The medical publications landscape is continually evolving, with various past challenges addressed by guidelines or standards, making them less of a concern in present-day practice. Still, new issues perpetually arise in this dynamic and ever-changing environment.
The 14th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), held April 30-May 2, 2018, addressed many of the current and emerging trends in medical publications, including digital advances, preprints, and open access; enhancements to publication planning and scientific communications; and patient engagement and privacy.
Digital Advances, Preprints, and Open Access
Technology has impacted all facets of modern-day life, and medical publications is no exception. At medical congresses, such digital media trends as video posters, augmented and virtual reality, and remote access of poster presentations are gaining popularity. The ease of audience access to these digital formats – both live and remote – should be explored for congress presentations, along with a cost-benefit analysis and upfront planning to ensure their ideal use. Attention analysis algorithms for scientific posters are another trend that can aid in aligning the viewers’ focus with the authors’ communication goals, resulting in improved comprehension of scientific research.
Journal publications are also evolving in this digital era. It is increasingly common to have online access to graphical abstracts that provide a visual summary of a publication’s main findings, and to video articles that present slides with narration or an author speaking about a scientific paper. These digital advances offer new ways to engage journal audiences and help authors communicate research findings.
The entry of preprints to the publishing process in health sciences is fairly new. A preprint is a version of a scientific paper that precedes publication in a peer-reviewed journal, with the objective of gathering reader feedback prior to journal submission. Preprint servers have been popular in the biological sciences. A preprint server for the health sciences, known as MedRxiv, is expected to launch soon, backed by the Yale YODA Project. Further, a new pilot project between The Lancet and Elsevier offers preprints for early-stage health and medical research. Despite this growing support, debate continues on the use of preprints for medical research. Only about 1% of preprints have reported on industry-authored research. Concern exists regarding the media or public acting on preprint information before the research completes the peer review process.
Open access publishing has been building momentum for the past few years. Open access refers to online peer-reviewed articles that have been accepted for publication and are available to read promptly without charge to end users, but with varying restrictions on reuse of article content. Some journal publishers do not allow open access options for research from the pharmaceutical industry – or place more restrictions on them. Benefits of open access include greater transparency, faster dissemination, more scientific collaboration and innovation, and ultimately improved patient health.
Enhancements to Publication Planning and Scientific Communications
Scientific communication platforms are increasingly being utilized within the pharmaceutical industry, and their connection to publication planning is important. These platforms serve as a foundation for a product’s medical communication plan and are based on scientifically and clinically relevant evidence. Their goal is to ensure accurate, consistent language and referencing across all communication activities throughout a product’s lifecycle. Platform development occurs with the input of the cross-functional product team, enabling pull-through of its information in medical publications, medical education, medical science liaison (MSL) materials, congress booths, medical information, etc.
Published clinical trial data are the basis for much of the information in these platforms; consequently, the role of the publication professional has evolved with their adoption by serving in a key or lead role for strategic planning discussions.
Patient Engagement and Privacy
Patient engagement in medical research has influenced how research is conducted and communicated. Plain language summaries in the peer-reviewed literature are a growing expectation. These summaries make science more accessible to the lay reader, particularly in therapeutic areas with higher patient engagement, and communicate scientific research in a jargon-free and clear manner. Publication professionals have become involved in creating plain language summaries, as an extension of their work on medical publications.
Patient involvement in clinical trials, beyond their role as trial participants, has been an area of interest. Patients can now provide input on the study design and protocol, safety assessments, and communication of study results. A five-year trial (NCT03432143) evaluating the impact of patient/caregiver involvement in the journal review process will shed light on this area for contribution https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03432143). Patient engagement in the publication process is in its infancy, but opportunities exist for patients to serve as authors or contributors on scientific papers, journal peer reviewers, Publication Steering Committee members, etc.
An important piece of patient privacy legislation went into effect in May 2018, known as the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. GDPR is designed to enable individuals to better control their personal data, and its goal is to protect EU citizens from privacy and data breaches. GDPR applies to the processing of personal data for scientific research purposes, including publications and other disclosures. Organizations in breach of GDPR can be fined up to 4% of annual global revenue or 20 million euros, whichever is greater. An ever-present challenge exists for the scientific community, including publication professionals, to find a reasonable balance between data sharing expectations and patient privacy protections.
ISMPP’s Upcoming Conferences and Certification Exams
Thinking ahead, these and other emerging trends in medical publications will be covered at ISMPP’s upcoming conferences, and you’re welcome to join us!
- ISMPP West, October 11-12, 2018, San Diego, CA (onsite registration is available for attendance on Friday, October 12)
- European Meeting of ISMPP, January 22-23, 2019, London, UK (registration is now open)
- 15th Annual Meeting of ISMPP, April 15-17, 2019, National Harbor, MD (registration opens in December)
Beyond these educational meetings, the ISMPP Certified Medical Publication Professional™ (CMPP) credential confirms expertise as a medical publication professional, proficiency in good publication practices, commitment to ethical and transparent data dissemination standards, and leadership in upholding and fostering integrity and excellence in medical publications. Certification demonstrates a CMPP’s in-depth knowledge and understanding of best practices for publication planning and execution. The CMPP exam is offered twice annually in March and September. Best of luck to all CMPP candidates!
Anna Geraci, Director of Communications, International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP)
ISMPP is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance the medical publication and communication professions globally through enhanced integrity and transparency in medical publications and wider communications; improved standards and best practices; and education, advocacy, and professional collaborations. ISMPP has over 1,600 members, with representation from all stakeholders involved in the publication of medical research, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and device companies; medical publication and communication agencies; medical journal publishers and editors; and professional medical writers. www.ismpp.org