Introducing the Open Pharma recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications: now available as a preprint

Adeline Rosenberg

Today, we’re excited to announce the release of the Open Pharma recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications as a preprint!

Following our January roundtable meeting, a public consultation in March and a lot of hard work put in by the Open Pharma Accessibility workstream, the recommendations for plain language summaries have now been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal and are currently under consideration for publication.

Those who have been following Open Pharma’s progress will know that preprints are another important tool of scholarly communication we proactively encourage and that we facilitated a roundtable on at the 17th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals earlier in 2021. So, of course, we have now also submitted the recommendations to the preprint server MetaArXiv to ensure faster, wider and more accessible dissemination of the recommendations. You can view the full recommendations as well as the supplemental report of the roundtable and consultation here.  

Why develop the recommendations?

Plain language summaries of peer-reviewed publications are intended for everyone engaging with medical research, such as patients, patient advocates, caregivers, healthcare professionals and policymakers. These summaries encourage discussions around medical research and aid fully informed and shared decision-making. The broad range of stakeholders involved in pharmaceutical research now puts the pharmaceutical industry in a unique position to make the medical publishing model more open. We believe that the next step of openness is to create a more accessible and inclusive environment through the routine development of plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications.

There are many formats of plain language summaries, but plain text is the most discoverable through indexing in directories such as PubMed. Standardizing the minimum steps for the development and sharing of index-friendly plain language summaries can help promote the quality and credibility of these lay communications. The aim of a minimum standard is to build a universal foundation that encourages the accessibility, discoverability and inclusivity of plain language summaries. This standard can then serve as a basis for summaries written for a more specific target audience or that include graphically and digitally enhanced formats that increase understanding and engagement, which we strongly encourage.