Useful reader responses to something published recently in the Bulletin; 400–850 words, maximum six references. Letters are also edited and may be shortened; sometimes peer reviewed.
1.1.2. Commissioned manuscripts
The categories of articles shown below are normally commissioned by the editors. Authors wishing to submit an unsolicited manuscript to be considered for one of these categories should first contact the editorial office (see below, 2.1).
Authoritative reviews, analyses or views of an important topic related to the month’s theme or a topical subject; not more than 800 words, maximum 12 references.
Explanatory or critical analyses of individual articles; not more than 800 words and 12 references.
Consist of a base paper on a controversial current topic in public health (not more than 2000 words and an abstract) and a debate on it by several discussants invited to contribute not more than 500 words each.
Public health classics
A landmark public health paper or publication is reproduced, accompanied by a commentary of up to 1500 words.
Reviews of books & electronic media
Reviews of a book, web site, film, play, CD-ROM, etc., of public health interest; 400–800 words, no references.
1.2 Ethical issues
The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes the results of research involving human subjects only if it has fully complied with ethical principles, including the provisions of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki (as amended by the 59th General Assembly, Seoul, the Republic of Korea, October 2008; available at: http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm) and the additional requirements, if any, of the country in which the research was carried out. Any manuscript describing the results of such research must contain a clear statement to this effect and should specify that the free and informed consent of the subjects or their legal guardians was obtained and that the relevant institutional or national ethics review board approved the investigation. The Bulletin is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE; see: http://www.publicationethics.org.uk). Issues involving publication ethics may be referred to this committee by the editors. WHO Ethical Committee clearance is required for papers that are authored by WHO staff members or that report research supported by WHO.
1.3 Competing interests
A competing interest arises when a 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 rivalry). We ask all authors to disclose at the time of submission any competing interests that they may have. Examples of competing interests may be found at: http://www.icmje.org. Further information on competing interests is available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/83/9/645.pdf.
Authors should identify the sources that funded the work undertaken, affirm not having entered into an agreement with the funding organization that may have limited their ability to complete the research as planned, and indicate that they have had full control of all primary data.
1.5 Appeals process
Authors of rejected papers who wish to appeal against the decision should follow the procedures outlined in an editorial published in the Bulletin (see: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/83/9/645.pdf).
2. Preparation and submission of manuscripts
Manuscripts should be submitted to the Bulletin via our submissions web site (http://submit.bwho.org), where full instructions are given. Queries about online submissions should be sent to: email@example.com Authors requiring assistance with online submission can contact the editorial office.
2.2 Uniform requirements
Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals issued by the Vancouver Group (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, ICMJE). The complete document, updated April 2010, is available at: http://www.icmje.org/urm_main.html.
Manuscripts should be submitted in English and will be published in that language in the Bulletin; the abstracts are translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. Authors who have difficulty in preparing their manuscripts in English should contact the editorial office for advice.
Authors should give their full names and the name and mailing address of their institutions and, if they have several affiliations, they should provide only the most important one. The criteria for authorship described in the Uniform requirements (see above, 2.2) must be rigorously observed. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work being reported to take public responsibility for the content and should describe in detail on the online submission system (not within the manuscript itself) his or her particular contribution. The full postal and e-mail address of the corresponding author will be published unless otherwise requested. The Bulletin encourages submissions from authors in developing countries, and in line with this policy at least one author should be a national of the country where the study was carried out and have an affiliation there.
2.5 Licence for publication
If a manuscript is accepted for publication, the author(s) will be asked to sign a statement granting exclusive licence for publication (not copyright) to the WHO. A copy of the statement is available at: http://submit.bwho.org/journals/bullwho/forms/licence.pdf. Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reproduce in their articles any material enjoying copyright protection. They should send the letter granting such permission to the editorial office.
2.6 Figures, tables and boxes
These should be used only to enhance the understanding of the text. All tables, figures and boxes should be numbered consecutively (e.g. Fig. 1, Table 1 and Box 1).
Abstracts, which should be clearly written to highlight the text’s most significant points, should be provided for the following types of papers: Research, Systematic reviews, Policy & practice, base papers for Round tables and Lessons from the field. The abstract, which should not exceed 250 words, appears in English at the beginning of the paper and is translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. For Research papers and Systematic reviews the abstract should be structured: Objective, Methods, Findings, Conclusion. For Lessons from the field papers the abstract should be structured: Problem, Approach, Local setting, Relevant changes, Lessons learnt.
2.8 Bibliographic references
The accuracy of all references is the authors’ responsibility and should be verified at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. References should be numbered consecutively as they occur in the text.
The use of maps should be limited to cases in which they are needed to illustrate the findings or make an essential point. Maps that show international borders, partially or in full, must be created from one of the following sources: http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/english/htmain.htm, http://www.unsalb.org or http://apps.who.int/tools/geoserver and the vectorial EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file must be submitted.