Bulletin of the World Health Organization

How to submit a theme issue proposal to the Bulletin

1. Who can submit?

Anyone can submit a theme issue proposal to the Bulletin, but we recommend that individuals who are not employed by WHO should seek collaboration from the relevant technical department within WHO for joint leadership of the theme issue.

2. What should your proposal contain?

Please explain briefly why the Bulletin should publish a special issue on your theme. What makes it a topic of international public health importance? Has it been covered previously by the Bulletin or other journals? If so, what would this theme issue do differently? How would it add to existing knowledge on the subject? Why is the Bulletin the most appropriate vehicle for this theme? Why now?

Follow this with a list of 5-10 suggestions for commissioned papers and potential authors thereof, representing a broad spectrum of points of view on the topic. As much as feasible, this list should include a mix of original research papers, policy and practice papers, reviews and opinion pieces. Please note that papers prepared as background material for meetings or for advocacy purposes rarely make good articles for theme issues. The topics covered and the provenance of the authors should be geographically broad. When commissioning, we try to achieve a balance of input from developing countries and from authors of both genders, with a mixture of WHO staff and external individuals.

If you have any funding to assist with production costs, please provide details.

Do not forget to include your name, and the names of any other proposed theme leaders, who can be either WHO staff members or external individuals. Theme leaders will collaborate with the Bulletin's editorial team to develop the content of the theme issue. Send your theme issue proposal by email to the Bulletin's Editor: bulletin@who.int.

3. How do we decide which theme issues to publish?

All theme issue proposals are discussed at a meeting of the Bulletin's editorial advisors. Theme leaders will be invited to attend this meeting to present their proposal and answer questions. The meeting continues – with the potential theme leader concerned no longer present – with a discussion of the proposal's novelty, developing-country and public health relevance, interest to the Bulletin's readership, and feasibility. The editorial advisors consider theme issue proposals in light of the overall mix of topics that the Bulletin publishes and select a maximum of 4 per year for consideration. They often request that the theme leaders revise their proposals in light of the issue discussed at this meeting. Revised theme issue proposals are then discussed at a regular editorial committee meetings, and a final decision is sent to the theme leader.

4. What happens next?

Once your theme issue proposal has been accepted, the Bulletin'seditorial team will select a date of publication and appoint a theme editor. Theme issues are usually scheduled for publication approximately 12 months after the approval of the theme proposal. This allows for receipt of initial submissions, peer review and revision within the first 6 months. The process begins with a commissioning meeting, at which you, the Bulletin's theme editor and two or more editorial advisors finalize the commissioning list and decide on the authorship and angle of an introductory editorial. This editorial is written shortly after acceptance of the theme issue proposal and serves to announce the upcoming theme issue and invite spontaneous submissions on the topic. The Bulletin will publish this editorial, send commissioning letters to selected authors and publish additional calls-for-papers on its website and in the print journal.

The Bulletin will manage the screening, peer review, revision, and acceptance or rejection of all submissions (both commissioned and spontaneous), as per its usual procedures. Commissioned papers are treated like non-commissioned papers; their acceptance cannot be guaranteed. Theme leaders will be invited to editorial meetings to discuss the peer reviews when these are received and decide on the outcome of each paper submitted. Once most of the leading papers have been accepted, the Bulletin's news editor will attend one of these meetings in order to gather suggestions for possible news features on the theme.

The print run of the theme issue will be the usual Bulletin distribution, unless the theme leader requests, and pays for, extra copies. Distribution of extra copies is the responsibility of the theme leader. The Bulletin will usually schedule a lunchtime seminar at WHO on the theme issue when it is published. At this seminar a panel of three to four authors and/or theme leaders will present a selection of the contents and answer questions.