ISMPP Insights

What's new ISMPP EU? Are you fighting fit?

This year’s meeting, ‘Scientific communications in a fast-paced world: fighting fit for the future’, attracted over 300 attendees, 26 posters and two days of fast paced plenary and workshop discussions, all aimed at equipping medical publication professionals with the tools to develop impactful scientific publications. This blog reports key discussions from the meeting, the changing field of medical publications and the strategies that have been put in place to drive trends for open access, data sharing and transparency, and improved patient centric publications.
Here, we’ve highlighted the key advances every high-performing publication professional needs to know…

A year of initiatives
2018 saw several new initiatives established to harness the power of broader clinical data reporting and to demonstrate the scientific community’s increased commitment to data transparency and open access publication. These included the introduction of a new policy from Shire to publish all their funded research in open access journals and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) introduction of an open access publishing option for company-funded research. These changes are in line with the efforts of the recently established cOAlition S, an alliance to drive the implementation of Plan S; an initiative to make full and immediate open access a reality. Plan S has pledged that by January 2020, all publications resulting from publicly-funded research will be freely available to all.

While efforts to improve access to published data appear to be improving, one must not forget those trials that go unreported altogether. ‘TrialsTracker’, recently launched the FDAAA TrialsTracker; an automated tool developed by the Evidence Based Medicine Data Lab to monitor trial compliance in line with FDA guidelines. The EU Trials Tracker has a similar goal to its American counterpart and estimates that only 49% of Europe’s clinical trials listed on the European Union Clinical Trials Register (EUCTR) report their results. Unreported trial data may be crucial to scientific understanding and should be published promptly. The BMJ’s ‘Unreported trial of the week’ has been established to further highlight unreported trials and to discuss the implications of not sharing these data with the scientific community.

Clinical trial reporting and open access publication efforts are not the only ways the scientific community is striving to improve publication practices. Recent updates to guidance from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) for its member journals have also been made to mandate the inclusion of data sharing statements in clinical trial publications that report individual deidentified participant data. Subsequently, Wellcome announced prizes for the re-use of data to encourage the generation of novel scientific findings from existing data. As our capacity to generate large datasets increases, so does the need to harness both their full utility, and the transparency through which we investigate them.

A truly skilled individual
ISMPP’s session on the ‘expanding role of the publication professional’ considered the value of scientific publications to a growing stakeholder audience and discussed the ways in which the data reported are mobilised and accessed. Results of a recent survey that revealed 23% of searches for publication titles used Google images stressed the need for more visual and easily digestible, bite-sized pieces of information to headline and direct audiences to more in-depth articles. Healthcare professionals follow a similar cascade pattern: initially browsing papers, generalist journals or search services (PubMed), to a more focused search in discipline-specific journals – all struggling to keep up with the vast volume of information published.

The revolution in open access publishing, the growing need for pharma to develop broader ‘joined-up’ data dissemination plans, the increasing appetite for real-world evidence and the ‘democratisation of knowledge’ that is redefining the doctor-patient relationship, all contribute to the expanding role of the publication professional. Publication professionals must be forward thinking, cross-functional players, pivotal in driving the development of strategic, scientific, multichannel communications for several different audiences. Publication professionals require an ability to discern good research and demonstrate clear scientific understanding through the development of a myriad of content pieces: publications, plain language summaries, visual abstracts, commentary videos, patient engagement articles and congress presentations to name a few. The impact of the AMWA–EMWA–ISMPP Joint Position Statement on the Role of professional Medical Writers and updates to the ICMJE’s Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals reinforce the changing landscape for publication professionals and the commitment of this community to adapt accordingly.

Involving patients
Patient centricity is another increasingly important consideration for impactful publications and was a key point of discussion at this year’s ISMPP meeting. The BMJ recounted the journal’s positive experience of involving patients in their editorial process, while a survey of patient and public peer reviewers for the BMJ and Research Involvement and Engagement journals reported overwhelming support for patient and public review as well as identifying ways to improve the experience. Simon Stones, a patient advocate, reinforced the importance of patient involvement and noted the need for patient access to credible and accurate scientific information. Transparency of information builds trust and publication plans must be developed to incorporate the dissemination of patient suitable materials as a priority.

Can technology help?
ISMPP also discussed future technological considerations for medical publication professionals. One hot topic was artificial intelligence (AI) and the impact it could have for the scientific community and the way that data are shared, analysed, interpreted and disseminated. Tools that augment the management of data are welcomed in the regulatory space, but there is scepticism as to the extent these tools can identify relevant data and save time for the medical writing professional. Augmentation is certainly welcomed, but not at the risk of deconstructing data to the point that medical writers lose sight of the original objective and context, or at the risk of losing quality expertise and experience. Moreover, AI could be used in the future to allow automated fact-checking. In a time of increasingly abundant ‘fake news’, the possibility for a form of digital peer-review would certainly be welcome. Understanding the different aspects of machine learning and AI and its impact for the scientific community were discussed at length but considered as an augmentation rather than as a wholesale takeover. So, watch this space, this could be a slow burner…

Planning for the future
Leaving the ISMPP EU 2019 meeting, it is clear there has been a great deal of progress in improving the ways that the scientific community handle and report their findings. Indeed, initiatives to mandate open access publication, incentives for data re-use and recommendations for improved data sharing demonstrate a commitment to improve data transparency and the quality of research outputs. It is clear the medical publication landscape is changing, and publication professionals must adapt to cater for broadening audiences, technological advances and the management and dissemination of more data than we have ever had before. In a world of information, finding ways to develop the most impactful publications is crucial. ISMPP EU 2019 was an opportunity to meet new people, share experiences and plan for the future.

Authored by Hannah Clarke, Medical Writer, on behalf of the Bioscript team.