ISMPP APAC conference: open science highlights

Emily Manktelow

Today, we’re excited to report the open science highlights from the ISMPP APAC conference!

On 9 and 10 September 2021, our colleagues from the Oxford PharmaGenesis Melbourne office attended the virtual Asia-Pacific (APAC) meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) entitled ‘Advancing Scientific Communications and Leadership in APAC’. Here, we describe some key points and their potential implications for open science and Open Pharma.

Challenges and strengths in medical communications in the APAC region

Kent Thoelke (Chief Innovation Officer, ICON plc) gave the keynote address entitled ‘The Future of Clinical Trials and Data Generation in APAC’. He described the need to integrate technology and healthcare to create a system that is centred around mobile health and that is supported by real-time data collection and integration.

In later discussions, we heard how language barriers both within and between countries in the APAC region create unique challenges in terms of access to medical communications. There is also a wide gap between countries with easy access to technology and those still mostly relying on paper-based systems. Despite these ongoing challenges, numerous speakers felt that the APAC region has a unique opportunity to lead globally in the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shift towards an increasing use of technology in medical communications. Indeed, some innovative examples of public health campaigns distributed via social media in China and Japan were presented by Henry Shen (Chief Strategy Officer Greater China, McCann Health) in a session entitled ‘Advancing Medical Communications – where we are and where we want to be’.

Preprints, open access and enhanced content

The plenary session entitled ‘Publisher’s Panel: Scientific Publishing in a Time of Transformation’ was the item on the programme most relevant to the open science movement, and included representation from Taylor & Francis, Wiley and Springer Nature. These companies continue to explore the use of different platforms to support preprints (for example, Taylor & Francis acquired F1000Research in 2020). The joint position statement from the American Medical Writers Association, the European Medical Writers Association and ISMPP, published in March 2021, provides guidance on the publication and use of preprints. However, the panel discussion made it clear that there is still a need for continued education and guidance in this area. Furthermore, it was the view of the panel that peer review remains central for ensuring scientific credibility of content, and that the publication process, including peer review, should be transparent and credible. Some publishers now offer the option of transparent peer review.

Peter De Jong (Global Director Health, Corporate Sales, Wiley) presented results showing a growing preference among healthcare professionals for enhanced content to support clinical decision-making (although full-text articles remain the preferred choice). Importantly, digital enhancements, such as video or graphical abstracts and visual summaries, are easier for non-native English speakers to understand and are well supported by the widespread use of technology in the APAC region. There was a need expressed for more guidance from publishers in this area. However, some professionals questioned whether a third party is required to bridge the gap between academic publishers and the general population.

Elsewhere, Nature and the Nature research journals have incorporated open access options for the first time in the 152-year history of Nature. Three of the Nature research journals have started a guided open access pilot scheme, and the portfolio has also introduced transformative journals – subscription or hybrid journals that have committed to transitioning to fully open access. We also heard about initiatives and acquisitions by Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis and Wiley to expand their open access offerings. Open access is a simple mechanism to enhance patient centricity of industry-sponsored publications. Some pharma companies, namely, Shire (now part of Takeda), Ipsen and Galápagos, and several non-pharma institutions, are already committed to publishing their research 100% open access; however, many other stakeholders still need encouragement and support.

Plain language summaries are useful publication enhancements for improving accessibility and understanding of research for academics, patients and healthcare professionals; they also play a key role in ensuring patient centricity in the publication process. Plain language summaries are usually linked to or a part of the primary manuscript, but peer-reviewed, secondary publications called ‘plain language summaries of publications’ are also being published as stand-alone plain language manuscripts. The Future Science Group described its commitment to producing such articles. The specific skills required for writing these summaries, as well as the challenges surrounding access for non-scientists, were also discussed. For guidance on plain language summaries for peer-reviewed medical journal publications, see our Open Pharma recommendations published recently in Current Medical Research and Opinion.


Researchers, funders and institutions in the APAC region want a rapid, fully open access and transparent publication process. This is a work in progress, with the sector exploring how to maintain traditional publishing standards while providing add-ons supported by cutting-edge technology. Publishers are working hard to increase awareness of open access options. These are encouraging trends for Open Pharma, which aims to drive positive change in the communication of pharma-sponsored research.

This post was written in collaboration with Steven Inglis of the Oxford PharmaGenesis Melbourne office.