Open Pharma summit: a new vision for pharma communications

Sophie Nobes

In November 2023, Open Pharma hosted a summit to explore the current landscape of open science and discuss opportunities for progress. Throughout January, we shared the summit presentations on our YouTube and social media channels. As this communications campaign draws to a close, we reflect on the content of the summit and discuss how we can improve the accessibility and discoverability of pharma-sponsored research.

Plain language summaries (PLS) and discoverable content

During the first summit session, the participants were treated to guest presentations from speakers representing the publications and patient and caregiver communities. These presentations outlined how multiple stakeholders can benefit from research published in accessible language.

To complement these insights, representatives from pharma companies that are Members and Supporters of Open Pharma showcased their actions to support the development and expansion of plain language content in scientific communications.

Together, these presentations provided valuable context to support small-group discussions of two statements that were used as prompts for debate.

  • 100% of medical research/phase 3 trial publications should include a PLS.
  • Patients should be involved in the development of all medical research/phase 3 trial publications.

The participants agreed that PLS have an important role in making pharma research more accessible. Some attendees suggested that these statements could be expanded to include publications reporting data from phase 1–4 trials and post-marketing activities, rather than being limited to phase 3 trial publications. Many committed to raising awareness of PLS within their companies.

Open access (OA)

In the second summit session, guest presenters explored barriers preventing uptake of OA publishing and asked “an open access world for whom?”. Presenters also considered the role of digital infrastructure in ensuring that open research and data are discoverable and accessible to those who need them.

During the pharma showcase, the summit participants heard from Seth James (Director, Publishing Specialist at Pfizer) and Susan Wieting (Director, Scientific Publications at Takeda) who talked about their companies’ progress towards OA.a

Having heard from the experts, the summit participants discussed the following statements.

  • 100% of papers should be made immediately OA upon publication.
  • 100% of papers should be made immediately OA under a Create Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence upon publication.

Many attendees agreed with the goal of 100% OA publishing, but highlighted a need to be realistic about the progress towards this goal. Numerous barriers to the implementation of these statements were identified, particularly in relation to the systemic changes that would be required of both publishers and pharma to allow adoption of blanket OA policies.

The barriers identified in this summit session were echoed by the participants of the Open Pharma roundtable at the 2024 European Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), titled The rapidly changing face of open access. Moderated by Liz Knowles (Global Portfolio Director, Medicine & Health at Taylor & Francis), Slávka Baróniková (at the time Scientific Publications Lead [Director] at Galápagos), Joana Osório (Communications Consultant at Oxford PharmaGenesis) and Amber Tear (Senior Medical Writer at Oxford PharmaGenesis), the roundtable encouraged attendees to consider the value of traditional and emerging OA models for authors, pharma companies and publishers.

Key concerns highlighted during the roundtable include the cost of publishing OA, lack of OA offerings from some journals – especially top-tier medical journals – and a lack of understanding of the importance of OA among some stakeholders. The roundtable also highlighted a need to provide education on existing and emerging OA models, as some participants had not heard of transformative agreements, diamond OA or rights retention schemes.  

Data and metadata

The final Open Pharma summit session explored data and metadata, and it provided attendees with an overview of various persistent identifiers (PIDs) and how they can support transparency, accountability and discoverability of medical research.

The pharma showcase focused on research conducted by Open Pharma to establish the current state of play of author identifiers and publications-associated data sharing in the pharma publications community.

The attendees then discussed three statements.

  • 100% of authors should have and report ORCID iDs.
  • 100% of publications should include Crossref Digital Object Identifiers for grants and Research Organization Registry (ROR) ID affiliation details for all contributors and funders.
  • All health research data should be made as open as possible and as closed as necessary, in line with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) framework.

After voicing their recommendations and reservations, participants made commitments towards the implementation of PIDs and data sharing policies, including some commitments to ensure that all pharma employees conducting research are registered with ORCID.

These conversations continued during the roundtable titled Where are the data? A shared view on data sharing hosted by Open Pharma at the ISMPP Europe meeting. Moderators Radhika Bhatia (Global Lead, Publication Strategy and Scientific Communication Excellence at UCB), Rikke Egelund (Senior Healthcare Communications Leader, Global Medical Affairs at Roche), Vicky Sanders (Communications Consultant at Oxford PharmaGenesis) and Kim Johnson (Senior Account Manager at Oxford PharmaGenesis) encouraged participants to discuss their experiences of adhering to journal data sharing requirements.

Of particular concern to pharma participants was the requirement from some journals for non-redacted data to be provided before articles can be considered for submission. To avoid the publication of sensitive or proprietary information, some publication managers avoid submitting manuscripts to journals with such requirements. Both the summit and the roundtable participants called for collaboration to establish an approach to data sharing that can be supported and implemented by both publishers and pharma.

A new vision for open pharma research communications

The outcomes from the Open Pharma summit and the ISMPP Europe roundtables provide insights from a variety of stakeholders invested in the communication of pharma-sponsored research.

Throughout 2024, a taskforce of Open Pharma Members will use these insights to develop a new vision for pharma research communications. Together, we can improve the transparency, accessibility and discoverability of pharma-sponsored research.

Subscribe to the Open Pharma newsletter to receive more information about our work. The Open Pharma summit insights report is now available to download via the Open Pharma website and figshare webpage, and the summit videos can be viewed on the Open Pharma YouTube channel.

aThese presentations are not available to the public.

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