Continuing our series of “Smorgasbord” posts from scholarly communications meetings and events around the world this (northern hemisphere) spring, today Chefs Angela Cochran and Alice Meadows share their takeaways from (respectively) the 2023 International Society of Medical Publishing Professionals conference in May and the Research Data Alliance’s 20th Plenary Meeting in March.
Patients, Plain Language Summaries, and AI
I attended the International Society of Medical Publishing Professionals (ISMPP) the first week of May. ISMPP is a very niche organization of mostly pharmaceutical company publication planners and medical writing professionals. When I say niche, that does not mean small. There were over 700 people in attendance at the meeting in Washington, DC.
The theme of the meeting was “Patient First” and there were fascinating discussions about patient authors, engaging patient advocacy groups in medical literacy programs, and even including patients in every step of clinical trial design. A strong pattern to the Patient First theme was also how journals can produce content for non-specialists and patients. “Article extenders” were discussed in many different contexts — video, infographics, interactive infographics, visual abstracts, podcasts, etc. In fact, many of the exhibitors at the meeting were companies that provide these services. There were also many very informative posters, some of which looked at article extenders and found that the number one audience were other health care professionals that were not specialists in the subject matter covered.
The second most prevalent theme was Plain Language Summaries (PLS). ISMPP has had several working groups, guidance documents, webinars, etc., about creating PLS. Some of these are being published with the papers (and indexed with the PubMed record) while others are standalone PLS. What has been missing from the PLS discussion, and still is in my opinion, are metrics. The same is true for article extenders. There are some reports that show papers with PLS and extenders get more views, but these data suffer from selection bias in many cases. If the journal has invested in extenders and/or PLS, then that paper is likely also getting press releases and/or social media attention and therefore more views.
Interestingly, the pharma companies sponsoring the research are creating this content with or without the journals. Pfizer is posting this content on their own Figshare site if a journal cannot accommodate the content. The usage data presented on these Figshare posted multimedia files was not impressive, but that is not unexpected when the content does not appear with the journal article. The bottom line is that more/better analytics are needed to assess whether the multimedia content is worth the expense.
The last huge theme of the meeting was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLM) in the production of content. Two of the keynotes were about AI and LLMs, as well as a panel discussion (disclosure: I was a panelist) and several concurrent sessions and round-table discussions. It was no surprise that pharma companies are already using AI for many data discovery and analysis purposes. Loubna Bouarfa, CEO of Okra.AI, gave one keynote titled “The 4th Industrial Revolution in Life Science: Reshaping Healthcare and Medical Communication with AI.” She made a provocative prediction that within 5 years, AI and LLM tools will be capable of writing competent scientific papers. She warned of the quagmire of ethical questions that will arise and encouraged that we (medical communication partners from all sectors) start thinking about the guardrails that should be put in place now.
Shortly after Bouarfa’s statement, I walked two blocks to the STM Association meeting. It was staggering to come from one meeting that was so focused on AI and the use of LLMs in scholarly communications from the content creators’ perspective, to a publishing meeting in which AI and LLMs were barely discussed. In fairness, Artificial Intelligence is listed as one of the STM 2027 Tech Trends to watch, but it was jarring to feel like some portion of our author community is ready to hit the go button and we aren’t particularly ready for it.
PIDs, PIDs, PIDs
3 Thoughts on "Smorgasbord: Trends from Spring 2023 Meetings and Conferences (Part Two)"
Thanks Angela, I always want to get to ISMPP and have yet to manage it, so it’s super helpful to get your take on it. I love that efforts to communicate beyond academia are going mainstream. I’ve been resistant to the “article extenders” term as it continues to imply the article is the main thing and everything else is just an add-on — of course that is the reality at the moment, based on the historical focus of research communications, but the trend is definitely towards servicing these other audiences / communication types in and of their own right. “Article extender” will start to look like a hilarious anachronism / skeuomorphism.
I take your point about the metrics / evidence but sometimes we have to be bold and go with what we know to be a good thing? the data will follow. And we need to be clear about what metrics are meaningful in that context. If we are trying to target broader audiences, are “views of the scholarly article” the right metric – what about views of the PLS and article extenders themselves? A good PLS / extender will negate the need for certain audiences to read the article, indeed are designed to prevent those audiences from having to try and wade through the article. We need to be careful not to judge the success of PLS / extenders by old, inappropriate metrics. Equally I agree we need to find ways of evaluating whether these efforts are worthwhile / effective. We’re capturing data at Kudos about audience types (are you a patient, practitioner, educator etc) and intention (what will you do with the information gleaned from this summary / article – use it in teaching, inform your own decisions / behaviours etc). That sort of metric I think is what we as a community need to be reaching for here.
I had not heard the term “article extender” before this meeting and while I agree with your sentiments, the “author adjacent” community at ISMPP definitely considers the article THE THING. For the metrics, I am talking about the usage of the actual non-article bits. I would settle for eyeballs on the item to start with. This means we have to publish them in ways that allow usage to be discreetly counted. Whether these multimedia add-ons are worth it depends entirely on who is paying for them. If the journal is investing in them, the ROI is likely article views, social media engagement, and expansion of audience. If a pharma company is paying for them, the ROI is different.
Patients and Plain Language Summaries (PLS) are becoming increasingly important in the healthcare industry. PLS are simplified versions of medical research studies that are written in plain language so that patients and the general public can understand them. AI can play a role in creating PLS by analyzing the original research and generating a summary that is easier to understand. AI can also help to identify key points and important information in the research, making it easier for patients to understand the implications of the study. Overall, the use of PLS and AI can help to improve patient understanding of medical research and promote better communication between patients and healthcare providers.