Open Pharma have announced their recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Medical Research and Opinion. The recommendations aim to set minimum standard that encourages the accessibility, discoverability, and inclusivity of plain language summaries.
As a minimum standard, the authors recommend that plain language summaries are:
- Targeted toward a broad, inclusive and non-technical, non-specialist, or time-challenged audience
- Written in easily understandable, unbiased language that is free of expert or technical jargon and accessible to readers who may have a different first language to that of the summary
- Text based and concise (of 250 words or fewer) – this allows for indexing in directories such as PubMed and facilitates straightforward translation
- Explicitly linked to the source publication citation and relevant clinical trial identifiers, with brief reference to the existing evidence
- Consistent with the same overall key points and conclusions as the scientific publication abstract
- Developed alongside the main content of the manuscript, in line with the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ authorship criteria
- Ideally reviewed by a non-expert during development
- Fully peer reviewed alongside the main content
- Made available to read free of charge alongside the scientific publication abstract
- Tagged with appropriate metadata and keywords to improve discoverability in search engines, directories, and indexes.
(Reproduced from Adeline Rosenberg, Slávka Baróniková, Linda Feighery, William Gattrell, Rikke Egelund Olsen, Adam Watson, Tim Koder & Christopher Winchester (2021) Open Pharma recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications, Current Medical Research and Opinion, DOI: 10.1080/03007995.2021.1971185)
The authors also strongly encourage the publication of alternative formats of plain language summaries, such as graphical or digitally versions, to foster understanding and engagement.
Speaking about the recommendations, Adeline Rosenberg, Medical Writer in the Patient Engagement Team at Oxford PharmaGenesis and one of the authors explains:
“I’ve seen first-hand just how much my [rare disease] community needs novel medical and scientific research information to be available in accessible language, and how healthcare professionals often lack the language to effectively convey medical and scientific concepts to their patients. I believe plain language summaries are an excellent, straightforward tool to help address this ‘linguistic [in]equity’, and for me, developing the Open Pharma recommendations in the hopes of improving the quality and uptake of plain language summaries was a natural next step in my own patient journey.”
Read the recommendations in full here.