Everything you need to know about publishing a plain language summary with us
Plain language summaries provide a summary of a piece of research written in language to be understood by non-specialist audiences, including patients. PLSPs are a type of PLS published by the Future Science Group (FSG) that summarize the contents of a published research article for non-specialist readers. PLSPs use non-technical language, and make the most of images and infographics to provide information in a clear and easy to understand way.
Different publishers and organizations can use different names when talking about plain language content. In FSG journals, a lay abstract is a short paragraph summarizing the main points of an article, which is included within the article alongside the regular scientific abstract and of a similar length (around 120 words).
PLSPs are longer than a lay abstract, proving a complete summary of a publication, and include images and illustrations. They can be published in two ways with FSG – alongside an article, as part of its supplementary material files, or as a standalone article in its own right. Standalone articles can summarize an FSG article, or an article from another publisher.
All FSG journals can include lay abstracts and plain language summaries as described above.
Our Editors welcome plain language summaries of any publication, including original research articles and reviews.
FSG follows the recommendations of the ICMJE and would consider a PLSP as an Acceptable Secondary Publication (i.e., would not consider PLSP as duplicate publications), provided all of the conditions stipulated by ICMJE are met. However, please note that the ICMJE recommendations are interpretable by each Publisher individually.
More details can be found here and are summarised below.
While PLSP generally summarize just one original publication, in some cases it might be helpful to summarize a group of related publications (perhaps relating to a cluster of trials on the same treatment), and we would be happy to discuss this further should you be interested in developing a PLSP of this kind.
We would encourage that an author from the original publication, or someone involved in the publication steering committee, is involved in the writing of the PLSP where possible and appropriate, but this is not compulsory. Ideally, at the least, an original author will review the content of the PLSP before submission, to check the information has been conveyed appropriately.
Yes – additional authors, not involved with the original publication, can be included in a PLSP. Ideally, the author group should also include a patient, such as a patient advocate or patient involved in the clinical trial, although this is not mandatory. Any author should meet the criteria stipulated by GPP3/ICMJE (authors are encouraged to refer to this tool, which highlights how each of the four criteria above can be interpreted from the patient author perspective).
We have created a set of Author Guidelines for the creation of PLSPs, which includes a list of handy resources, as well as a suggested article template and a checklist of actions when planning & writing a PLSP. Please get in touch, and we’d be happy to send you a copy!
As stipulated in the EU Clinical Trials Regulation ‘Summaries of Clinical Trial Results for Laypersons’, PLSP should ideally have a reading age of 12 years and above. Prior to submission, we suggest the PLSP undergoes a readability score evaluation, for instance using the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test available at https://goodcalculators.com/flesch-kincaid-calculator/. The recommended reading ease score is 60 or more.
Yes – and we strongly encourage it, particularly original images and infographics that have been developed specifically for the PLSP. Complicated numbers and data can often be more clearly understood with an illustration. For standalone PLSP, you may also wish to include a figure from the original scientific publication; if this is the case, please make sure you obtain any permissions needed from the original publisher.
Yes – do let us know if you’d be interested in including video or audio content and we’d be happy to discuss this. Such files can be directly embedded into the final, laid out article. All media will undergo editorial review. An example animated video accompanying a PLSP can be found here.
Where PLSP summarize the publication of the data from a new clinical trial, they can and should include a link to the trial’s entry on ClinicalTrials.gov, if it has one. PLSP should also include a link to the publication(s) it is summarizing, and any other useful resources.
Yes – whether the PLSP is included within an article, or is standalone, it will be externally peer reviewed to ensure that it is both an accurate reflection of the scientific article it is summarizing, and also that it is understandable to a non-specialist audience (for example, any unnecessary technical words have either been replaced or suitably explained). FSG is particularly keen to encourage patient reviewers for PLSP. If you would be interested in acting as a reviewer for our PLSPs, please get in touch!
Our aim with standalone PLSP articles is that they are freely available to all those who want to read them. However, we also believe it is important that the PLSP is read as a whole. By preventing the creation of derivatives or adaptations, this license type ensures the information presented is not altered or taken out of context. We are happy to discuss the publication of PLSP under alternative Creative Commons open licenses should this be required.
The fees to publish a PLSP in any Future Science Group journal is $5,000. These fees cover in-house processing of the PLSP from submission to publication, including design and layout of the final article, as well as online hosting of the article on our website and making the article open access under a CC BY-NC-ND license.
All PLSP are published on an open access basis so they are freely accessible to all wanting to understand the latest research. Therefore fees are charged to cover the costs associated with publishing the PLSP.
Indexing of a PLSP will follow that of the regular journal content (see: https://www.futuremedicine.com/indexing and https://www.future-science.com/indexing for journal-specific indexing information). PLSP when published are disseminated via social media and patient advocacy groups, ensuring patients can readily discover the article. Therefore we believe that traditional indexing databases, such as Medline, as well as impact factors, are not entirely relevant when publishing PLSPs as patients/lay audiences use other means to discover such articles.
As PLSP are published like any standard journal article, they have their own DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and citation. The PLSP links to the original article in PubMed as we ensure the PLSP is indexed as a ‘comment’ on the original publication. For instance see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33554636/. The PLSP is also discoverable alongside the ClinicalTrials.gov record – for an example see https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02200614
Several external resources are available that provide guidance on the development and publication of PLS as follows:
• Patient Focused Medicine Development (PFMD) ‘How-To Guide for the development and dissemination of plain language summaries of peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations’. Available to download at here.
• Open Pharma recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications. Available to read here.
• ISMPP article ‘Plain language summaries of publications of company-sponsored medical research: what key questions do we need to address?’ Available to read here.