A study analyses the impact of medical journals in the general press

A study analyses the impact of medical journals in the general press

Published by Gonzalo Casino, professor with the Department of Communication, in the journal BMJ Open, together with researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, it reveals a predominance of English language journalism and a national bias in the British and US press.  


Medicine has become not only an issue of the utmost interest to a society that is concerned with its health but also in the paradigm of science for many citizens. What is published by the most important medical journals is of great interest to citizens, and for this reason the general media are giving it notable attention.

An article published in open access on BMJ Open has studied the media effect of the four major medical journals on the general media, a new way of quantifying and learning of the impact that such academic publications have beyond the specialist journals.

This study shows that the British and US press reports three times more than the European on what is published in the main medical scientific journals, as well as a national bias in the US and British press. Gonzalo Casino, professor with the Department of Communication at Pompeu Fabra University, is the first author of the paper, published along with Roser Rius and Erik Cobo, professors with the Department of Statistics and Operations Research of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC). 

“The biggest impact that medical journals have on the US and British press is consistent with these countries’ leadership in science and journalism”, Casino points out”Not only are the four medical journals analysed US or British, the four with the highest scientific impact, but also many that are among the top 100, as are also most of the authors who publish in them from these two countries”.

The work consisted of analysing the content of 22 daily newspapers from 14 countries, categorized into four regions: USA; UK; a third group of western countries including the rest of Europe, Australia, New Zeeland and Canada and, finally, a fourth group with the media of the rest of the world, for the period 2008-2015. The four medical journals considered for this work are: the American New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, and The British Medical Journal and The Lancet from the UK.

“The most surprising thing about this study is not that the New York Times is the paper that pays the most attention to what is published by medical journals but the nationalist bias seen among the US and British press, especially the latter”, highlights Casino.


“We may think that science is an international issue, but newspapers like The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Telegraph almost exclusively report on British medical publications, ignoring such renowned north American journals as the New England or the JAMA”. And he adds: “This national factor that we have identified deserves studying in greater depth”.

The authors of this paper suggest that the most international scientific journals, that is, the ones that are most likely to publish works by researchers of a different nationality from that of the journal, as is the case in The Lancet, are also those that have the greatest impact on the international press.

One of the most notable aspects of this work is that it enhances the concept of journalistic citation to study the social impact of scientific publications beyond the scientific community. “The analysis of journalistic citations could help us evaluate the journalistic impact and the popularity of scientific publications, and better understand the characteristics of medical journalism”, write the authors in the study published in BMJ Open.

Gonzalo Casino’s Twitter account @gonzalocasino

Reference article:

Gonzalo Casino, Roser Rius, Erik Cobo (2017) "National citation patterns of NEJM, The Lancet, JAMA and The BMJ in the lay press: a quantitative content analysis ", published in open acces at BMJ Open, november 2017.