Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring the growing need for communication during each stage of the research process, the role of patient experts in a healthcare setting, the association of medical writing support with the quality of clinical trial reporting, and the replacement of supplementary material with online repositories.

The research communication life cycle via The Scholarly Kitchen

Journal articles are the primary form of research communication. However, owing to the increasing demand for research transparency, audiences are now expecting to receive information at every step of a study, rather than just upon completion. This has placed enormous pressure on authors, institutions and funding bodies to communicate their work effectively at each stage. Results from a survey of almost 10 000 researchers revealed that 95% of the participants believed that being able to demonstrate their involvement in a broad range of research communications is essential for both future funding and career progression. Of the survey respondents, 67% reported that they have access to funding support for communications activities ‘upstream’ of study publication. A further 27% of respondents fund these additional communications themselves, which demonstrates that some authors will go above and beyond to maximize the impact and reach of their research. A white paper with further findings from this project is available to download here.

A day in the life of a patient expert via The BMJ Opinion

When we think of an expert on a medical condition, it is often doctors or other healthcare professionals (HCPs) who come to mind; we hardly ever consider patients to be experts. This article, published in The BMJ Opinion, describes the journey of Paola Kruger, a patient expert at the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Centre of The San Camillo Hospital in Rome. As a patient herself, Paula has a unique perspective that allows her to support patients living with MS in a way that the medical experts cannot. With a strong understanding of clinical research practice, Paula also offers help to other patients looking to get involved in clinical trials, breaking down the jargon and explaining key concepts from the different phases of a trial to the terminology used in patient consent forms. Patient experts have a role distinct from that of an HCP, and there is a growing need for greater recognition of the key part they can play in communicating clinical terminology and complicated treatment programmes in a language accessible to all.

How important is professional medical writing support for transparent and timely clinical trial reporting? via The Publication Plan

Last week, Obaro Evuarherhe, of Oxford PharmaGenesis, and colleagues published an article in Research Integrity and Peer Review that explores the association of professional medical writing support with the quality, ethics and timeliness of clinical trial publications. The article collated data from eight observational studies, which included 849 written with professional writing support, and 2073 without. The findings revealed that articles developed with medical writing support were associated with a greater adherence to Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials guidelines and a higher quality of English than those developed without support. Papers that had received support were also less likely to report non-prespecified outcomes than those that had not received support. Overall, the study found that there was a strong association between the use of medical writing support and the quality of clinical trial reporting.

Online repositories – the new way to communicate supplementary information? via The Scientist

A research article tells a highly polished story of a lengthy scientific process and provides many details, such as protocols and large data sets, which are often relegated to the supplementary material. Typically, supplementary material associated with a published paper can be downloaded in PDF form from the journal’s website. However, in some cases, these files are damaged or contain broken links, and supplementary data sets are often too large to download or too difficult to navigate. Thus, it comes as no surprise that authors are turning to repositories, such as Figshare, to store their supplementary material. In addition to providing a more reliable platform for the long-term storage of large data sets, online repositories also assign a digital object identifier to stored material, meaning that the material can be easily linked to the authors. Some publishers, including the Microbiology Society, F1000Research and Springer Nature, are also encouraging authors to upload their supplementary material to repositories rather than include them in a file alongside the main article.