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Making Heart better
  1. R Hall, Editor,
  2. on behalf of the editorial team
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor Roger Hall


Important changes are coming to Heart

  • Heart
  • impact factor

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Like all editorial teams, our primary aim is to produce a high quality journal. This is followed closely by a desire to review and publish papers quickly. Getting quick but good quality reviews is every editor’s nightmare; we all seem to be getting busier and our reviewers are no exception.


We are introducing several measures to reduce the review time. First we are overhauling and cleaning up our reviewer database. Second we are casting our net wider: our editorial board members have recommended young active reviewers who are being added to the database. In addition every paper will be reviewed by an editorial board member—this opinion will be very helpful but will also be a backup should the other reviewers fail to deliver the goods on time, sadly a not uncommon occurrence. Finally we intend to pursue even more diligently a course we are already taking of rejecting papers without review within three weeks if the editorial team believes a particular paper has no hope of publication in Heart.


Our other big problem is the delay between acceptance and publication, which currently stands at about eight months. We have been the victims of our own success: since the present editorial team took over Heart in mid 1999 we have experienced an ever rising submission rate (fig 1) but have a relatively fixed amount of space in the journal. This rise in submissions has necessitated an increase in the rejection rate; last year alone the rejection rate for full papers rose from 70% to 83%. Fortunately, the rise in submissions has brought us higher quality material and there has been a steady rise in the impact factor, which now stands at 3.2 (fig 2). It is not financially possible simply to add more pages to each issue to clear the backlog, nor is web only publication a viable option as this reduces costs over print publication by just 20%. We have therefore taken a series of measures in an attempt to deal with the backlog or to lessen its impact.

Figure 1

 Number of manuscripts submitted to Heart 1999 to 2004 (electronic submission system introduced in 2002); 20% of submissions come from the UK.

Figure 2

 Growing impact factor for Heart 1999 to 2003.

Publish ahead of print

An accepted paper (full original articles) will be published on the web within two weeks of acceptance in the form it is submitted as part of the BMJ Publishing Group’s Online First programme. This version is immediately citable and can be found on PubMed. Once the fully typeset version appears in the print journal it “replaces” the initial version (but previous versions are still available).

Shorter full papers

We are introducing and intend to enforce a word limit of 3000 words for original articles with four figures and/or tables. Additional material can be submitted as “data supplements” which will be published on the web only. Papers that are over the word limit will be sent back to the authors without consideration by the editorial team. Scientific letters will remain in their present format.

Case reports—the end

Case reports currently appear only on the web as what are known as ePages and cost 80% of a full print page. We are stopping publishing case reports and will use the liberated resources to publish more of our original research material. Much of the material that is sent in as case reports could be included in a carefully crafted image and we will now allow two references per image.


This format is very popular and we are going to continue to publish images in the paper journal to fill in the space between articles, what is known by publishers as “white space”. We receive far more high quality images than we can include in the print journal; we are now going to offer web only publication to outstanding additional images. These images will be organised on the Heart website into a searchable and downloadable library of images. We hope this will have considerable educational value.


Editorials, reviews, mini-symposia and JournalScan will remain important parts of the journal, as will Education in Heart, including interactive web based case reports; we hope to build on the success of these valuable sections.

These changes will be introduced from the date of publication of this editorial and the changes will be reflected in the newly designed instructions to authors ( We hope that these modifications will help remedy what we see as the biggest problems facing Heart, and improve the quality of the journal both for our authors and readers. As ever, we remain open to suggestions from our readership and these can be emailed to me on